Microsoft, SoftTek partner to bring the youngest moonwalker to Dallas

With private companies starting to take clients into space and continual talk of reaching Mars, we are entering a new age of space exploration. The Back to Space movement is positioning themselves to be on the forefront.

Over 300 students and community members welcomed Apollo 16 astronaut and the voice of Apollo 11’s mission control, Charlie Duke, to Dallas on Friday morning as a kickstart to the Back to Space movement.

Photo credit: Bryson G Visuals

This movement started by Danielle Dallas Roosa, founder of Back to Space and granddaughter of Apollo 14 astronaut Stuart Roosa, has a three-fold mission to preserve the legacy of past astronauts, to prepare students through STEM educations to reach space and to inspire innovation in the industry.

“You can teach STEM, but you can’t teach inspiration,” said Roosa.

With the support of Jim Keyes, former CEO of 7-Eleven and Blockbuster, the team decided to launch this movement from Dallas.

“Dallas has a lot of hi-tech companies, and they understand the mission that Danielle Roosa has with back to space and to encourage young people,” said Duke. “I think it’s easy to get a city like Dallas involved to help finance this process because there are a lot of hi-tech stuff in Dallas, so it’s a perfect place to do it.”

The event featured two parts: one private audience with Duke as well as a larger talk open to the public with words from Roosa, Keyes and Duke, each of which are big advocates in the Back to Space program.

Despite his corporate business background, Keyes has admired and dreamed of space exploration since he was a child, leading him to partner with Roosa to launch this program’s mission to inspire more innovation in the space industry.

“I didn’t grow up going I want to work at 7-Eleven,” said Keyes. “I wanted to be an astronaut.”

This dream then translated to him focusing on a STEM education and learning how to fly planes. In fact, he even flew his plan to pickup Duke for the event.

Duke, however, told his memories of the Apollo missions, leaving the young crowd of elementary, middle and high school students bright-eyed and curious.

“You can get zero gravity in an airplane, but you can’t get a view like out there. The view is very inspirational,” said Duke.

Photo credit: Jacquelyn Elias

Microsoft and Dallas-based SoftTek partnered with the Back to Space team to bring this event to the Microsoft campus.

“As a technology company, Softtek believes in this – inspiring others to reach for the stars and to pursue careers in technology,” said Paula Phillips, SR. PR manager of SoftTek. “And, as a new company in Dallas (we just moved our U.S. and Canada HQ to Addison in May 2017), we are excited to invest back in our community by helping bring valuable thought leaders and content such as this.”

Moving forward, the Back to Space team and community partners intend to continue events like this as well as release a mini-series film documentary for the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.

“If I can motivate one kid to challenge themselves or one or two kids to aim high, then it’s worth it,” said Duke.

How did the movement start

“It’s pretty safe to say space is in my blood,” said founder Roosa. Despite growing up in tune with the latest space explorations, Roosa recognized the complacency that others held towards space after accepting an internship at NASA in 2012. Roosa posted about her achievement online, which received many critical responses from peers on the value of NASA and their work.

Photo credit: Bryson G Visuals

“It was clear to me that there was a fundamental lack of interest in what NASA is doing and in STEM,” said Roosa.

A few years later, Roosa came to Keyes, a longtime supporter of space exploration, to pitch an idea for a film to preserve the legacy of the Apollo missions.

Soon after, this film grew into the Back to Space movement, gathering the support of many other astronauts and companies looking to inspire the youth and to bring talk of developing space exploration to the table.

“There’s a lot going on in space, but it’s not front page anymore,” said Duke.

Jacquelyn Elias

Editor at Launch DFW | SMU senior studying journalism, creative computing and computer science graduating in May '18 | Twitter: @jacquieeli | LinkedIn: