Monday, May 31, 2010

Geometry Drives Selection Date for 2011 Mars Launch

Artist's concept of Curiosity
This artist's concept from an animation depicts Curiosity, the rover to be launched in 2011 by NASA's Mars Science Laboratory, as it is being lowered by the mission's rocket-powered descent stage during a critical moment of the "sky crane" landing in 2012.
› Larger image

Planners of NASA's next Mars mission have selected a flight schedule that will use favorable positions for two currently orbiting NASA Mars orbiters to obtain maximum information during descent and landing.

Continuing analysis of the geometry and communications options for the arrival at Mars have led planners for the Mars Science Laboratory, or Curiosity, to choose an Earth-to-Mars trajectory that schedules launch between Nov. 25 and Dec. 18, 2011. Landing will take place between Aug. 6 and Aug. 20, 2012. Due to an Earth-Mars planetary alignment, this launch period actually allows for a Mars arrival in the earlier portion of the landing dates under consideration.

"The key factor was a choice between different strategies for sending communications during the critical moments before and during touchdown," said Michael Watkins, mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "The shorter trajectory is optimal for keeping both orbiters in view of Curiosity all the way to touchdown on the surface of Mars. The longer trajectory allows direct communication to Earth all the way to touchdown."

The simplicity of direct-to-Earth communication from Curiosity during landing has appeal to mission planners, in comparison to relying on communications relayed via NASA's Mars Odyssey, which has been orbiting Mars since 2001, and NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, in operation since 2006. However, the direct-to-Earth option allows a communication rate equivalent to only about 1 bit per second, while the relay option allows about 8,000 bits or more per second.

Landing on Mars is always difficult, with success uncertain. After an unsuccessful attempted Mars landing in 1999 without definitive information on the cause of the mishap, NASA put a high priority on communication during subsequent Mars landings.

"It is important to capture high-quality telemetry to allow us to learn what happens during the entry, descent and landing, which is arguably the most challenging part of the mission," said Fuk Li, manager of NASA's Mars Exploration Program at JPL. "The trajectory we have selected maximizes the amount of information we will learn to mitigate any problems."

Curiosity will use several innovations during entry into the Martian atmosphere, descent and landing in order to hit a relatively small target area on the surface and set down a rover too heavy for the cushioning air bags used in earlier Mars rover landings. In a "sky-crane" maneuver during the final minute of arrival, a rocket-powered descent stage will lower Curiosity on a tether for a wheels-down landing directly onto the surface.

Even though Curiosity won't be communicating directly with Earth at touchdown, data about the landing will reach Earth promptly. Odyssey will be in view of both Earth and Curiosity, in position to immediately forward to Earth the data stream it is receiving during the touchdown. Odyssey performed this type of "bent-pipe" relay during the May 25, 2008, arrival of NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander.

Curiosity will rove extensively on Mars, carrying an analytical laboratory and other instruments to examine a carefully selected landing area. It will investigate whether conditions there have favored development of microbial life and its preservation in the rock record. Plans call for the mission to operate on Mars for a full Martian year, which is equivalent to two Earth years.

Consideration of landing sites for the mission narrowed to four finalist candidates in November 2008. The candidate sites are still being analyzed for safety and science attributes.

Curiosity is managed by JPL for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL also manages the Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter missions, in partnership with Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver.

More information about NASA's Mars Science Laboratory is at: http://www.nasa.gov/msl.

Read more

Friday, May 28, 2010

NASAs Mars Rovers Set Surface Longevity Record

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity used its navigation   camera for this northward view of tracks the rover left on a drive from   one energy-favorable position on the northern end of a sand ripple to   another.
NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity used its navigation camera for this northward view of tracks the rover left on a drive from one energy-favorable position on the northern end of a sand ripple to another.
› Larger image› Interactive: Mars Exploration Rovers
NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Project will pass a historic Martian longevity record on Thursday, May 20. The Opportunity rover will surpass the duration record set by NASA's Viking 1 Lander of six years and 116 days operating on the surface of Mars. The effects of favorable weather on the red planet could also help the rovers generate more power.

Opportunity's twin rover, Spirit, began working on Mars three weeks before Opportunity. However, Spirit has been out of communication since March 22. If it awakens from hibernation and resumes communication, that rover will attain the Martian surface longevity record.

Spirit's hibernation was anticipated, based on energy forecasts, as the amount of sunshine hitting the robot's solar panels declined during autumn on Mars' southern hemisphere. Unfortunately, mobility problems prevented rover operators from positioning Spirit with a favorable tilt toward the north, as during the first three winters it experienced. The rovers' fourth winter solstice, the day of the Martian year with the least sunshine at their locations, was Wednesday, May 12 (May 13 Universal time).

"Opportunity, and likely Spirit, surpassing the Viking Lander 1 longevity record is truly remarkable, considering these rovers were designed for only a 90-day mission on the surface of Mars," Callas said. "Passing the solstice means we're over the hump for the cold, dark, winter season."

Unless dust interferes, which is unlikely in the coming months, the solar panels on both rovers should gradually generate more electricity. Operators hope that Spirit will recharge its batteries enough to awaken from hibernation, start communicating and resume science tasks.

Unlike recent operations, Opportunity will not have to rest to regain energy between driving days. The gradual increase in available sunshine will eventually improve the rate of Opportunity's progress across a vast plain toward its long-term destination, the Endeavour Crater.

This month, some of Opportunity's drives have been planned to end at an energy-favorable tilt on the northern face of small Martian plain surface ripples. The positioning sacrifices some distance to regain energy sooner for the next drive. Opportunity's cameras can see a portion of the rim of Endeavour on the horizon, approximately eight miles away, across the plain's ripples of windblown sand.

"The ripples look like waves on the ocean, like we're out in the middle of the ocean with land on the horizon, our destination," said Steve Squyres of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. Squyres is the principal investigator for Opportunity and Spirit. "Even though we know we might never get there, Endeavour is the goal that drives our exploration."

