Girl over the moon for astronauts

By Joe Snell | DFW Newsflash | August 2017

When Sofia Lee, 9, learned astronauts James Lovell and Fred Haise were scheduled to speak at the Frontiers of Flight Museum’s 2017 Gala, she opened a lemonade stand in her neighborhood to earn enough money to buy a ticket to the event.

Her passion for aviation began after her dad, a pilot, recommended they take a trip to NASA during Spring Break.

“That really kindled my sense of adventure in space, and I really felt that I wanted to be an astronaut,” Sofia said. “We took a tour around Texas and went to all these famous cities and one of the places was NASA. We saw the big space shuttle and took the tour of the Saturn V little hangar.”

Watching Lovell and Haise headline the Gala would be the icing on top of her space exploration summer.

“I think they set out with a purpose other than beating the Russians,” Sofia said. “To be explorers and adventurers and learn new stuff. I think that’s an example we can all follow.”

Sofia’s dad, CK, told the museum that Sofia was working toward attending the Gala, and the museum’s staff invited her to the reception to meet the astronauts and to even present the astronauts with the George E. Haddaway award during the Gala.

“She was so determined that somehow she must attend the Gala,” said Cheryl Sutterfield-Jones, President and CEO of the Frontiers of Flight Museum. “When asked to write an essay on the STAAR Texas test on who would you most like to meet and talk to, guess what her answer was? Jim Lovell.”

Sutterfield-Jones hopes young people like Sofia will benefit from The Exploration Space initiative, an expansion of the museum’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs and exhibits which will involve three components.

The first is SPOC (Space Portal Odyssey Capsule), a digital, portable planetarium.

The second is the installation of six interactive learning stations and displays in the new space flight gallery, including an Apollo 7 display module complete with lighting and a mirror underneath that mimic the effects of reentry into earth’s atmosphere.

The third component is a space and video series distributed to classrooms throughout the area. Sutterfield-Jones says the three components will reach over 35,000 students and 95,000 guests in the program’s initial launch. All three components will be available starting on Oct. 20, 2018.

CK believes Sofia and her classmates are growing up at a perfect time for aerospace.

“This generation will be the generation that solves how we go back to the moon and how we go to Mars,” he said. “So much about being a part of something like this is being born at the right time. I think the kids who are born in the early 2000s will be the ones that will go [to the moon], that will go to Mars, and do other things. And if they don’t go themselves, they’ll solve the problems.”

Alma Jones works at Gulfstream Aerospace, an organization that sponsors a number of STEM events at Love Field including the Gala. She hopes an emphasis on STEM education tied into NASA will encourage more young women like Sofia to explore careers in aerospace.

“I think women do not know there’s an opportunity in aerospace, so we need to make them aware there’s a career here,” Jones said. “They think it’s difficult or there’s obstacles to getting to this. I work in finance, and I happen to work at an aerospace company that made me fall in love with the industry.”

Involvement in aerospace, CK admits, begins with support at a young age.

“I’ve told her from the time she was self-aware that her generation has the amazing capacity to surpass anything I’ve seen in my lifetime and even her grandfather has seen,” CK said. “To the extent she wants to be a part of that, it’s wonderful. But I’ll support her in whatever she does.”