Kids have a blast at space company

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Take Your Kid to Work Day is a truly astronomical experience at Lockheed Martin.

“This event is awesome,” said Joe Rice, Lockheed’s director of government relations. “It’s supporting our future. It gets kids excited, then they’re motivated to learn. Then in 20 years, they’ll be building our satellites and space crafts.”

Rice’s two kids, Harrison and Lexie, and their friends were just four of the 1,500 kids who visited Lockheed’s Waterton Canyon campus April 25, Young Minds at Work Day, almost all of them children of the 3,800 people who work there. A variety of science and technology activities entertained them, from blasting off two-liter soda bottles to launching marshmallows Angry Bird-style to virtually working on a motorcycle in a 3D cave.

Perhaps the most popular event was getting to visit with real-live astronaut Rex Walheim, who’s been on three shuttle missions — the last as a mission specialist on the final flight of the shuttle program. He’s currently the astronaut representative to the Orion Program, which will carry humans to Mars in 2021.

The kids, ages 6 to 18, asked smart, curious questions — everything from how electricity works in space (solar power or fuel cells) to how astronauts use the restroom (very carefully) to how they get water to drink.

The answer to that last one might have made some kids change their minds about how cool it is to be an astronaut. Visiting spacecraft take water to the space station, but conservation is key when you’re 220 miles above the Earth for months at a time.

“You guys are going to think this is really gross,” laughed Walheim. “You see where I’m going with this, right?” (Let’s just say today’s drink of water gets recycled into tomorrow’s drink of water.)

Walheim said he enjoys the chance to get out of Houston to get to know the people who make his work possible, and this event afforded him the added opportunity to meet their kids, as well. He recalled meeting astronaut Charles Duke as a youngster, then again last year.

“You always wonder if you really do ever get to inspire a kid,” he said. “I got to tell Charlie, you really did inspire a kid.”

Kids like Grey Mashrouteh might be telling Walheim the same thing someday. The 10-year-old wants to be a pilot like his grandpa and great-grandpa before him.

“I found out pretty much everything I wanted to find out, so it’s been a pretty fun day,” he said.

Lockheed employees are a passionate bunch and were excited to see the children soaking up the knowledge while thoroughly enjoying themselves. Allan Cheuvront helped his 8-year-old grandson, Braeden Dobbins, launch a soda bottle, explaining the physics behind the blast.

“I think it’s safe to say we’re an aging workforce,” he said. “Kids today have more ability and capability than I ever did.”

Cheuvront has worked at Lockheed for 33 years and is currently helping design the Osiris Rex, which will launch in 2016 and bring back samples from a near-earth asteroid in 2023.

“Asteroids are the direct remnants of the original building blocks of the terrestrial planets,” reads a fact sheet about the project. “Knowledge of their nature is fundamental to understanding planet formation and the origin of life.”

Cheuvront says his older grandson, 11-year-old Ben, already knows he wants to carry on grandpa’s good work.

“In theory, these kids could bring Osiris Rex back,” he said.

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