Steven Smith, STEM Engagement Specialist with NASA’s Educator Professional Development Collaborative at Johnson Space Center

We are going back to the moon, according to Steven Smith from the NASA Engagement & Educator Professional Development Collaborative who explained to a cafeteria full of eager fourth graders at Brandon Elementary Friday that the Artemis rocket is on the launchpad ready to go.

Not exactly “we” will be traveling to the moon but mannequins or “moonequins” as Mr. Smith likes to call them. He told students about President Kennedy’s famous moon speech in 1962 at Rice University, and how first will be moon missions and then we will go to Mars.

The students were mesmerized as Smith talked about how one of the students in the room could leave their footprint on Mars and that his job was to find the foot. The student in the front row said, “That could be my foot!”

Smith travels across the state to talk to students about the moon mission, the mission to Mars, and his own personal mission of inspiring students to reach for the stars.

His story is one of heartache and hopefulness. From a rough start of loss to being homeless, he tells kids that if they are in a bad situation right now it’s not permanent.

“Whatever you’re going through isn’t permanent. I now have five degrees and work for NASA,” said Smith.

The students asked all kinds of questions from the naming of the rockets to how to go to the bathroom in space.

Fourth graders gather for a photo with Steven Smith.

After his presentations to 4th and 5th graders today, his work is not done. He is partnering with the 5th grade GT class on an Artemis I Moon Mission project and will be Zooming with the class to see their progress.

Smith is scheduled to come back to speak to other elementary schools to inspire kids to dream big and to imagine their future footprint.



Brandon Elementary teacher Misty Corley presents Steven Smith with Lufkin ISD swag.

After Mr. Smith’s presentation, students couldn’t wait to ask questions.