A New Opportunity for Your Students to Be Real Scientists on the International Space Station – (No We’re Not Sending Them into Orbit … Unless)

 Posted by DrJeff on November 23rd, 2011

 Copyright 2011  |  About this blog

 

Click on the image and feel the magic. Astronaut Rick Mastracchio on EVA outside the International Space Station, August 15, 2007. Visit the NASA Human Spaceflight Image Gallery for more information.

Those of you following this blog know that a core philosophy I embrace is that science education—indeed all education—should be about exploration owned by the learner, and as teachers and parents our charge is to light their way. It is something I believe deeply.

I’ve had the distinct honor of sharing that philosphy this past year with thousands of educators at conferences, e.g., the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) National Conference. In order to reach an even wider audience, I’m grateful that John Boswell at Symphony of Science was able to turn my thoughts and words at NSTA into a music video We’ve Got to Be That Light. How he took a guy speaking in the front of an audience and turned it into something you’d want to upload to your music library is pretty magical. If you’ve not seen the music video yet, take a look. If you have seen it, and you’re a teacher that needs to decompress a bit over Thanksgiving and a shot in the arm before returning to work might help, take another look.

Those that preach have an obligation to put their words into practice. It’s the “put up or shut up” argument. If one complains about something, in this case the state of education, then either demonstrate a fix or don’t complain. So I’m listening … to myself. If education is about ownership in learning, then science education ought to be about ownership in science—experiences that allow students the ability to truly be scientists. And I firmly believe that if you give a 5th grader the ability to do real science, all you need do is gently guide, get out of the way … and be amazed.

So I created the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP), a true STEM education initiative that is designed to immerse students in real science, and along the way, engage their entire community. In this context, there is another deeply held belief at work—it takes a community to educate a child and a network of communities to reach a generation.

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SSEP Mission 1 to the International Space Station: Historic Opportunity for Your School and District

 Posted by DrJeff on July 31st, 2011

 Copyright 2011  |  About this blog

 

Click on the image and feel the magic. The International Space Station (ISS) with Endeavour (STS-135) docked. 16 SSEP Experiments are aboard. ISS dwarfs Endeavour.

As Center Director for the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, I’m proud to share a new program opportunity for real student research in orbit—for students in your community. The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP), which we launched in June 2010, saw 27 student-designed flight experiments on STS-134 and STS-135, the culmination of 31,000 students engaged, and 1,027 student team proposals for experiments. For the past month, we’ve been working hard to reconfigure the program for routine operations on America’s newest National Laboratory—the International Space Station. Today, we just announced the opportunity! I wanted to let folks know about it here, and invite you to think about this program for YOUR community:)

-dj

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Private Sector Effort Offers Real Research Opportunity for Grade 5-16 Students aboard International Space Station, 50,000 Expected to Participate

Next Phase of Bold New STEM Education Program that Attracted National Attention with Student Experiments on Final Flights of Shuttles Endeavour and Atlantis, and Provided Participation to 30,700 Students

THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR EARTH AND SPACE SCIENCE EDUCATION (NCESSE) ANNOUNCES AN IMMEDIATE AND HISTORIC OPPORTUNITY FOR COMMUNITIES ACROSS THE U.S. TO PARTICIPATE IN THE FIRST STUDENT SPACEFLIGHT EXPERIMENTS PROGRAM (SSEP) MISSION TO AMERICA’S NATIONAL LABORATORY IN SPACE—THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION (ISS). THE PROGRAM IS ALSO OPEN TO ISS PARTNER NATIONS.

SSEP is a keystone Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education program launched as a U.S. National initiative in June 2010. More broadly, SSEP is about a commitment to student ownership in exploration, to science as journey, and to the joys of learning. For school districts—even individual schools—it provides an opportunity to implement a systemic, high caliber, and historic STEM education program that is tailored to a community’s strategic needs in STEM education.

Deadline for Letters of Commitment from Interested Communities:
September 15, 2011

Jump to: SSEP MIssion 1 on the International Space Station Announcement of Opportunity

The SSEP on-orbit research opportunity is enabled through NanoRacks LLC, which is working in partnership with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory.


