- Associated Press - Saturday, June 27, 2015

HOUSTON (AP) - As space age icons grow older, a foundation to support would-be astronauts looks beyond their fame for financial support.

In 1984, six surviving Mercury 7 astronauts - Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Walter Schirra, Alan Shepard and Deke Slayton - each pitched in $1,000 to start a scholarship foundation, the Houston Chronicle (https://bit.ly/1RGFn3R ) reported.

That project has grown from seven to 36 scholarships a year, valued at $10,000 each. Money from book sales and speaking engagements has kept the foundation alive, even as some of the founders have passed away.

“As we look to the future, as we are losing our legends, we’re not able to keep moving in that same direction,” said Tammy Knowles, the Florida-based foundation’s executive director.

The foundation is pivoting toward corporations that want to invest in science and mathematics education, Knowles said, adding that she wants to expand the number of scholarships to 60 by 2017. While astronauts will remain critical, financial support will more likely come from boardroom appearances than proceeds from their fame.

An astronaut scholarship in 2000 and 2001 allowed Christina Hammock to focus on her studies in science without having to worry about how to pay for it. In June 2013, Hammock was selected as one of eight members of NASA’s 21st astronaut class, marking the first time a scholarship recipient became an astronaut.

Hammock’s success was a validation for the foundation, said Walt Cunningham, the lunar module pilot in the Apollo 7 mission and a board member.

“Today there are a lot of programs where they want to treat everyone equally,” he said. “I want people to earn and deserve and move up. That means some people aren’t going to make it. But we aren’t looking for commodity students, just the innovators.”


Information from: Houston Chronicle, https://www.houstonchronicle.com



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