TVA Goes to Space

Walking among towering rockets, space artifacts and military technology at the U. S. Space and Rocket Center, you may wonder why TVA is partnering with the USSRC to increase STEM outreach and to help tell the TVA story. It’s because TVA and USSRC were created along similar roots and share a common mission.

More than 80 years ago, President Roosevelt had a vision to bring the country out of the Great Depression. For the poverty-stricken Tennessee River Valley that meant creating TVA to bring flood control, electricity and economic development to a desperately poor area of the United States. The region would grow to thrive, and today is ranked as one of the best places in the country to do business.

Dr. Wernher von Braun, the father of modern rocket science, had a similar vision when he arrived in Huntsville, Ala., in 1950. Back then, the small town touted itself the "Watercress Capital of the World." But Dr. von Braun saw the potential growth that could be fueled by available land and access to the tamed Tennessee River. His team at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center would transform this rural region into birthplace of America's space program, and thanks to collaboration among government, academia and private industry Huntsville has become a national center for research and development of new technologies in aerospace, national defense, computer science and healthcare technologies.

What people may not realize is that when Dr. von Braun created the USSRC he included energy and energy conservation as part of the USSRC charter. Energy technology is fundamental for space travel, from questions about how to generate power autonomously on a space station or another planet (solar panels) to how best to propel a deep space probe to another galaxy (nuclear propulsion). Dr. von Braun wanted to ensure that visitors to the museum understood how energy technologies developed by NASA and the Army could improve energy use, generation and conservation here on Earth.

Recently, TVA and USSRC signed an historic agreement that allows TVA to share its energy and energy conservation platform with more than a half million USSRC visitors each year—many of them children.

“In today’s high-tech, digitally driven and knowledge-based economy partnering with USSRC is a natural extension of TVA’s mission to help inspire today’s youth to choose STEM-related subjects in school,” says Gail Rymer, TVA Director of Public Relations.  

For more than 10 years, TVA has supported Tennessee Valley STEM programs such as robotics as a fun, hands-on fun way to get students excited about science, technology, engineering and math.

“Working with TVA to promote energy allows USSRC to connect students with STEM subjects in a way they can see in their lives every day,” says Rocket Center CEO Dr. Deborah Barnhart. “Giving students that ‘wow’ moment and letting them see what is possible is a critical first step toward ensuring they seek out and learn the skills needed to compete in the 21st century marketplace.”

USSRC exhibits and educational programs such as Space Camp® and Space Camp Robotics reach a global audience that brings STEM to life both inside and outside the classroom.