 

NASA Honors the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program

 Posted by DrJeff on July 14th, 2011

 Copyright 2011  |  About this blog

 

Photocaption: Vehicle Asembly Building (VAB) during the final mission of the Space Shuttle program (STS-135).  Photo by Eric S. Ackerman. CLICK FOR ZOOM

This past year has been a humbling experience for me, the staff of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education and the thousands of students and teachers in the 27 communities participating in the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP). Enabled by a Space Act Agreement between NASA and NanoRacks, LLC, we’ve all had the adventure of a lifetime. We’ve had the distinct honor of being part of history, and part of the 30 year legacy of the United States Space Shuttle program. The Space Shuttle, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration—both national treasures—stand for what is a fundamental regarding the nature of our existence—our need to know, to question, to push the boundaries of what is familiar, and to broaden our understanding of ourselves. Anyone witnessing the final Shuttle launch on July 8 at Kennedy Space Center (I was lucky enough) could not help but be overwhelmed by what we have done as a nation of spacefarers, and realize that the dawn of a new era is at hand. To all those that are participating in SSEP, you need to know that you are helping to blaze a trail into that new era, and there has been no bigger supporter of your achievements than NASA. With the 27 experiments aboard Endeavour and Atlantis, selected from over 1,000 student team proposals, you, the next generation, are the link between a celebrated past and a future in space exploration that is only now being written. And this remarkable journey we’ve been on together? It has really been about celebrating the past, embracing the present, and inspiring the future. Isn’t that what learning and exploration are all about?

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Stunning Video: Endeavour Docked at ISS – Aboard Her, 16 SSEP Student Experiments

 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.

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The Final Countdown: Shuttle Atlantis Soars Heavenward for Last Time – A Teachable Moment

 Posted by DrJeff on May 12th, 2010

 Copyright 2010  |  About this blog

 

 

Photo Caption: Space Shuttle Atlantis at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida after arriving at Pad 39A on April 21, 2010, in preparation for flight STS-132. Click on the image to see Atlantis up close and personal.

 

This is a Teachable Moments in the News QuickLinks Post. It connects a news story with this Blog’s existing powerful library of Posts and Resource Pages. The cited Posts and Pages provide a deep understanding of concepts in the earth and space sciences relevant to the news story. Teachers—the Posts and Pages are also designed for use as lessons, allowing you to easily bring current science into the classroom as a teachable moment. Each cited Post is outlined in the Teachers Lesson Planner, which includes the Post’s essential questions, concepts, objectives, and math skills.


 

This is it. The moment when the reality of loss truly begins to sink in. There are three flights of the space shuttle left, one for each of the remaining orbiters—Atlantis, Discovery, and Endeavour. Currently scheduled for launch Friday, May 14, at 2:20 pm EDT, it is Atlantis’ time to soar one last time.

 

I will be posting these Teachable Moments for each of the remaining flights in the hope that parents and teachers will be able to tune in with our children, and savor the end of an era before the fleet is retired for museum display, forever standing in silent testimony to a remarkable human achievement of days gone by.

 

Follow the flight of Atlantis on NASA TV. You can also follow along with NASA”s STS-132 Launch Blog, which will begin coverage at 9:00 am EDT on May 14. Other NASA pages of interest:

 

Countdown Clock and Mission Description

 

STS-132 Image Gallery

 

STS-132 Mission Timeline

 

Here is a NASA video on the rollout of Atlantis to Pad 39-A

 

 

Below are previous posts at Blog on the Universe that powerfully address the science, history, and politics of human spaceflight—and can be used to help make the flight of Atlantis a Teachable Moment.

 

You might start with my February 6, 2010 post Shuttle Endeavour About to Blast Off on its Second to Last Mission, where I imagine what it will be like as the era of the Space Shuttle fades into history along with Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. It’s a powerful lesson for students not realizing they are living through a moment in history.

 

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Hero Engineers and Scientists Preparing for MESSENGER Spacecraft Orbit of Mercury

 Posted by DrJeff on April 22nd, 2010

 Copyright 2010  |  About this blog

 

Mercury Northern Limb 3rd Flyby, September 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Caption: Stop what you are doing for a moment, just imagine the stark contrast between the surface of this world and the vacuum of space, and click on this photo for a Zoom. Be thankful on this 40th Earth Day for the veil of atmosphere above you, slender as it may be. NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft took this image of Mercury’s northern horizon on September 29, 2009, during its third and final flyby of Mercury, as we were covering the event live via Twitter from Mission Control in Columbia, Maryland. This image captures portions of Mercury we had never before seen—it represents history in the making. I invite you to read more about this image at the MESSENGER mission gallery.