The team chose Endeavour as a destination in mid-2008, after Opportunity finished two years examining the smaller Victoria Crater. Since then, the goal became even more alluring when orbital observations found clay minerals exposed at Endeavour. Clay minerals have been found extensively on Mars from orbit, but have not been examined on the surface.

"Those minerals form under wet conditions more neutral than the wet, acidic environment that formed the sulfates we've found with Opportunity," said Squyres. "The clay minerals at Endeavour speak to a time when the chemistry was much friendlier to life than the environments that formed the minerals Opportunity has seen so far. We want to get there to learn their context. Was there flowing water? Were there steam vents? Hot springs? We want to find out."

Launched in 1975, Project Viking consisted of two orbiters, each carrying a stationary lander. Viking Lander 1 was the first successful mission to the surface of Mars, touching down on July 20, 1976. It operated until Nov. 13, 1982, more than two years longer than its twin lander or either of the Viking orbiters.

The record for longest working lifetime by a spacecraft at Mars belongs to a later orbiter: NASA's Mars Global Surveyor operated for more than 9 years after arriving in 1997. NASA's Mars Odyssey, in orbit since in 2001, has been working at Mars longer than any other current mission and is on track to take the Mars longevity record late this year.

Science discoveries by the Mars Exploration Rover have included Opportunity finding the first mineralogical evidence that Mars had liquid water, and Spirit finding evidence for hot springs or steam vents and a past environment of explosive volcanism.

JPL manages the Mars rovers for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. For more information about the rovers, visit http://www.nasa.gov/rovers . The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena manages JPL for NASA.

Read more

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tropical Cyclone 1B (Northern Indian Ocean)

NASA's Aqua Satellite Sees Tropical Storm 1B Form in Bay of Bengal

The first tropical storm of the
Northern Indian Ocean cyclone season has formed and NASA's Aqua satellite captured its birth. Tropical Storm 1B formed in the early morning hours as the convection around the low level circulation center increased since May 17.
NASA's Aqua satellite captured a visible image of 1B from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) at 7:25 UTC (12:25 p.m. Asia/Kolkata time) today, May 18, where if formed off of India's east coast in the Bay of Bengal.

At 09:00 UTC (5 a.m. EDT or 2 p.m. Asia/Kolkata local time) on May 18, Tropical Storm 1B had maximum sustained winds near 40 knots (46 mph). It was located about 285 nautical miles east-southeast of Chennai, India near 12.4 North and 84.5 East in the Bay of Bengal. It is moving west-northwest near 13 knots (15 mph) and is forecast to continue in that direction, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, the organization the forecasts tropical cyclones in that region.

Tropical Storm 1B is expected to intensify in the next two days as it moves closer to Chennai. It is then forecast to make landfall south of Visakhapatham.

Read more

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

NASAs International Space Station Program Wins Collier Trophy

Deputy Administrator Lori Garver accepts the Collier Trophy on  behalf of NASAThe International Space Station Program received the 2009 Robert J. Collier Trophy "for the design, development and assembly of the of the world’s largest spacecraft, an orbiting laboratory that promises new discoveries for mankind and sets new standards for international cooperation in space." The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) bestows the award annually to recognize the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America. The Collier Trophy was formally presented at the Annual Collier Dinner on Thursday, May 13, in Arlington, Va.
"We had a remarkably strong list of candidates, one that visibly impressed the distinguished members of the Collier Trophy Selection Committee," stated NAA Chairman Walter Boyne. "I believe that the International Space Station is a wonderful example of what the Collier Trophy signifies: Accomplishment, vision and advancement in aerospace."

"We are honored to receive this prestigious award,” said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA's Space Operations Mission Directorate. “We're proud of our past achievements to build and operate the space station, and we're excited about the future- there's a new era ahead of potential groundbreaking scientific research aboard the station."The International Space Station is a joint project of five space agencies and 15 countries that is nearing completion and will mark the 10th anniversary of a continuous human presence in orbit later this year. The largest and most complicated spacecraft ever built, the space station is an international, technological and political achievement that represents the latest step in humankind’s quest to explore and live in space.

Designated as a national laboratory by Congress in the 2005 NASA Authorization Act, the space station provides a research platform that takes advantage of the microgravity conditions 220 miles above the Earth’s surface across a wide variety of fields, including human life sciences, biological science, human physiology, physical and materials science, and Earth and space science.
Upon completion of assembly later this year, the station’s crew and its U.S., European, Japanese and Russian laboratory facilities will expand the pace of space-based research to unprecedented levels. Nearly 150 experiments are currently under way on the station, and more than 400 experiments have been conducted since research began nine years ago. These experiments already are leading to advances in the fight against food poisoning, new methods for delivering medicine to cancer cells and the development of more capable engines and materials for use on Earth and in space.
The international partner agencies – NASA, the Canadian Space Agency, the European Space Agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and the Russian Federal Space Agency – provide control centers and support teams that train and launch crews to the station, provide support for systems operations and coordinate the on-orbit research 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
Now supporting a multicultural crew of six, the station has a mass of almost 800,000 pounds and a habitable volume of more than 12,000 cubic feet – approximately the size of a five-bedroom home, and uses state-of-the-art systems to generate solar electricity, recycle nearly 85 percent of its water and generate much of its own oxygen supply. Nearly 190 humans have visited the space station, which is now supporting its 22nd resident crew.
Boeing is the prime contractor, responsible for design, development, construction and integration of the ISS.
The award will be formally presented to the International Space Station Program team on May 13. The award is named for Robert J. Collier, a publisher who commissioned it in 1910 with the intent to encourage the U.S. aviation community to strive for excellence and achievement in aeronautic development. Past winners include the B-52 Program, the Surveyor Moon Landing Program, the Boeing 747 and the F-22. Other past honorees include the crews of Apollo 11 and Apollo 8, the Mercury 7.
More information can be found at:
http://www.naa.aero/html/awards/index.cfm?cmsid=62

Read more

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

National Lab Day Liftoff

It's no secret that America is going to need many more young people to pursue science and technology professions in the future. As we celebrate National Lab Day on May 12, we have an opportunity for people currently in these careers to work with students and teachers and get them excited about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects. But National Lab Day is more than just one single day in the year. It's really a collaborative movement to support people who work in our classrooms to inspire tomorrow’s innovators.

