Throughout the 2009 recession — “I suppose we are able to name that the small recession now,” Chase Clark quips — Clark determined he was prepared for a new journey. A longtime journalist and graphic designer, he was residing in South Florida, working for a firm that produced NFL sport magazines. When the economic system began to tank, he determined to search for a change of surroundings.

Clark’s first cease? Cape Canaveral.

Press credentials in hand, he moved to the cape for a few months and landed a front-row seat to the final of NASA’s missions.

“It was a tremendous time the place I used to be in a position to {photograph} the orbiter inside the Vehicle Assembly Building,” Clark says.” I bought to stroll throughout the launch pad whereas Atlantis, the last NASA shuttle sent into space, was being ready for launch. I even sat in the cockpit of two of the area shuttles as they had been being decommissioned. These had been superb alternatives that very, only a few folks have ever been allowed to have.”

Clark’s shut encounter with NASA’s remaining launches ignited a ardour for all issues area and area exploration. In 2012 he teamed up with a group of like-minded volunteers to launch RocketSTEM, an academic useful resource for college kids, dad and mom, and academics that goals to foster curiosity in scientific fields via the lens of area exploration.

“RocketSTEM is a nonprofit instructional media group dedicated to inspiring the subsequent era of explorers,” Clark says. “Simple sufficient to say, however that may be completed a million alternative ways. In our case, we concentrate on utilizing the historical past of area exploration and the wonders of the universe as a gateway to getting college students into contemplating following a STEM-centric profession path, whether or not that be as an engineer, a scientist, a physician, or an astronaut. Our web site tries to supply a selection of content material for various training ranges that may be utilized by academics and homeschooling dad and mom.”

Simply as the COVID-19 pandemic closed colleges round the world, RocketSTEM launched a collection of on-line instructional sources — lessons, space-themed math problems, games, and extra — to assist maintain them entertained and studying. Clark has seen a surge in net site visitors and has relied on DreamHost to maintain the website up and operating for the previous eight years.

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Launching RocketSTEM

Born at the finish of the Chilly Conflict’s area race, Clark’s earliest reminiscence is of watching a Saturn V rocket launch on his grandfather’s black-and-white tv.

“I used to be in all probability hooked from that time ahead with out even realizing it,” Clark says. “The area shuttle was a tremendous beast of engineering, and I at all times marveled at NASA with the ability to launch a spacecraft into area and fly it again as a winged glider. At one level, I needed to design an orbiting area lodge, however that dream stays unrealized to at the present time.”

Clark’s childhood fascination with area lay dormant till he had a probability to see NASA’s shuttles and rockets up shut. He was one of a handful of civilians who bought to sit down inside Endeavour, NASA’s next-to-last shuttle despatched into area, whereas it was being decommissioned.

“It was powered up — there have been a lot of buzzing noises occurring, and it was a surreal expertise,” Clark says. “I by no means may have imagined that I’d ever get to do this. And nobody else ever will, as a result of it’s in a museum now.”

Endeavour and Atlantis accomplished their remaining missions in 2011, and shortly afterward, the NASA area shuttle program was formally retired. However Clark wasn’t able to let the pleasure go.

Chase Clark posing with Space Shuttle Endeavour perched atop historic Launchpad 39A in the background.
Chase Clark posing with Space Shuttle Endeavour perched atop historic Launchpad 39A in the background.

“After the remaining touchdown of Atlantis, I discovered myself eager to proceed sharing what I had seen and realized,” Clark says. “Contemplating my background in journalism and graphic design, beginning a area publication was a pure alternative. From there, the determination to create RocketSTEM as a nonprofit instructional media group happened, and a couple dozen fellow area fans, writers, and photographers joined the trigger and helped tremendously in making it a success.”

Their first mission was creating an internet journal, additionally referred to as RocketSTEM. The first issue coincided with the 40th anniversary of Apollo 17, the final human-crewed mission to the moon (to date).