 

This post is a Teachable Moment in the News.

 

This is crossposted at the Space Tweep Society Blog HERE.

 

FLASH: We interrupt the rhythm of your daily lives to bring you news from beyond Earth, from a tiny robot determined to take the human race to an alien world. Many of you tuned in September 2009 when Blog on the Universe provided live coverage of the MESSENGER spacecraft’s flyby of Mercury, the last gravity assist needed to get the spacecraft on course for Mercury orbital insertion in March 2011. We are now less than 11 months from that historic first—a spacecraft in orbit around the mysterious inner-most planet of our Solar System. You might want to bookmark the countdown clock.

 

Since last September 29, 7 months of our lives have been filled with a new school year, passage of seasons, and the ebb and flow of over 200 days. Meanwhile, dutifully navigating through the harsh environment of space, our little spacecraft has been steadily gaining on its rendezvous with destiny on March 18, 2011, under the watchful eyes of its extended family back on Earth—the MESSENGER Team. For this team, those 200+ days were filled with assessing data already broadcast to Earth from MESSENGER’s 3 prior flybys of the planet, and preparing for orbital insertion and on-orbit operations.

 

These engineers and scientists are the current generation of explorers on the frontiers of human exploration, and ought to be held up to our children as heroes and role models in the age of high technology—and at a time when America needs to step to the plate in science and technology education if we are to compete in the 21st century (you might want to read my related essay at Huffington Post.) So meet these heroes and role models—the Core Team, the Science Team, the Instrument Team, the Engineering Team, and the Mission Operations Team. Have a conversation with your kids, or if you are a teacher, have a conversation with your class about this remarkable group of folks. And to really get up close and personal, read how cool operations engineer Ray Espiritu got from his dream in middle school to being part of the MESSENGER mission. Read highlights on the lives of other MESSENGER Team members using the button at the bottom of the Highlights Page.

 

So now for some really exciting news sent to the entire MESSENGER Team via email on April 18, 2010, by Eric J. Finnegan, MESSENGER Mission Systems Engineer. I have provided the text of Eric’s email without modification to give you a sense of the behind-the-scenes communication and spirit of teamwork that a group of folks like you and me is undertaking on behalf of humanity. We are now fully engaged in preparations for an encounter with another world—

 

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Space Shuttle Discovery Lands This Morning – Make it a Teachable Moment

 Posted by DrJeff on April 20th, 2010

 Copyright 2010  |  About this blog

 

Photo Caption: Space Shuttle Discovery docked at the International Space Station on April 16,2010. The Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module is visible in Discovery’s payload bay. More at the NASA image library for STS-131.

 

This is a Teachable Moments in the News QuickLinks Post. It connects a news story with this Blog’s existing powerful library of Posts and Resource Pages. The cited Posts and Pages provide a deep understanding of concepts in the earth and space sciences relevant to the news story. Teachers—the Posts and Pages are also designed for use as lessons, allowing you to easily bring current science into the classroom as a teachable moment. Each cited Post is outlined in the Teachers Lesson Planner, which includes the Post’s essential questions, concepts, objectives, and math skills.



 

Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-131) is landing today. There are only 3 more flights of the Shuttle through September 2010 before retirement of the fleet. Watch Discovery’s landing on NASA TV with your class this morning.

 

Make this a teachable moment! Below are previous posts at Blog on the Universe that powerfully address the science, history, and politics of human spaceflight—and all of them embrace the notion that science education is about conceptual understanding at an emotional level.

 

I suggest you start with my February 6, 2010 post Shuttle Endeavour About to Blast Off on its Second to Last Mission, where I talk about what it will be like for all of us when the Space Shuttle stops flying, and the era of this remarkable machine fades into history. This is a very powerful lesson for students that may not realize they are living through a moment in history.

 

Finally, if you have memories of the Space Shuttle you’d like to share with other readers of this Blog, you’re invited to leave a comment below.

 

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Shuttle Endeavour About to Blast Off on its Second to Last Mission, Make it a Teachable Moment

 Posted by DrJeff on February 6th, 2010

 Copyright 2010  |  About this blog

 

Photo Caption: Endeavour in orbit on flight STS-118, August 15, 2007. Click on the image for a breathtaking close up view. Read more about the image, and visit the STS-118 image gallery at NASA.