I have a particular interest in activities like this. I was born and raised in Columbia, SC – the son of two public school teachers who, despite very long hours and modest wages, loved each and every day of their work. They made the hard choice to remain in public education because they knew it was their opportunity to inspire thousands of students and to give them the foundation they would need to take their places in national, state, and local leadership. My parents’ dedication instilled in me a deep and personal passion for education.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to follow in my parents’ footsteps for a day and work with Lisa Miller’s fifth grade students at Langdon Education Campus, a school located in Washington, DC. These students have been studying the solar system, and I had the opportunity to share with them my experience of living and working in space as a NASA astronaut before I became the NASA Administrator. We spent time discussing Newton’s Laws of Motion with me giving them examples of ways in which we are able to demonstrate those laws real-time while in the weightless environment of space. We had an energetic discussion on how these laws are present in everyday life.

After this opening exchange, NASA education staff and I joined the students in their adventure to become rocket scientists for a day, as we built large paper rockets and test flew them using a high-power launcher. Following their rockets’ flight, the students evaluated their designs, modified them, and flew them again to determine if their changes affected the rocket's performance. It was amazing to see these young future engineers at work – to see the determination on their faces as they designed their rocket and the ensuing pride as they saw their rockets successfully launch.

NASA as an agency has embraced National Lab Day and has scheduled activities at schools throughout the week supported by volunteers from its field centers across the nation and from its headquarters here in Washington DC. For instance, Kennedy Space Center in Florida is hosting an educational event for students from local-area high schools who will learn about NASA and the benefits of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, fields related to our world and beyond.

There is a crisis in the United States that stems from the gap between the nation’s growing need for scientists, engineers, and other technically skilled workers, and our supply. This crisis in education, if not resolved, will contribute to future declines in qualified employees to meet demands in critical career fields that affect U.S. global competitiveness and the national economy. However, seeing the engagement and enthusiasm of those fifth grade students, I am hopeful that given the opportunity, our youth shall be inspired and motivated to consider STEM careers.

I have said this before -- NASA inspires the next generation through our compelling missions, but we must do more. We will continue to move things to the next level by directly exposing students to dynamic STEM activities that form the basis of our work. When students can get involved directly with NASA's missions in all their diversity, they just might take that next step to join us and take part in the nation's future in exploration. And National Lab Day really gets students involved.

A direct compliment to National Lab Day is a new project that I have directed to be implemented this summer, the Summer of Innovation project, which supports the President’s Educate to Innovate campaign. This is NASA’s first initiative supporting intensive STEM summer learning opportunities for middle school students and teachers focused on students who are underrepresented, underserved and underperforming in STEM.

I hope that this summer thousands of students across the country will feel the same excitement that the students at Langdon Education Campus felt yesterday as they learned first-hand what it was like to tackle a design challenge like an engineer – a real rocket scientist! And that’s just the launch pad for much more to come.

Read more

Monday, May 24, 2010

NASA Uses 'Polka Dots' For Precision Measurements

Rob Black, senior applications engineer with Shape Fidelity Inc.,  of Huntsville, Ala., a contractor with the Ares I Upper Stage team, sets  up for photogrammetry processWhat weighs 600 pounds, is shiny-silver with black and white polka dots and shaped like an upside-down saucer? If you guessed some sort of mod, fancy looking UFO, you are close. It's a fuel tank dome being developed for NASA's next-generation launch vehicles.
But why polka dots? They are part of an engineering tool called photogrammetry, the practice of determining the geometric properties of objects from photographic images. It is a process used by engineers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., to accurately measure most everything from hardware to the tools used to make the hardware. Analytical photogrammetry is now routinely employed in tasks as diverse as machine tool inspection, fixture checking and structural deformation monitoring.
"This is a reasonably cheap process that provides engineers with a precise, three-dimensional measuring tool," said Sandeep Shah, upper stage manufacturing and assembly subsystem manager for Ares Projects at the Marshall Center. "It's a novel application of an existing technology that allows us to capture the true geometry of parts and components as they are produced, and provides immediate feedback to our team."
So How Does It Work?
The system typically requires only two engineers, a computer, a camera, targets or dots, two scale bars -- used as points of reference because of their exact length -- and a specially designed 3-D scanner.
"That’s what makes photogrammetry such a great tool," Shah said. "It's simple, mobile, fast, cheap and extremely accurate. Though we've only used photogrammetry for a couple of years, I can't imagine future development and production of flight hardware without it."
First, black and white target dots are irregularly placed several inches apart on the test object. The irregular spacing is designed to assist the computer software in identifying each individual target. Next, the engineer takes pictures of the test article from every angle, using a standard, 10-megapixel camera. The number of photographs needed varies depending on the size and shape of the test article. The photos then are transferred to a computer, where the software identifies the targets to produce a skeleton-like outline, referred to as an optical global framework.
Finally, a three-dimensional, white-light scanner is used to scan small sections of the test article -- producing accurate surface definitions and thus a near-perfect computer-aided design, or CAD, model.
"CAD systems allow engineers to view a design from any angle, with the push of a button, to zoom in or out for close-ups or long-distance views," said Rob Black, senior applications engineer with Shape Fidelity Inc., of Huntsville, Ala, a contractor for Ares Projects at Marshall. "NASA is one of the very few organizations worldwide that employs this technology on large-scale precision hardware."
Photogrammetry is often used for large terrestrial applications such as architecture or shipbuilding, but NASA is unique in its routine use of close-range, precision photogrammetry and scanning on large aerospace structures and tooling.
"We have used this process to build CAD models of everything from an airplane to a roach -- that's right, a bug -- just to demonstrate the flexibility of the system," Black said. "When engineers needed a computer model of a C-130 aircraft, we used the photogrammetry process to provide an exact computer model.
"But it's important to understand that with photogrammetry we are providing a fully functional, 3D engineering model of the test article," he said. "Take the roach for example -- once photographed and scanned into the system, the software is capable of providing exact measurements of every detail, from the length of its antenna to the exact width of its wing. How cool is that?"
This technology provides an additional application called reverse engineering, a process that allows engineers to put a completed product through the photogrammetry process, then compare it to the original engineering model.
"We have a project involving valves that need to be replaced, but no drawings, models or other documentation exists," Shah said. "This technology allows us to rebuild these items digitally and generate data necessary to manufacture new ones or define analysis models."
"The larger vision for photogrammetry is that we can quickly develop manufacturing definitions of major vehicle elements while they are still at their respective fabrication sites," he said. "These elements can be assembled digitally to find integration, alignment or any other problems before they are shipped to the assembly site. Problems can be detected early, addressed and fixed prior to shipment -- saving tremendously on both schedule and cost."

