Press Release

Northrop Grumman Foundation Weightless Flights of Discovery Kicks Off Year Four

By SpaceRef Editor
September 24, 2009
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Northrop Grumman Foundation Weightless Flights of Discovery Kicks Off Year Four

More than Half a Million Students Reached to Date with Message that Science is Cool

Designed to inspire kids to pursue math and science careers, the program is expected to reach thousands more in 2009 with four microgravity flights scheduled in four cities across the U.S.

Participating teachers to share their personal experiences throughout flight day in video and photos via Weightless Flights of Discovery Facebook and Twitter (#WFOD) Platforms

The Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC) Foundation is kicking off the fourth year of its Weightless Flights of Discovery Program, flying a total of 120 science and math teachers on four microgravity flights over the next two weeks, beginning with 30 taking flight today in Albuquerque, N.M.

As part of the company’s goal to inspire the next generation of scientists, mathematicians and engineers – critical areas of learning and career development where the U.S. has fallen behind globally – the Weightless Flights of Discovery program provides educators with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to prepare for and participate in micro- and zero-gravity flights during which they will test Newton’s Laws of Motion with a variety of planned experiments. In addition to Albuquerque, flights are also scheduled in Detroit (Sept. 24), Norwalk, Conn. (Sept. 29), and Washington, D.C. (Oct. 2).

Newly inspired themselves, teachers are encouraged to take their experiences back into the classroom following the flights to energize their students in the subjects of math and science. Since the launch of the program in 2006, nearly 1,000 teachers have participated in this hands-on, real-world, professional development experience, impacting an estimated 585,600* elementary, middle school and high school students in the program’s first three years alone. With 120 teachers from across the country participating in the 2009 program, an additional 36,000 students are expected to be reached this year with the message that science is cool and fun, and that a career in the sciences is both rewarding and achievable.

Demonstrating the program’s overall impact, a poll conducted in 2008 of more than 200 teachers who participated in year one and two of the program revealed that 77.8% reported an increase in the number of students interested in pursuing science- and math-related careers; and 91.9% reporting a notable increase in their students’ overall interest in science.

“The Northrop Grumman Foundation is thrilled that we can look back at the program’s progress thus far and know that we have positively impacted tomorrow’s generation of scientists and engineers,” said Sandra Evers-Manly, President of the Northrop Grumman Foundation. “We’ve seen so many teachers and students benefit from the program, and we are pleased to make it available once again to more educators that they may continue to inspire their students.”

Previously, participating teachers took part in a full-day orientation program. They then worked with their students to develop the experiments they would be conducting in-flight during periods of lunar, Martian and zero-gravity weightlessness. Following the two-hour flight, each teacher will incorporate his or her experiences into lesson plans via photography and video taken during the flights. To further engage and inspire the science and math community, the Northrop Grumman Foundation launched a presence on Facebook and Twitter this year. The dedicated online communities – Facebook ( and Twitter ( have served as communications platforms between the teachers and their students, helping to keep one another – as well as science and space enthusiasts at large – informed about the program and their progress through regular news updates and information sharing. Fans and followers of the program are also invited to join the online conversation on the importance of high-quality STEM education in U.S. schools.

Teachers are also encouraged to share insights, photos and video from their flight day via Twitter (search #WFOD), allowing their students and the public at large to follow their weightless journey. The United States is experiencing a shortage of college graduates in the STEM disciplines, a negative trend that bodes ill for the nation’s industries that depend on talented scientists and mathematicians. Because studies have indicated most children make the decision to pursue math and science education and careers during middle-school, Northrop Grumman developed the Weightless Flights of Discovery to engage teachers, and key influencers in the lives of students during these crucial years.

The Northrop Grumman Foundation supports diverse and sustainable programs for students and teachers. These programs create innovative education experiences in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. ###

* Based on the nationally accepted estimate in the industry, where middle and high school teachers typically teach 25 students in 6 different classes during each of two semesters per year; estimate also assumes that teachers have integrated their experience each consecutive school year following their participation in the Northrop Grumman Foundation Weightless Flights of Discovery.

SpaceRef staff editor.