Salina Educator Soars to New Heights

A Salina educator is back from a once-in-a-lifetime experience after participating in NASA’s prestigious Lift Off Summer Institute.

NASA’s Texas Space Grant Consortium and the University of Texas Center for Space Research sponsored the program, and selected teachers to increase their knowledge of science, technology, engineering, and math through space education.

Teachers apply for LiftOff and are selected competitively. Pam Kraus of Salina was selected to participate.

Workshops at the program are organized around an aerospace or space science theme drawn from NASA’s diverse engineering and scientific research programs. The weeklong institute features a series of workshops, hands-on activities, field investigations, and presentations by NASA scientists and engineers working on various missions.

Educators selected came together June 25 – June 30 to conduct experiments, hear from NASA subject matter experts and astronauts, and network with other educators while sharing innovative lesson plans and ideas.

Liftoff 2023’s theme was “Planetary  Defenders”. The workshops provided teachers a rare – and for most, unique – opportunity to spend a week working with professional scientists and engineers at the cutting edge of space exploration. From looking for potential asteroids or comets that might impact Earth, to protecting our home planet, NASA’s Planetary defense research is critical to our assessment of future impact hazards, for developing spacecraft missions that will assist us in protecting our home and increasing our understanding of the world around us.

In the next few years, NASA will increase our understanding of the structure of asteroids to help scientists and engineers create solutions to remove potential, future threats of impact. Planetary defense research is critical to assessment of future impact hazards and helping us understand asteroids,  the leftover remnants of our solar system. These missions will help answer the questions:

  • Can humans deflect asteroids?
  • Could we stop an asteroid from hitting earth?
  • How likely is it that an asteroid could hit earth?
  • What are the components of an asteroid?

The LiftOff workshops prove that the excitement teachers, and more importantly, their students, feel about earth and space science can be used to enrich STEM education and inspire the next generation of explorers.


Fred Haise – Apollo 13 Lunar Module Pilot – shared with LiftOff participants about his time as a test pilot and astronaut.