First-of-Its-Kind Training Program Helps Teachers Inspire Students to Pursue Technical, Scientific Careers Related to Space Exploration

More than 80 distinguished elementary and secondary school teachers representing nearly all 50 states and 24 countries will “graduate” this weekend from the world’s first weightless “high school,” also known as Northrop Grumman Corporation’s Weightless Flights of Discovery program.

The program, designed to help teachers inspire students to pursue technical and scientific careers related to space exploration, touched down here this week at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center for the second stop in a scheduled, five-region national tour. It uses hands-on science workshops and parabolic or “zero-gravity” aircraft flights to help educators teach students how math, science and engineering principles apply to weightless space environments. The flights are similar to how astronauts train for space flight.

Teachers participating in this weekend’s workshops and four weightless flights include the 2006 Teacher of the Year from 48 states and five U.S. territories. The teachers are joining their international counterparts in attending this week’s 17th annual International Space Camp at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Several teachers representing U.S. Gulf Coast schools destroyed last fall by Hurricane Katrina will also be flying.

“The participation in the Northrop Grumman Weightless Flights of Discovery by teachers from across the nation and around the world helps lay the educational foundation for what promises to be a truly international human space exploration program,” said Art Stephenson, sector vice president, Space Exploration Systems for Northrop Grumman’s Integrated Systems sector. “We’re confident that the teachers’ experience will help them inspire students the world over to consider careers that will allow them to contribute to this international space endeavor.”

Northrop Grumman is sponsoring the Weightless Flights of Discovery in cooperation with Zero Gravity (ZERO-G®) Corporation, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., which developed and will conduct this unique professional development program for teachers. The program will allow approximately 240 teachers to participate in 12 flights.

In addition to underwriting the costs of the workshops and weightless flights, Northrop Grumman is providing a $250 grant to each of the U.S. teachers involved in the program. The grants will be made by the Northrop Grumman Foundation.

“We wanted to send each teacher home equipped not only with an out-of-this-world experience and more thought-provoking ways to teach math and science, but also with the means to bring new educational resources to the classroom,” said Sandra Evers-Manly, Northrop Grumman’s vice president of ethics and diversity, and president of the Northrop Grumman Foundation.

The grants may be used to develop innovative teaching techniques; enhance the curriculum of math, science and engineering technology-related projects; purchase books or equipment; or support educational activities that might otherwise be unfunded, she added.

Among the teachers participating in the Weightless Flights of Discovery in Huntsville is Kimberly Oliver, the 2006 National Teacher of the Year. The kindergarten teacher from Montgomery County, Md., who was also named 2006 Maryland Teacher of the Year, is excited about using what she learns while weightless to bring a new type of “float and tell” experience to her students.

“The Northrop Grumman program gives me a compelling and unique way to demonstrate basic scientific principles in my classroom as my students see their teacher on video conducting experiments in micro gravity,” said Oliver. “It’s never too early to introduce youngsters to ideas and concepts that can help shape their dreams for the future. I want them to know that there are no limits to what they can do, including becoming a scientist, engineer, astronaut, or even a teacher!”

Additional teacher workshops and zero-gravity flights for the Northrop Grumman Weightless Flights of Discovery program are planned for San Diego, Cleveland and Washington, D.C. The next teacher workshops are scheduled for the week of Aug. 5 in San Diego, with corresponding flights planned for Aug. 11. Weightless flights for Cleveland and Washington are planned for September.

Florida Space Research Institute (FSRI), a research organization for the State of Florida, is also providing national funding support for the Northrop Grumman Weightless Flights of Discovery program. AOL, an industry-leading educational resource for teachers and students, serves as the program’s official online, interactive Web site. Space enthusiasts can visit to review videos of teachers in zero gravity action, photo galleries and fast facts about zero gravity.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a global defense company headquartered in Los Angeles, Calif. Northrop Grumman provides technologically advanced, innovative products, services and solutions in systems integration, defense electronics, information technology, advanced aircraft, shipbuilding and space technology. With approximately 120,000 employees and operations in all 50 states and 25 countries, Northrop Grumman serves U.S. and international military, government and commercial customers.


Northrop Grumman
Brooks McKinney, 310-331-6610
cell: 310-864-3785
M. Silver Associates Inc.
Jennifer Marie Herrera, 954-765-3636