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Londonderry Students Invited to Space Debate

Republican presidential candidate John McCain told Londenderry High School students he would love to go into space. But he said one of them would probably be more qualified.

By Liz Anderson - Eagle- Tribune Writer


LONDONDERRY - High school seniors captivated by the idea of a privately run space station won an ally yesterday in Arizona Sen. John McCain.

The Republican presidential hopeful, who chairs the senate commerce, science and Transportation Committee, promised about 100 Londenderry High School students studying the space center idea he will be holding a hearing on its merits early next year in Washington.

Sen. McCain said the idea is "worthy of serious consideration." And he invited the students to come to Washington to see the debate.

"This is really what America is all about," he told the students, "...people of vision and people of ideas and people who are willing to put ideas into proposals and fathering support."

The High school Seniors, all taking a science fiction literature class, are helping to drum up support for the commercial space project as part of the curriculum.

Their teacher, Steven Juster, said he had met California entrepreneur Gene Meyers, one of the station developers, through a different class project several years ago. Over the summer, he said, Mr. Meyers called him and broached the idea of using the idea of the station as a teaching exercise; Mr. Juster agreed it was an Intriguing idea.

Mr. Meyers was on hand yesterday to pass out flyers on the idea and help answer questions about it's design.

The "Space Island Station" is a commercial project that proposes building a livable community inside the giant external fuel tanks from the existing space shuttles. The Tanks are currently left to burn up in the atmosphere rather than kept in space for use. The first Station under it's proposed design , would be 20 modules joined end to end in a ring.

It would eventually, under it's promoters vision, be home to research, manufacturing and even a five-star resort.

The Students, who have been working on their own "Space Island Project" since the star of school year, are gathering signatures in support of the Space Station idea and have posted it's designs in the hallway along with inspirational quotes and a ,mock announcement board.

Yesterday the announcement board, dated 2006, invited the station's imaginary residents to a talk with "President McCain."

The candidate peered at the displays as senior Chelsy Stoddart, 17, pointed out the different modules, including a rain forest, a vegetation garden and a fish farm.

Sen. McCain noticed another element

"A whirlpool spa.. glad we were able to put that in." he exclaimed, pointing to a small corner.

Sen McCain told students that he also believed the International; Space Station under development by NASA is a "Worthy project." but he said that cost overruns at the agency "makes me grind my teeth" at night.

He responded "Sure!!! to a students question about whether he though average citizens would someday be able to go up into space to work. But he said the country also needs to increase the quality of its education system, especially in math and physics, to help make that a reality.

One student asked him if he would consider going to the Space Island Station himself. "I would love to go up," Sen McCain responded. But, he said, "Someone else in this room would probably be more productive then I could be."

Student Michelle Champlin, 17, and her friends marveled after his visit about the way their school project is taking off.

"It wasn't what I expected at all." she said. "I never expected this thing to go this far, but it has."

Later John McCain met with employees at Sanders in Nashua, a military technology firm that is part of Lockhead Martin Co. He toured the Jam Lab , where technology to counter surface- to - air missile attacks is developed.

"You may talk to many candidates, but I am the only one you will talk to who was dumb enough to intercept a surface-to-air missile with an airplane," the former Navy pilot joked. Sen. McCain spent 5 1/2 years as a prisoner of war after his plane was shot down in Vietnam.

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