Clark reached out to Apollo 17 astronauts Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt — the most up-to-date people to have left their footprints on the lunar floor — for an interview. He was amazed that, amidst nationwide excursions and protection from nationwide media retailers, each area icons fortunately spent an hour apiece on the cellphone with him, giving unique interviews for the first concern of RocketSTEM.

“Our first concern additionally included an interview with a present flight director at NASA’s Mission Management in Houston,” Clark says. “From there, we’ve been in a position to interview a wide selection of people – a radio astronomer, theoretical physicist Brian Greene, British astronaut Tim Peake, a Boeing aviation structural engineer, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Buzz Aldrin, and Apollo-era astronauts Al Worden and Ed Gibson.”

To rejoice the 25th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope in 2015, RocketSTEM revealed a special 184-page issue that featured the prime 100 photos taken by Hubble. Years later, it’s nonetheless their hottest concern and will get downloaded each single day.

Just a few years in the past, every concern of the journal turned so time-intensive for Clark and the RocketSTEM volunteers that they determined to take a hiatus from creating new points to concentrate on different net content material.

“The journal isn’t over for good,” Clark says, simply taking a break for now. “The final concern was revealed in 2017, however the journal continues to be downloaded over 10,000 occasions per 12 months.”

Full STEM Forward

STEM — an acronym for science, know-how, engineering, and math — has been a buzz phrase for the previous decade. Clark’s nonprofit jumped proper into nationwide efforts to resume curiosity in science training.

The RocketSTEM web site and journal are full of information, photographs, historical past, and instructional materials of varied ranges designed for use by academics in the classroom or by homeschooling dad and mom.

However there’s one factor you’ll by no means discover at RocketSTEM: promoting.

“We’ve by no means accepted affords to promote inside the journal,” Clark says. He additionally retains the web site free from promoting. “And most significantly, now we have at all times made it obtainable at no cost to learn on-line or obtain as a PDF.”

RocketSTEM staffers pose with Dr. Jim Green, NASA's Director of Planetary Science (at the time), and the MAVEN spacecraft at Kennedy Space Center.
RocketSTEM staffers pose with Dr. Jim Inexperienced (fifth from left), NASA’s Director of Planetary Science (at the time), and the MAVEN spacecraft at Kennedy Space Middle. Credit score: Alan Walters

RocketSTEM was at all times supposed to be a nonprofit endeavor, a labor of love for Clark and the volunteers who’ve spent lots of of hours interviewing, researching, writing, taking photos, and extra. Clark has been advised by academics and colleges that they like content material with out promoting — and he’s joyful to oblige.

To Clark, studying about area capitalizes on humanity’s pure curiosity, and he hopes RocketSTEM can use that curiosity to foster college students’ curiosity in different sciences.

“Our largest questions as a baby are at all times, ‘Why?’ ‘Why is the sky blue?’ Even into maturity, that is still. ‘Why are we right here?’” Clark says. “The understanding of something, irrespective of how tiny, is de facto simply the course of of studying about the universe. All of what we all know is a component of the universe, and our planet is simply a tiny speck in a near-infinite actuality of time and area. Humanity has at all times needed to know what’s past the subsequent hill.

“And reaching out into the cosmos is the final journey, whether or not or not it’s with a telescope, robotic probes, or boots on the Moon and Mars. Studying about the universe is, at its most elementary, the path to studying extra about ourselves. I believe that it’s arduous to fathom the universe and not have it foster a want to be taught extra about its workings, which requires vital considering and a higher understanding of the sciences.”

Exploring the Universe — from Dwelling

With out even realizing it, Clark and his group had been already making ready for a international pandemic a 12 months earlier than concerns about the spread of COVID-19 despatched thousands and thousands of youngsters dwelling from college.

“We had determined to revamp our homepage to concentrate on our academic content material and to make the information articles a secondary focus,” Clark says. “We additionally started growing extra space-related phrase puzzles, e book spotlights, and a new part of the web site that we name QuizMe. It comprises quick 10 to 15 query quizzes, usually on a single matter. In a method, it’s much like the early viral quizzes that BuzzFeed flooded the web with; nonetheless, ours are extra instructional and shouldn’t have any ads cluttering the display.”

