Students book space travel

Straight-faced, clipboard-toting investors made no sign of emotion as they clicked their mechanical pencils and took notes as they listened to a pitch made on behalf of their classmates at R.D. White Elementary School.

Narine Ambartzumyan’s assignment called for students to work in groups of four — one as an astronomer, one as a travel agent, another as a rocket ship designer and the last as a space suit designer — to create intriguing outer space vacation packages with which they would lure savvy investors.

Plans were laid out in brochures and drawings detailing space suit functionality, travel length and music selections on board. Students spent four weeks researching the planets in order to create rockets and space suits able to overcome physical challenges.

One group, with Edgar Avetisian as astronomer, Michael Khachatryan as space suit designer, Allen Terteryan as travel agent and Shahan Derbedrosian as rocket designer, pitched a $500,000 package to Venus that would take one year of travel to the planet and another year of return travel to Earth. Their rocket would be equipped with a spa, five bathrooms, a buffet and an arcade. Once at Venus, a $200 fee would cover the cost for a lava skating excursion.

There were also trips to Trident, Jupiter and Mars. One group, “Uranus and You!” created a package that would take nine years to travel one way for a four-year stay on Uranus — a gas planet, they explained, that is 350-degrees Fahrenheit.

Artur Arutuyan, who designed the rocket, said, “If an asteroid hits, you won’t die.”

Connor Johnson, the astronomer for the group, added that the rocket could prove equally helpful in the case of “intergalactic terrorism.” Visitors to Uranus would also enjoy the planet’s 27 moons and 13 rings. Daily tours would be available, guests could watch television and read books on board. And four licensed teachers would teach classes from kindergarten through college.

Earlier this year, Ambartsumyan’s class examined the economical, psychological and political affects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

She smiled as she made the rounds in her classroom, observing and speaking with each group as they pitched their space vacations while excitedly spewing planetary facts alongside their company’s offerings.

“They enjoy it because it is so meaningful,” Ambartsumyan said. “They can connect to real life.”

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