By EARL WATT
• Leader & Times
When Joyce Schultz and Nancy Parsons graduated from Liberal High School in 1966, their life’s journey took them in very different directions. While Parsons developed a career in oil and gas and eventually returned to agriculture, Schultz found herself working in science technologies that eventually led to a supportive role in NASA.
A recent reunion brought the pair back together in Liberal, and the two are partnering up to provide a unique opportunity to bring the NASA experience to the High Plains.
“Joyce wanted to be able to tap her resources at NASA to bring back to our community some educational exhibits,” Parsons said.
Working with local organizations, Parsons started to plan “A year of NASA in Liberal,” a year-long look at the universe through some of the resources provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as well as other resources.
The women already have secured six exhibits from NASA that will be on display at the Mid-America Air Museum in early April, and plans are under way to get a commitment from a former astronaut to come to Liberal for a presentation.
Parsons is working with the Liberal Memorial Library for a summer reading program, and additional events are being scheduled for the Baker Arts Center as well as with the Coronado Museum.
NASA already has a tie to Kansas. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics Act that created NASA, and several Kansans have been a part of crews that have helped in the exploration of space.
Space exploration was an integral part of the national scene throughout the 1960s when Schulz and Parsons were teens. From the moment the Russians launched Sputnik in 1957 (Parsons was in third grade), the ‘Space Race’ was on. The Americans pressed hard to catch up with the Russians, and since that time NASA has developed satellites, rockets, Skylab, and even put men on the moon.
Recently, the shuttle program was retired, and NASA is working on future projects that include plans to have a manned exploration of Mars. NASA is a partner in the international Space Station that is currently hurtling in orbit at 15,000 miles per hour and can be seen by the naked eye (see hpleader.com for a link to the times and locations to watch for the ISS in orbit).
The use of space has developed into the expansion of communication broadcasts and cell phone use as well as medical breakthroughs that came from the study of space travel and the effects of weightlessness.
From Tang to DirecTV, NASA’s influence on culture has expanded beyond the boundless reaches of space, and with Schultz’ access to key resources, some of that influence will be shared from April 2012 to March 2013 in Liberal.
The first six NASA exhibits coming to Liberal include: History of Manned Space Flight, Apollo Spacesuit Mockup, Exploring the Solar System, Project Apollo, Images from Space, and Astrophysics. The exhibits will be on display at the Mid-America Air Museum.