Jeremy Craig, 404-413-1357
For GSU’s Robert Simmons, his hobby of making uniquely designed glass beads has helped children with serious illnesses like cancer mark milestones, and their ups and downs in their treatments and experiences.
Simmons is involved in an organization called Beads of Courage, a non-profit organization where numerous artists create beads for patients to represent significant treatment milestones. He’s designed two special beads evoking the mystery of space and space exploration – one of the mythical man in the moon, and one of a space shuttle, glowing from the heat of re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere.
|Robert Simmons makes glass beads for Beads of Courage, which gives seriously ill children a chance to tell their stories of survival.|
Those special beads will take a journey into history aboard the last mission of the Space Shuttle Endeavour, scheduled to be launched this Friday, April 29.
“This is one of the most exciting things that have happened certainly in my artistic life, because I’ve been a space freak since I was a kid,” said Simmons, director of the university’s Biological Imaging Core Facility and adjunct professor. “The kids really love it, and they get excited to see the beads that went up into space.
Simmons’ beads are two of 39 beads selected to travel on the Endeavour as part of Beads of Courage and NASA’s Beads in Space project. This is the second, and last, trip into space aboard a space shuttle for a set of glass beads from the organization.
The project is exciting for Simmons, a member of a local glass bead making group called the Southern Flames.
“I remember when I was about 6 years old, the Russians launched Sputnik,” he said. “And I remember being out on the driveway at sunset with my dad, and we could see this tiny little dot moving across the sky. My dad said, ‘the world just changed.’”
Simmons has also been part of collaborations with NASA in other ways, namely through his work in the study of indoor air quality at both the International Space Station and on Earth at the Johnson Space Center.
|Simmons' 'man in the moon' bead, along with one depicting the space shuttle re-entering the atmosphere, will travel aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour.|
In his role at GSU, Simmons leads the use of powerful tools, like electron microscopes, to see the world at the tiniest levels. And using some of those images as inspiration, he has turned them into glass figures as well.
The original beads flying on Endeavour will remain with Beads of Courage and will be shown at different children’s hospitals as part of a traveling exhibit that also includes beads from the launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis in 2010, but replicas will be on sale to raise funds for the non-profit.
The organization is also collecting a set of beads from artists around the country for an honorary “support strand” to be presented to U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who survived a deadly shooting in January, and who is the wife of Endeavour’s commander, Mark Kelly.
April 25, 2011