Read more

Friday, May 21, 2010

Smog Bloggers Make Understanding Air Pollution a Breeze

Has pollen got your sneezing? Wondering what's causing that mysterious afternoon haze? How do you find out what's in the air you are breathing? For the thousands of people who visit the University of Maryland Baltimore County's "Smog Blog" each day, the answer is just a web click away.

NASA has released a short video that highlights how the Smog Bloggers combine laser measurements of current air quality with NASA satellite data to paint a daily picture of air pollution across the US. To date, the blog has received over two million hits, and is itself a big hit with weather forecasters, astronomers, asthma sufferers, and those with just a healthy curiosity about what kinds of pollution they may be breathing in.

You can visit the University of Maryland's Smog Blog at: http://alg.umbc.edu/usaq/.

Read more

Thursday, May 20, 2010

X-ray Discovery Points to Location of Missing Matter

Artist concept of the so-called Sculptor WallUsing observations with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA's XMM-Newton, astronomers have announced a robust detection of a vast reservoir of intergalactic gas about 400 million light years from Earth. This discovery is the strongest evidence yet that the "missing matter" in the nearby Universe is located in an enormous web of hot, diffuse gas.

This missing matter -- which is different from dark matter -- is composed of baryons, the particles, such as protons and electrons, that are found on the Earth, in stars, gas, galaxies, and so on. A variety of measurements of distant gas clouds and galaxies have provided a good estimate of the amount of this "normal matter" present when the universe was only a few billion years old. However, an inventory of the much older, nearby universe has turned up only about half as much normal matter, an embarrassingly large shortfall.

The mystery then is where does this missing matter reside in the nearby universe? This latest work supports predictions that it is mostly found in a web of hot, diffuse gas known as the Warm-Hot Intergalactic Medium (WHIM). Scientists think the WHIM is material left over after the formation of galaxies, which was later enriched by elements blown out of galaxies.

"Evidence for the WHIM is really difficult to find because this stuff is so diffuse and easy to see right through," said Taotao Fang of the University of California at Irvine and lead author of the latest study. "This differs from many areas of astronomy where we struggle to see through obscuring material."

To look for the WHIM, the researchers examined X-ray observations of a rapidly growing supermassive black hole known as an active galactic nucleus, or AGN. This AGN, which is about two billion light years away, generates immense amounts of X-ray light as it pulls matter inwards.

Lying along the line of sight to this AGN, at a distance of about 400 million light years, is the so-called Sculptor Wall. This "wall", which is a large diffuse structure stretching across tens of millions of light years, contains thousands of galaxies and potentially a significant reservoir of the WHIM if the theoretical simulations are correct. The WHIM in the wall should absorb some of the X-rays from the AGN as they make their journey across intergalactic space to Earth.

Using new data from Chandra and previous observations with both Chandra and XMM-Newton, absorption of X-rays by oxygen atoms in the WHIM has clearly been detected by Fang and his colleagues. The characteristics of the absorption are consistent with the distance of the Sculptor Wall as well as the predicted temperature and density of the WHIM.

This result gives scientists confidence that the WHIM will also be found in other large-scale structures.

Several previous claimed detections of the hot component of the WHIM have been controversial because the detections had been made with only one X-ray telescope and the statistical significance of many of the results had been questioned.

"Having good detections of the WHIM with two different telescopes is really a big deal," said co-author David Buote, also from the University of California at Irvine. "This gives us a lot of confidence that we have truly found this missing matter."

In addition to having corroborating data from both Chandra and XMM- Newton, the new study also removes another uncertainty from previous claims. Because the distance of the Sculptor Wall is already known, the statistical significance of the absorption detection is greatly enhanced over previous "blind" searches. These earlier searches attempted to find the WHIM by observing bright AGN at random directions on the sky, in the hope that their line of sight intersects a previously undiscovered large-scale structure.

Confirmed detections of the WHIM have been made difficult because of its extremely low density. Using observations and simulations, scientists calculate the WHIM has a density equivalent to only 6 protons per cubic meter. For comparison, the interstellar medium -- the very diffuse gas in between stars in our galaxy -- typically has about a million hydrogen atoms per cubic meter.

"Evidence for the WHIM has even been much harder to find than evidence for dark matter, which is invisible and can only be detected indirectly," said Fang.

There have been important detections of possible WHIM in the nearby Universe with relatively low temperatures of about 100,000 degrees using ultraviolet observations and relatively high temperature WHIM of about 10 million degrees using observations of X-ray emission in galaxy clusters. However, these are expected to account for only a relatively small fraction of the WHIM. The X-ray absorption studies reported here probe temperatures of about a million degrees where most of the WHIM is predicted to be found.