 

This is a Teachable Moments in the News QuickLinks Post. It connects a news story with this Blog’s existing powerful library of Posts and Resource Pages. The cited Posts and Pages provide a deep understanding of concepts in the earth and space sciences relevant to the news story. Teachers—the Posts and Pages are also designed for use as lessons, allowing you to easily bring current science into the classroom as a teachable moment. Each cited Post is outlined in the Teachers Lesson Planner, which includes the Post’s essential questions, concepts, objectives, and math skills.


This is crossposted at the Huffington Post HERE.

 

Follow the flight of Endeavour (STS-130) with liftoff currently scheduled for Monday, Feb. 8, 2010, 4:14 a.m. EST, at NASA’s Space Shuttle website.

 

 

A different kind of countdown has begun. It is now 2010. Before the next New Year’s celebration, the U.S. Space Shuttle program will be just a memory. Those that took pride in following along as this remarkable vehicle broke the surly bonds of Earth will surely feel they’ve lost a friend, and the pain of a very personal page turned forever will linger for quite some time. Those of you that follow news of the day as daily ritual, every so often hearing about a Space Shuttle blasting off or returning to Earth, will no longer experience that quick smile acknowledging pride in American leadership and technological prowess—at least not when it comes to human spaceflight.

 

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MESSENGER Spacecraft Named by Time Magazine as One of 2009’s 50 Best Inventions, and Other Cool Mission Highlights & Updates

 Posted by DrJeff on December 10th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog

 

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Photo Caption: Image taken September 29, 2009 by MESSENGER’s Narrow Angle Camera (NAC). The distance across the bottom of the image is 250 miles (410 km), which means the crater at lower left is about 80 miles (130 km) across! The crater’s appearance points to Mercury’s volcanic past—to a time when the crater was filled with lava and now only portions of the crater’s circular rim are visible. (Click on image for zoom.)

 

This post is a Teachable Moment in the News.


Remember the MESSENGER spacecraft we were all following back in September as it flew by Mercury? The little spacecraft that gave us all a scare during the September 29 flyby (hey little fella, don’t do that again) is day-by-day getting closer to orbital insertion on March 18, 2011. We’re now just 15 months away!

 

I promised to keep you all posted with new mission updates. My last was October 17, and there have been a bunch of things piling up to report. I could have just quietly inserted the new updates on the MESSENGER Mission Updates page here at the Blog, and snuck in a date change in the Teachable Moments in the News QuickLinks Box in the upper right corner above (your cue to look in upper right corner). But hey! When Time Magazine names a family member as one of the 50 Best Inventions of 2009 (and by the way, we were number 11) YOU’VE JUST GOT TO CELEBRATE WITH AN OFFICIAL POST!

 

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TMN QuickLinks: Shuttle Atlantis in Orbit, Make it a Teachable Moment

 Posted by DrJeff on November 19th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog

 

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Photo Caption: Atlantis blasts off from Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, 2:28 p.m. EST, November 16, 2009.

 

This is a Teachable Moments in the News QuickLinks Post. It connects a news story with this Blog’s existing powerful library of Posts and Resource Pages. The cited Posts and Pages provide a deep understanding of concepts in the earth and space sciences relevant to the news story. Teachers—the Posts and Pages are also designed for use as lessons, allowing you to easily bring current science into the classroom as a teachable moment. Each cited Post is outlined in the Teachers Lesson Planner, which includes the Post’s essential questions, concepts, objectives, and math skills.

 

This is crossposted at the Huffington Post HERE.


A space shuttle has now lifted off from Kennedy Space Center 129 times. The flight of Atlantis that began on November 16 is also the 31st to the International Space Station. After she returns to Earth, a space shuttle will clear the tower only 5 more times before the fleet—Discovery, Endeavour, and Atlantis—is retired in 2010. Atlantis is scheduled to go up only once more.


We take the technical aspects of shuttle flights for granted, even the shuttle flights themselves. But it’s a remarkable technological achievement that deserves both our reflection and awe. So let me help. Here’s what happened November 16 close to 2:30 pm EST, when folks on the west coast of the U.S. were thinking about where to go for lunch. East coasters were looking forward to the end of the work day. But down at Kennedy Space Center, a now famous clock was ticking.


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