That was the shuttle’s final mission after a 30-year run and it will now serve as a piece of living history. For many Washingtonians it will be their first experience with the NASA space program, but for one Foggy Bottom resident outer space was a way of life for her family.
Shooting for the moon comes naturally to writer and educator Nancy Conrad. Her late husband was an astronaut and she is the founder of the Conrad Foundation, an organization that helps young people generate ideas that are out of this world.
The Conrad Foundation was created in 2008, and its signature program is the Spirit of Innovation Challenge. The annual competition challenges high school students to develop commercially-viable, technology-based products that address real-world challenges and global sustainability.
We ask them to make a product that solves a real-world problem. We’ve given these kids permission to imagine and they are amazing.
Conrad, who also serves as chairman, says she created the Conrad Foundation to ‘energize and engage students in science and technology through unique entrepreneurial opportunities.’ The nonprofit organization focuses on improving the current methods of teaching science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in high schools around the country. This year’s competition included teams of students from nine countries and 49 states and several virtual teams made up of students from various states. Conrad says the competition gives learning a context and gets students excited.
“A hundred percent of the students who participate go on to pursue STEM or business careers.”
The Conrad Foundation is the only organization of its kind to combine education, innovation and entrepreneurship to inspire solutions for achieving global sustainability. The challenge categories range from aerospace exploration to agricultural science technology.
“It’s not enough to leave a better country for our children, we need to leave better children for our country.”
Conrad created the Foundation based on her late husband, Apollo 12 Astronaut Charles “Pete” Conrad. He and Nancy were married for nearly ten years when he died unexpectedly in 1999 from a motorcycle accident. His legacy also continues through the book Rocketman: Astronaut Pete Conrad’s Incredible Ride to the Moon and Beyond, which is co-authored by Nancy and Howard Klausner.
The book is a heart-felt account of Pete’s life which details his struggle with a learning disability as a child and his rise to become the real ‘Space Cowboy.’ He enjoyed an incredible career with NASA. His accomplishments include flying two Gemini missions, walking on the moon as Commander of Apollo 12, and commanding the first Skylab.
“People can see the human story behind one of America’s heroes, it’s not a story about going to the moon but about a man’s life,” said Nancy Conrad. “Pete used his career to reach out to students and gave them their ‘moon shot’.”
Now Nancy is continuing that trend by giving young people their ‘STEM shot’ and helping them use science, technology, engineering, and math to change the world.