These results appear in the May 10th issue of The Astrophysical Journal. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls Chandra's science and flight operations from Cambridge, Mass.

More information, including images and other multimedia, can be found at:

http://chandra.harvard.edu

Read more

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

NASA Invites Public to Take Virtual Walk on Moon

Screen capture of the Moon Zoo site.More than 37 years after humans last walked on the moon, planetary scientists are inviting members of the public to return to the lunar surface as “virtual astronauts” to help answer important scientific questions.

No spacesuit or rocket ship is required -- all visitors need to do is go to www.moonzoo.org and be among the first to see the lunar surface in unprecedented detail. New high-resolution images, taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC), offer exciting clues to unveil or reveal the history of the moon and our solar system.

“We need Web users around the world to help us interpret these stunning new images of the lunar surface,” said Chris Lintott of Oxford University and chair of the Citizen Science Alliance. “If you only spend five minutes on the site counting craters you’ll be making a valuable contribution to science and, who knows, you might run across a Russian spacecraft.”

Scientists are particularly interested in knowing how many craters appear in a particular region of the moon in order to determine the age and depth of the lunar surface (regolith). Fresh craters left by recent impacts provide clues about the potential risks from meteor strikes on the moon and on Earth.

“We hope to address key questions about the impact bombardment history of the moon and discover sites of geological interest that have never been seen before,” said Katherine Joy of the Lunar and Planetary Institute and a Moon Zoo science team member.

NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI) scientists are contributing to the Moon Zoo efforts by providing science expertise. NLSI is also providing educational content and supporting outreach goals of the project.

“The NASA Lunar Science Institute is very excited to be involved with Moon Zoo and support lunar citizen science,” said David Morrison, NLSI director. “Science and public outreach are cornerstones of our Institute; Moon Zoo will contribute to the accomplishment of important science, while being a major step forward in participatory exploration.”

The Moon Zoo Web site is a citizen science project developed by the Citizen Science Alliance, a group of research organizations and museums, and builds on the team's success with Galaxy Zoo, which has involved more than 250,000 people in astronomical research.

“The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Project Science Office is excited to see LRO data being used for citizen science projects,” said Rich Vondrak, LRO project scientist from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. “The Moon Zoo project provides an opportunity for everyone to participate in analysis of images from the LRO Camera and to make a significant contribution to scientific knowledge about the moon.”

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. and the LROC instruments are based out of Arizona State University in Tempe, Az. The NASA Lunar Science Institute is based out of NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

Related Links:

› More about Moon Zoo
› More about the Citizen Science Alliance
› More about the NASA Lunar Science Institute
› More about LROC

Read more

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ancient City of Galaxies Looks Surprisingly Modern


Primitive cluster of galaxies
Astronomers are a bit like archeologists as they dig back through space and time searching for remnants of the early universe. In a recent deep excavation, courtesy of NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers unearthed what may be the most distant, primitive cluster of galaxies ever found.
In a twist, however, this apparent ancestor to today's "big cities" of grouped galaxies looks shockingly modern. Called CLG J02182-05102, the ancient cluster is dominated by old, red and massive galaxies, typical of present-day clusters. For example, it is similar to a young version of the Coma Cluster of today, which has had billions of more years to develop.
"We are seeing something already aged and red like a younger version of the Coma Cluster from a distant, bygone era," said Casey Papovich, lead author of a new study and an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Texas A&M University in College Station.
Papovich added, "it is as though we dug an archeological site in Rome and found pieces of modern Rome in amongst the ruins."
ClG J02182-05102 might have indeed been ahead of its time. Just as Rome was the world's biggest city more than 2,000 years ago with a population of about a million residents - a figure not again matched until the early 1800s in London - so too was this galactic grouping an advanced civilization for so early an era in the developing universe.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe and are thought to have formed piecemeal over cosmic time. For now, ClG J02182-05102 is the only known galactic grouping so far away in the past, and studying it will help researchers understand the overall history of how galaxies congregate and evolve.
A Cosmic Archeological Expedition
In their hunt for rare ancient cities in the early universe, Papovich and his team started with the largest extragalactic survey ever made. Called the Spitzer Wide-area InfraRed Extragalactic (SWIRE) survey, it observed a huge portion of the sky that could contain 250 full moons.
Because more light gathered means more information, the researchers looked at a cosmic region within this giant starscape that had also been studied by other instruments. These additional observations came from a survey combining light from Japan's Subaru telescope - housed atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii - and the European Space Agency's orbiting XMM-Newton telescope. The United Kingdom Infra-Red Telescope, also in Hawaii, provided infrared data along with another set of Spitzer observations called the Public Ultra Deep Sky survey.
When all these data were compiled, Spitzer's infrared observations made dozens of distant galaxies jump out. "We would not have found this object without Spitzer because there is very little optical light coming from this group of galaxies," said Papovich.
His team then obtained time on the Magellan telescope in Chile to study the faint light coming from ClG J02182-05102's least-dim galaxies. This light allowed the astronomers to archeologically date the candidate cluster to 9.6 billion years ago.
With these observations, Papovich and his team confirmed that seven of ClG J02182-05102's galaxies have nearly the same distance, suggesting they are part of a grouping of about 60 galaxies. Whether or not this association of galaxies fully qualifies as a gravitationally bound cluster will rely on further observations. Furthermore, the definition of a "cluster" itself remains unsettled, somewhat like the blurry distinctions between a city and a town, made trickier still given the limited light that makes it to our telescopes from these relics.
The Rise and Fall of CLG J02182-05102
For now, ClG J02182-05102 stands out as a greatly over-dense region of galaxies - a metropolis in a land of isolated villages. At its center regions loom red, monster galaxies containing about 10 times as many stars as our Milky Way galaxy. This puts them on par with the most mammoth galaxies in the nearby universe, which have grown fat through repeated mergers with other galaxies. These big galaxies are so uncharacteristic of those in the early universe that in some sense it is like finding modern skyscrapers in ancient Rome.
The Papovich et al paper was accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal on April 21, 2010. A subsequent study by Masayuki Tanaka of the Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe in Japan confirmed the discovery, and the work was the subject of a news release on May 10, 2010.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

Read more

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Bonds of Courage, Beads of Courage Fly on Atlantis, STS-132

Soldiers, policemen and firemen risk their lives every day serving their country or community. Each day people stumble upon accidents or jump into frozen rivers to save survivors of plane crashes. We recognize these heroes for their acts of courage; medals, decorations and other rewards are bestowed upon them by an appreciative public official or superior officer.

