KHS Galaxy Raiders meet astronaut Buzz Aldrin during national finals

Story and photo by Ken Robinson Kaiserslautern High School

The Kaiserslautern High School StellarXplorers team meets astronaut Buzz Aldrin at the 32nd Space Symposium April 14 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. From left to right: Vincent Povilaitis, junior; Karina Sahli, freshman; Buzz Aldrin; Rhiannon Jimenez, senior; Nathan Throckmorton, senior; and Sandra Mako-Sanchez, junior.
The Kaiserslautern High School StellarXplorers team meets astronaut Buzz Aldrin at the 32nd Space Symposium April 14 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. From left to right: Vincent Povilaitis, junior; Karina Sahli, freshman; Buzz Aldrin; Rhiannon Jimenez, senior; Nathan Throckmorton, senior; and Sandra Mako-Sanchez, junior.

The Kaiserslautern High School StellarXplorers team, Galaxy Raiders, recently competed in the first-ever StellarXplorers national finals April 13 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The top 10 teams throughout the country were invited to compete in this eight-hour competition. The competition was designed to challenge students in their knowledge of orbital mechanics, satellite subsystems and launch vehicles as they evaluate and assess options required to best optimize mission capabilities specific for a select mission.

While in Colorado Springs, the team was able to take full advantage of a number of unique educational opportunities. Most impressive to the team was an opportunity to experience life at the Air Force Academy. The team received a specialized tour of the Academy, which included access to both the Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering departments. Access to the Academy’s wind tunnels and exposure to the latest FalconSat6 microsatellite were certainly some of the trip’s highlights.

The pinnacle of the team’s national finals experience, however, was being able to meet the second man to step foot on the moon: Astronaut Buzz Aldrin. Aldrin, who is a retired Air Force colonel, was accessible to the students during the 32nd Space Symposium, which the team attended. The Space Symposium is the premier global, commercial, civil, military and emergent space conference in the world. Aldrin is a regular attendee at the symposium, and fortunately for the team, they had the unique opportunity to meet up with one of the great space heroes of our time.


Following the Space Symposium, the team then attended the Space Technology Hall of Fame banquet in which two new technologies from both Medtronic and SpaceX were inducted into the hall of fame. The great banquet room at the Broadmoor with its massive video walls, large stage and Emmy Awards atmosphere gave the students a memory they will never forget. Very influential speakers from the space industry participated in the event, including Gwynn Shotwell, chief operating officer of SpaceX, and Trevor Beattie, Director of the movie “Moon.”

These fortunate five students from KHS received an education that most only dream of. These experiences shape, mold and motivate students in ways that cannot be measured by a standardized test. Although the Galaxy Raiders did not walk away with a national title, their fifth-place finish and unique five-day education was well worth the price of their spring break.