Posted by DrJeff on June 17th, 2011
Copyright 2011 | About this blog
Photocaption: Endeavour (STS-134) and ISS as seen by ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli in a Soyuz capsule.
We were eagerly awaiting Endeavour’s return to Earth on June 1. Student teams across the nation had experiments aboard. It was the culmination of a many months long process where 19,700 grade 5-12 students across America were given the opportunity to design experiments to be placed aboard Endeavour on her final flight, and they all felt like they were part of history.
It’s also been a very special program for me. It has been a labor of love (and one which has taken me away from another labor of love—this Blog.) I still remember sitting in that restaurant sketching out the program structure on a napkin. You know, napkins are pretty important tools for anyone who wants to craft vision. I suspect some of the greatest accomplishments of the human race started on napkins. I wouldn’t be surprised if John F. Kennedy one day sat down for lunch with his advisors and sketched out a plan to land a man on the Moon before the decade was out. Then that historic napkin was likely left on the table, and tossed in a trash can by an unsuspecting waiter. But I’m willing to bet there was a napkin.
Well Endeavour landed and there was euphoria in the participating communities. We even had a live video feed from the payload processing lab where technicians were harvesting the precious experiments (and we’ll have it again for the 11 experiments on STS-135.)
Then the stunning video below was broadcast to the world. I am so proud to say that aboard Endeavour in this video are the 16 experiments of Our Center’s Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP). It offers a dramatic new perspective of this keystone U.S. National STEM education initiative that is engaging tens of thousands of grade 5-12 students in real science on orbit—their science.
Imagine watching this video, as a member of a 5th grade student team with your science experiment aboard Endeavour, that you designed, and it’s in orbit … right there! If that doesn’t inspire America’s next generation of scientists and engineers, and teachers of science across the nation, well, I’m not sure what will. And we’ve got 11 more experiments ready for launch on the final flight of Atlantis and of the U.S. Space Shuttle Program.
Truth be told, I wrote this post with another motivation in mind. It’s an invitation to you. How about … YOUR community coming aboard SSEP (yes YOU reading this). Normal program operations on the International Space Station (the big thing dwarfing the Shuttle in the video below) begin in Fall 2011. We’re a 501c3 non-profit, but this program does cost money. Yet I personally found funding for 21 of the 27 communities that are currently participating. And I promise you that I will work hard to get your community aboard too, as long as you can provide an appropriate implementation plan (I can walk you through that) and you have a coalition of the willing in terms of science educators and administrators.
Want to know more? SSEP was recently showcased at NASA.gov, along with feature articles from the participating communities, written by these communities. SSEP was also featured at the NASA International Space Station Research News webpage (that’s *RESEARCH* News). Remember that these students, maybe students in your community, are working as true scientists doing real research. You can also read a moving essay about what SSEP means to students, teachers, and families. You might also want to watch a video clip of me being interviewed about the program, and download a 2-page program overview as a PDF.
If you would like your community—300 to 3,200 grade 5-12 students, and students in 2-year and 4-year colleges—to come aboard the International Space Station for a true adventure in science on the high frontier, well I just dare you to contact me.
You’re also invited to follow along with breaking SSEP program news by subscribing to the SSEP National Blog at the SSEP main website.
Newly released video shows the International Space Station together with the space shuttle, the vehicle that helped build the complex over the last decade. The video was shot by European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli from the Russian Soyuz spacecraft that undocked from the station on May 23. He, Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev and NASA astronaut Cady Coleman were departing the station for a return to Earth after five months on the station. Nespoli documented the station from a distance of 600 feet as it was rotated 130 degrees.
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