How do you recognize and encourage a young child fighting a battle against a life-threatening disease? A battle that is no less dangerous and harrowing? A battle where the outcome is as uncertain as the dangers faced by more well-known heroes?

You present that child with a Bead of Courage.

Jamie Newton, an employee of CIBER Inc., a support contractor at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., knows about Beads of Courage. His six-year-old daughter, Sydney, has been battling cancer for more than a year. During that time, Sydney has received more than 450 beads -
- each representing an entirely separate event in the process of her treatments.

"There really is no way to fully explain how the past year has affected us all; affected our family," said Newton. "It's been a really tough year. Sydney has done everything she’s been asked to do and more."

Early this year, Newton developed the idea of asking NASA about the possibility of flying some very special beads for Beads of Courage Inc., of Tucson, Ariz., on one of the final
space shuttle missions.

Space Beads of Courage
Beads of Courage is the organization that provides the Beads of Courage Program and other innovative, arts-in-medicine supportive care programs for children coping with serious illness, their families and the health care providers who care for them. Together, Beads of Courage and Newton developed the idea of sponsoring a contest for the best designs of a new bead of courage. These special beads of courage would highlight the role of the space program as space beads of courage.

Newton thought "nothing could be more encouraging to a child fighting cancer than to see a symbol of courage -- a bead -- actually flown to space by the very people who ride into orbit on the space shuttle. That act represents one of the most courageous things other human beings do for all of us."

The contest to design the space beads of courage ran from mid-March to mid-April and concluded with the selection of 17 bead designs. Realizing that only a handful of shuttle launches remained before the end of the shuttle program, Newton and Beads of Courage submitted a request to fly the beads to NASA. The Space Shuttle Program Office at Johnson Space Center in Houston approved the request to fly the beads as part of NASA's Official Flight Kit.

The space beads, designed by talented bead artists, will fly aboard space shuttle Atlantis with Commander Ken Ham, Pilot Tony Antonelli, and Mission Specialists Garrett Reisman, Michael Good, Steve Bowen, and Piers Sellers. The shuttle and its crew are scheduled to lift off on Friday, May 14 from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. After Atlantis returns from its mission, NASA will present the string of beads to Beads of Courage Inc. as a symbol of courage to sick children everywhere.

"It is a great honor to be a part of and support a wonderful organization like NASA," said Newton. "This opportunity to fly the Space Beads of Courage onboard space shuttle Atlantis will help children battling cancer and hopefully inspire them to be among the next generations of astronauts and engineers; making it possible for all of us to see what
lies beyond our Earth."

"Since 2005, we have been working to transform the treatment experience for children coping with chronic, life threatening illness through our arts-in-medicine programs," explained Jean Baruch, founder of the Beads of Courage program. "We are honored to work with the
NASA family on this worthy effort."

Read more

Friday, May 14, 2010

Juniper Jairala

Juniper is an EVA (Extra-Vehicular Activity) Hardware Test Engineer  supporting NEEMO through the Crew and Thermal Systems Division at NASA  Johnson Space CenterJuniper Jairala once built international theme parks (while secretly performing in samba shows by night). Now she develops space hardware (while fire dancing by night).

Juniper grew up in Chicago, Illinois, Del Mar, California, and Quito, Ecuador. She recevied a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from Cornell University, and then went to build theme parks with Universal Studios and Warner Brothers in Japan and Spain (while samba dancing by night). Juniper's next adventure was working at NASA's Dryden Flight Research center with experimental aircraft, test pilots, and scientists.

However, Juniper's main passion was for human spaceflight, so she next earned a master's of science in aerospace engineering and bioastronautics from CU-Boulder. She worked in various private human spaceflight companies before coming to Johnson Space Center. Her current position has her scuba diving with astronauts, flying on the parabolic aircraft, developing space suits, bouncing on treadmills, and testing out new components of the International Space Station from an EVA perspective. By night, she performs with two Houston fire troupes, Zion's Flame and Luminosity.

A fluent Spanish-speaking Latina with immigrant parents, Juniper also loves encouraging kids - especially girls and minorities - to pursue technology fields. She volunteers as a mentor to middle and high school students in math, science, and engineering through the Society of Hispanic Engineers, and several Houston programs. She likes showing kids how cool and easy it is to be a geek, and how achievable it is to work at places like NASA, where you get to do cool stuff like NEEMO!

Juniper's primary role on NEEMO 14 will be as a support diver for the aquanauts as they collect data regarding the effects of suit design on their performance in reduced-gravity environments (like those on the moon or Mars).

Read more

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cassini Measures Tug of Enceladus

Cassini Measures Tug of Enceladus
Artist's concept of Cassini's flyby of Saturn's moon Enceladus.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft will be gliding low over Saturn's moon Enceladus for a gravity experiment designed to probe the moon's interior composition. The flyby, which will take Cassini through the water-rich plume flaring out from Enceladus's south polar region, will occur on April 27 Pacific time and April 28 UTC. At closest approach, Cassini will be flying about 100 kilometers (60 miles) above the moon's surface.

Cassini's scientists plan to use the radio science instrument to measure the gravitational pull of Enceladus against the steady radio link to NASA's Deep Space Network on Earth. Detecting any wiggle will help scientists understand what is under the famous "tiger stripe" fractures that spew water vapor and organic particles from the south polar region. Is it an ocean, a pond or a great salt lake?

