NASA Ames Director and VAFB Commander will encourage next generation of scientists, engineers and explorers.

  Dr. S. Pete Worden, director of NASA Ames, and Col. Stephen M. Tanous, commander of the 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg Air Force Base, and will be the inspirational speakers at the NASA Centennial Challenge event on Saturday, May 12 at the Santa Maria Fairpark. The event is coordinated by the California Space Education & Workforce Institute (CSEWI) and co-hosted by the California Space Authority (CSA).

Encouraging the next generation of space explorers is among the chief goals of CSEWI’s NASA Centennial Challenge event that will feature two robotic competitions running concurrently at the Santa Maria Fairgrounds: the sixth NASA Centennial Challenge, known as “2007 Regolith Excavation Challenge,” is from 7 am to 5 pm; and, the first annual California RoboChallenge, a K-12 student competition from 9 am to 3:30 pm.

Worden and Tanous will use their expert backgrounds in space, science and engineering to encourage students to study those fields and to pursue them as professions. Worden, former commander of the 50th Space Wing, has a doctorate in astronomy and has served as a space policy advisor within the Executive Office and Department of Defense. Tanous, an engineer, oversees operations of the Western Range at VAFB, the only U.S. platform capable of polar launches.

Both Worden and Tanous are scheduled to speak at the event starting at noon.

The NASA Centennial Challenges program seeks innovative technologies that will contribute significantly to the nation’s space exploration goals by hosting open contests with prize money. The purse for the 2007 Regolith Excavation Challenge is $250,000. It is awarded to the team that can design and build an autonomously operating system that excavates the most lunar regolith simulant, or “moon dirt,” beyond the minimum requirement and delivers it to a collector. Eight teams from the U.S. and Canada are scheduled to compete.

CSEWI is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization that operates closely with its parent organization—the CSA—a statewide, nonprofit organization that represents space enterprise and science interests. CSEWI’s mission is to inspire parents, educators and students to engage in California-based space-related education and to attract, integrate and retain a robust California space workforce.