South Dakota Space Days 2001: "A Space Odyssey in Rapid City"
By: Tom Durkin, SD Space Grant Consortium

A space odyssey came to Rapid City's Civic Center on May 4-6th as the South Dakota Space Grant Consortium sponsored "SD/NASA Space Days 2001". About 4,500 students and members of the public attended this special event. Space Days is an annual event that promotes the benefits that society enjoys each day as a result of space science, earth science, and technology. Thousands of students were shown practical examples of the fruits of these sciences while at the same time, learning the importance of studying math, science, and engineering. Dr. Sherry Farwell, Consortium Director and Dean of Graduate Education at SDSM&T said "The SD Space Grant Consortium is pleased to sponsor this premier event that each year brings interesting examples of NASA-related space and earth sciences to students of all ages in South Dakota and our neighboring states". The Space Days 2001 website complete with photos can be found on the Consortium's homepage at

Astronaut Colonel Charles "Sam" Gemar, a native South Dakotan, was the featured speaker. Col. Gemar, a longtime friend of SDSM&T, returned to the state during Space Days to captivate thousands of students with fascinating accounts of his experiences as a NASA Astronaut. He has flown on three Space Shuttle missions from 1990-1994 on the Atlantis, Discovery, and Columbia, logging 600 hours in space.

About 30 educational exhibits were on display, including tours through the International Space Station (ISS) traveling exhibit from NASA's Johnson Space Center. Tours exposed people to what it is like for astronauts and cosmonauts to live and work inside the ISS. Unlike Mr. Dennis Tito who paid $20 million for a week aboard the real ISS, this experience was free! The SD Space Grant Consortium's website shows when the real Space Station can be viewed from various cities and towns as it orbits overhead.

Starlab Planetarium shows were offered, as were four teacher-training workshops on Mars Exploration, Small Bodies in the Solar System, the NASA Educator Resource Centers in SD, and a workshop on Lakota Perspectives on the Environment from Mother Earth to the Heavens. All in all, Space Days was a big success. Next year the event will be held at SDSU in Brookings.

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