The experiment will also help scientists find out if the sub-surface south polar region resembles a lava lamp. Scientists have hypothesized that a bubble of warmer ice periodically moves up to the crust and repaves it, explaining the quirky heat behavior and intriguing surface features.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL.

More information about the Cassini-Huygens mission is at:
http://www.nasa.gov/cassini
and http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov.

Read more

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Touch the Earth to Display at Earth Day on National Mall

The 'Touch the Earth' tactile book.NASA will present the new tactile learning book, "Touch the Earth," on Monday, April 19, in the "NASA Village" tent at the Earth Day Celebration on the National Mall organized by the Earth Day Network. This will be the first public presentation of the book, published last month, with its authors and illustrators on hand to demonstrate its unique characteristics.
Touch the Earth takes a multimedia approach to teach middle school students about the Earth's biomes – areas on Earth with similar climate, soil and vegetation - using sound and visual aids, tactile and colored graphics, large print and Braille. It was developed for Blind and Deaf users as well as students who learn best with a multimedia approach. Published with the support of NASA Headquarters' Office of Earth Science, Education programs, the book was developed by Elissa Levine, a soil scientist who recently retired from the Biospheric Sciences Branch at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., science writer Amy Hansen, tactile graphic creator, Noreen Grice, geographer, Asad Ullah, and producer, Izolda Traktenberg.
"Much of the Earth science that we do at NASA uses remote sensing, which means measuring something about an object without actually being in contact with it. This book brings home the importance of being able to 'touch the Earth' in some way or another," said Eric Brown de Colstoun, Coordinator of Earth Science Education and Public Outreach at Goddard. "This message should resonate strongly with all audiences, including the visually and hearing challenged, on this 40th anniversary of Earth Day."
The book will be on display at the "NASA Village" along with two supplemental DVDs explaining more about the biomes on each continent. One DVD enhances the book's content with pictures and a signing avatar using American Sign Language to help students who are deaf and hearing impaired. The second DVD has the same enhanced content with pictures, voice and music.
"In a way this book should be exciting for a broader audience that hasn't been reached before, whether the children are blind, deaf, or just want other kinds of tools for learning," remarked Hansen. "Hopefully it will give the kids a chance to better understand Earth's biomes and how all systems on the Earth function together."
Visitors to the Earth Day Celebration will be able to view the Earth's continents in tactile graphics, Braille, and color imagery on a full-size poster - another supplementary educational aid included with each copy of Touch the Earth. The book also includes guidance for teachers on how to incorporate its content into National Science Education standards and provides resources for additional information.
"I hope people will touch it and understand the interactive quality of it," Hansen said. "People don't realize how much of the Sahara takes up Africa," she said of a biome description. "I think it's more dramatic to feel that it's almost a third of the continent."
Touch the Earth is the latest in a series of tactile books on NASA science topics including Touch the Universe and Touch the Sun. Individuals can order a copy of the Touch the Earth tactile book from the National Federation of the Blind Independence Market: http://www.nfb.org/nfb/Independence_Market.asp
For more information and a schedule of NASA's Earth Day activities, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/earthday

Read more

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Students Send Balloons to the Stratosphere

How different does the world look from 100,000 feet in the air? How do cities and suburbs, fields and forests appear when viewed from a vantage point of nearly twenty miles above Earth's surface?

Through an innovative program at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, local high school students have the opportunity to make these discoveries firsthand while learning practical math, science and engineering skills. Participants in the BalloonSAT Exploring Program launch a 6-foot diameter weather balloon, complete with experiments and cameras, into the space-like regions of Earth's upper atmosphere.

Exploring with Balloons

The Exploring Program is affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America. This program is designed to give high school students opportunities to experience different potential careers. Throughout the country, students in the Exploring Program learn from various professionals -- like firemen, police officers and medical workers -- about the skills necessary for these jobs. At Glenn, students explore what it's like to be a scientist or engineer in one of four Exploring Posts: Aeronautics, Computer, Human Space Exploration and BalloonSAT. Stephanie Brown-Houston, from the Glenn Educational Program, is the program manager for the Exploring Program → at Glenn.

The use of weather balloons as satellites (BalloonSAT) first began at Glenn a decade ago as a way of investigating solar cell calibration in space. A small payload which tracked the sun was suspended by a weather balloon and flown to gather data. The balloon served as an inexpensive high-altitude launch system.

High school students in the BalloonSAT Exploring Post at Glenn   work with NASA scientists and engineers to launch a 6-foot diameter   weather balloon into the stratosphereThe BalloonSAT Exploring Post 632 began in 2004. Dr. David Snyder, a physicist and electrical engineer in the Photovoltaic and Power Technologies branch of the Power & In-Space Propulsion division at Glenn, is the lead advisor for BalloonSAT Exploring Post.

"The overall goal is to give high school kids a chance to explore these professions," Snyder says. "It's about getting them interested in science and space and technology."

Learning by Doing

Each academic year, a group of 10 to 15 high school students join the BalloonSAT Exploring Post. These diverse students, from multiple high schools around the Cleveland area, work together to perform one or two launches every year. When the first launch occurs, it is more of a demonstration launch and takes place early in the program, in the fall. The second launch, which takes place in early spring, is coordinated and executed by the students and features the experiments they designed.

"BalloonSAT attempts to simulate a satellite mission," Snyder says. "We give students the chance to design experiments and fly them with a flight program, and get results."

The students work all year to research, develop, design and fabricate experiments that will be flown when they launch their balloon. In the seven missions that BalloonSAT has flown, dozens of student-designed experiments have been launched 100,000 feet in the air.