The RocketSTEM group labored on these sources quietly and deliberate to launch their new website without delay in July 2020, simply earlier than the new college 12 months.

“When the pandemic took maintain in America and college students had been despatched dwelling for the relaxation of the 12 months, we knew that we needed to go forward and launch the revamp proper then,” Clark says. “Since then, we’ve been in a fixed rush to maintain increasing the instructional choices.”

Quickly after colleges closed, the RocketSTEM group launched all the instructional content material they’d already created and is steadily including extra.

“Whereas what we provide can’t change an precise trainer in a classroom full of college students, we hope that our content material could be a complement to dwelling studying,” Clark says. “Hopefully, each children and dad and mom will get pleasure from the content material and be impressed to continue to learn about area exploration and the universe.”

Assist for Tinkerers

Clark doesn’t keep in mind fairly why he selected DreamHost as the on-line dwelling for his nonprofit, however he’s glad he did. In the early days of RocketSTEM, he began with a easy shared hosting plan.

“Our WordPress theme is fairly resource-intensive and the web site comprises a lot of photos so we pretty rapidly outgrew that. We upgraded to a VPS, and as soon as DreamPress got here out, we moved the web site over to that. DreamHost dealt with the complete course of of shifting our website between the servers and all the things went easily.”

One of the best half about DreamPress?

The staging site feature offers Clark the freedom to tinker with the again finish of the web site with whole abandon. If one thing goes fallacious in his tinkering, he can change the staging website and begin over with out affecting the dwell website.

“Our IT specialist particularly loves that as he now not will get calls from me telling him that I broke the web site once more and want him to repair it ASAP.”

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Into the Future

An Atlas V rocket carrying NASA's Mars Curiosity rover rises into the sky.
An Atlas V rocket carrying NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover rises into the sky. This picture was captured by a distant digicam arrange simply a few hundred toes from the base of the rocket. NASA is slated to ship the Perseverance rover to Mars on July 17, 2020. Tucked in with the rover shall be Ingenuity, the first-ever helicopter to be despatched to a different planet.

Even after its eight years, RocketSTEM continues to be studying to adapt to adjustments in media and scholar wants. They’re engaged on constructing a social media following, planning video content material, and reaching out to leaders in the area business. Clark says an advisory committee of consultants is in the works, and final 12 months he teamed up with astronomer Alan Hale, co-discoverer of the Hale–Bopp comet, who authors a weekly collection of articles about asteroids and comets.

“Whilst a seasoned journalist, protecting NASA has been an awe-inspiring journey,” Clark says. “By way of RocketSTEM, I’m able to pay that privilege ahead. Some of our volunteers have been in a position to attend their first launch or interacted with folks akin to Invoice Nye and Al Worden. Giving others a chance to partake in that degree of pleasure is a pleasure all its personal. That wonderment stays with them perpetually.”

RocketSTEM is funded principally out of Clark’s personal pocket. He volunteers his time with the group, on prime of his day job as a net supervisor and freelance author and designer.

“I didn’t have any earlier nonprofit expertise, and that has positively proven in the space of fundraising,” he says. “That has restricted the expanse of issues we are able to do, and there are a lot of concepts which have remained on the chalkboard awaiting the day now we have the funding and staffing. At the identical time, I’m fairly proud of the content material we’ve produced.”

As govt director and founder of RocketSTEM, Clark’s each day work has shifted from content material creation to coordinating and coaching volunteers (they’re at all times looking for more help, by the method), managing the web site, coordinating with NASA and different organizations, and planning RocketSTEM’s lengthy sport.

One other function he discovered himself entering into on this journey was that of an educator.

“I’ve additionally come to appreciate that at its core, journalism is basically a kind of training. Good journalists are curious by nature and like to analysis a topic or discuss to a individual to be taught extra about it or them. They then attempt to impart that data to others by way of their reporting. In essence, a good journalist serves as each a scholar and trainer.”

The submit RocketSTEM Ignites a Love of Space and Science in the Next Generation of Explorers appeared first on Website Guides, Tips and Knowledge.


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