Additionally, on 19 May 2021 an extended broadcast of the downlink will air on The Ismaili TV for the global Jamat, with messages from key elected officials from Texas and other public figures who oversee legislative and executive activities that impact space, science, and technology.
The downlink is a live question-and-answer session for students to interact with astronauts aboard the International Space Station. The Ismaili Council’s educational initiatives, facilitated through volunteers from the Aga Khan Education Board for the Southwestern United States, strive to improve educational outcomes amongst children from birth through college and beyond, by embracing the sharing of knowledge to help improve the quality of life of people around the world. In order to bring STEM learning opportunities to as many students as possible, programs such as the NASA downlink highlight the continuing efforts of the Aga Khan Education Board in forging strategic partnerships with institutions at the forefront of STEM education. Education and learning are the bedrock upon which a global civil society is built. Mawlana Hazar Imam highlighted this sentiment during the 88th Stephen Ogden Lecture at Brown University on 9 March 2014, saying:
“A quality civil society, in any setting, will require well-informed leaders who are sensitive to a wide array of disciplines, and outlooks and cultures. It will require people with the ability to continue their learning in response to new knowledge.”
For this NASA downlink, the Ismaili Council for the Southwestern US is excited to partner with schools from the Aldine, Alief, Fort Bend, Houston, and Stafford school districts as well as Awty International, Etoile Academy, The Honor Roll, and The Village Schools to engage middle school students from the Greater Houston area. Students and teachers were provided resources to enhance their background knowledge about the upcoming program and allow the students an opportunity to submit a question to an astronaut. Some of these questions will be asked to the astronauts onboard the International Space Station during the downlink. A diverse group of students from various walks of life will come together to learn and be inspired by this unique educational opportunity.
To extend the learning and excitement about the upcoming downlink, the Aga Khan Education Board for the Southwestern US is also hosting STEMonstration (STEM demonstration) sessions virtually on topics related to the long-term impact of life and work in space. These interactive sessions provide students a better understanding of life in space and the opportunity to learn through experiments and interactive modules during the session.
Rozina Mussani, Chairperson of the Aga Khan Education Board for the USA recognized the critical role of STEM education, saying, “what is unique about this opportunity is that it not only highlights the importance of STEM but also non-STEM skills in such endeavors. For example, landing on the moon or building the International Space Station would not have been possible without good communication, critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration. All of these skills are core to the mission of the Board.”
As humanity continues its exploration of the universe, new knowledge and understanding will come from experimentation and curious people; our future scientists and mathematicians will lead the charge as we expand our understanding of the cosmos. From medicine to computer science to astrophysics, STEM fields are driving innovation and progress for an advancing global society. Ultimately, STEM fields provide an ever-growing avenue not just for job opportunities and success in student’s careers but also in their ability to positively impact humanity.