Scientist hopes to spark passion for space in Eastern Kentucky

Published: Apr. 21, 2018 at 8:50 PM EDT
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Saturday marked National Astronomy Day.

More than 100 people visited the East Kentucky Science Center and Planetarium to learn about astronomy, space and science. During the event kids, colored pictures of space objects made constellation finders and watched planetarium shows.

Kentucky's largest export is aerospace products, which brings in about $10 billion a year. That is why Science Center leaders say it is important to teach kids about space and science.

"When I see these kids and they're smiling and they're laughing in the dome and their eyes open wide when you put the stars up, in the back of my mind, if I can get one kid from each session to do this in the future, that's kind of important to me and important to the country," said Steven Russo, Director, East Kentucky Science Center and Planetarium.

Russo said NASA recognizes a specific zone here in Kentucky, known as the Kentucky Space Consortium and funds programs like the one at Morehead State University Space Science Center.

Graduate student at Morehead State University, Kennedy Haught, talked with visitors at the East Kentucky Science Center's Astronomy Day about pursuing a career in space science. Haught says her passion for space started after a trip in 8th grade to the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia.

"After that, I was just hooked, I was like there's no way I'm going to be fulfilled if I do anything else in my career," Kennedy Haught, Graduate Student, Morehead State University said.

Haught says she finds space exhilarating.

"(Space is) so mysterious and that's so attractive, you can't stay away it's like magnetic," said Haught. "You want to go where no one's gone before and discover what no one's discovered yet."

She says while some people may find pursuing a career in space science challenging, she says there is no reason if you are passionate about space to get discouraged.

"There's nothing wrong with going to the tutoring center and there's nothing wrong with taking a class twice and if it gets you a degree in the end and you are doing what you love that's all that matters, so don't let that deter you," Haught said.

It is a career path Haught says he hopes both men and women pursue.

"Stay passionate and remember why you're doing it, but make sure you have a little bit of a backbone because you're going to need it," said Haught.

She says events such as Astronomy Day at the East Kentucky Science Center and Planetarium can ignite a passion for space in children.

"It makes a really big impact on the community and it makes the dream of working in space more realistic," Haught said.

Haught said her five-year plan includes working at NASA and establishing herself as an engineer, then moving to NASA's Headquarters in D.C. to work in the marketing and public outreach department, so she can share her passion for space with the community.

She also just found out she has been accepted as an intern at NASA.