Previous experiments have included:
  • Exposure experiments with rubber bands, seeds and mold
  • Light and temperature sensors
  • Aerogel particle capture
  • Cosmic ray detection
  • Geiger counters
  • Electronic compass correlation
  • Carbon Dioxide/Ozone detectors
  • Solar cell measurements
  • Latex balloon expansion
  • Yeast growth and carbon dioxide generation
This year's launch, which is schedule for April 24, includes a variety of experiments such as:
  • 3-D photography
  • Video image transmission
  • Chemical hand warmer testing
  • Electric field disturbances
  • Glass fragility during flight
  • Wood glue exposure
  • Humidity measurements
The students spend the year preparing for the launch; the multi-faceted project teaches the students numerous skills.

"The idea is to use the balloon as a launch vehicle, and then have a whole mission that's like a satellite mission. There is a lot of science, there is a lot of pre-flight testing and there is designing the flight plan," Snyder says. "There's a wide range of activities in addition to their experiments. It's a whole flight project."

Skills from many fields are developed in the BalloonSAT project, including:
  • Communications and telemetry
  • Problem solving
  • Power and battery issues
  • Tracking
  • Flight Prediction
  • Coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
Up, Up and Away

Cameras carried by the balloon take photographs every 30 secondsOn launch day, all of the students' and their mentors' hard work comes to fruition at the exciting launch. The latex balloon, initially 6-feet in diameter, is launched into the mid-to-upper stratosphere, about 100,000 feet above Earth's surface. The mid-to-upper stratosphere is above 99% of the atmosphere -- much higher than even commercial aircraft fly. The conditions here are similar to conditions on Mars.

The balloon rises at a rate of 1,000 feet a minute, so it takes about 2 hours for the balloon to reach its apex. It then bursts, and returns to Earth in about an hour. The balloon, which expands to about 18-feet in diameter as it passes through different temperatures during its ascent, is typically visible to the naked eye throughout its entire journey.

"It's kind of amazing," Snyder says.

The BalloonSAT team tracks the balloon visually and via GPS and Ham Radio, and collects the deflated balloon after it lands. Then the team starts investigating the results of their carefully-planned experiments, and reviews the footage the cameras on the balloon produced.

The digital cameras installed on the balloon take a picture every 30 seconds. The sideways shots display the atmosphere and some of the ground, while the straight down shots display details of Earth. The photographs are taken by inexpensive, point-and-shoot digital cameras that have been modified to have an external switch rather than the factory-installed button. The resulting images are informational and visually intriguing.

"It's impressive to see the images," Snyder says.

Mentoring Young Scientists

NASA funds the Exploring Program at Glenn, including the BalloonSAT post. A minimum of $1,000 provides supplies for the activities, including the cameras, equipment to build and construct payloads, balloons and helium.

The BalloonSAT Exploring Post has proven so successful that a nation-wide competition for high school students will be hosted by Glenn this May. Winning entries were submitted by schools in Utah, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia, and the students will converge at Glenn to launch their experiments aloft in a balloon.

The pairing of high school STEM students and experienced NASA scientists has proven effective -- many of the students who have participated in the program have gone on to study engineering and related fields in college. This experiential learning, as one of Snyder's Exploring Program students told him, brings science to life.

"She said that this is not just learning in a book. It is a chance to actually do things and have the experience. The hands-on aspect, to her, was very important," Snyder says.

Read more

Monday, May 10, 2010

Helicopter Helps Test Radar for 2012 Mars Landing

a radar that will serve during the next landing on  Mars used  prescribed descent paths flown by a helicopter carrying an  engineering  test model of the landing radar for NASA's Mars Science  Laboratory

This spring, engineers are testing a radar system that will serve during the next landing on Mars.

Recent tests included some near Lancaster, Calif., against a backdrop of blooming California poppy fields. In those tests, a helicopter carried an engineering test model of the landing radar for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory on prescribed descent paths. The descents at different angles and from different heights simulated paths associated with specific candidate sites for the mission.

The Mars Science Laboratory mission, managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., for NASA, is in its assembly and testing phase, in advance of a launch in autumn 2011 and delivery of a rover named Curiosity to Mars in summer 2012.

During the final stage of the spacecraft's arrival at Mars in 2012, a rocket-powered descent stage will lower the rover on a tether directly to the ground. This rover is too big for the airbag-cushioned landing method used by NASA's Mars Pathfinder mission in 1997 and Mars Exploration Rover landings in 2004.

At Mars, a radar on the descent stage will track the spacecraft's decreasing distance from the surface. Additional helicopter-flown testing of the mission's radar system will include checks of whether the suspended rover might confuse the radar about the speed of descent toward the ground.

Wolfe Air Aviation, of Pasadena, Calif., is providing the helicopter and flight services for the testing by a team of JPL engineers. The engineering test radar is affixed to a gimbal mounting at the front of the helicopter, which is more often used for aerial photography.

Read more

Saturday, May 8, 2010

NASA Continues to Track Persistent Iceland Volcano

Satellite image of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull Volcano
On Monday, April 19, 2010, the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) instrument onboard NASA's Terra spacecraft obtained this image of the continuing eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallaj√∂kull volcano. › Full image and caption
The continuing eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano was observed Mon., April 19, 2010, by the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) instrument onboard NASA's Terra spacecraft. The new image shows a white eruption column being carried toward the south by prevailing winds. The image is dominated by the gray, ash-laden eruption cloud dispersed south and east by the winds, blowing from the southern Iceland coast toward Europe. The bright red areas mark the hot lava at the current vent (upper left), and the still-hot lava flows from the earlier phases of the eruption (upper center). The high-temperature material is revealed by ASTER's thermal infrared bands.
This image covers an area of 58.6 by 46.8 kilometers (36.3 by 29 miles). The resolution is 15 meters (49 feet) per pixel.

Read more

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A New Oral History: Where Words Touch the Earth

Students from Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan.,  filmed a segment in August 2008 for the documentary Where Words Touch  the Earth.Native Americans have a long tradition of preserving history and culture through oral storytelling, such as the tale of Crazy Horse, a war leader of the Oglala Lakota during the late 1800s. This word-of-mouth legend of Crazy Horse has inspired a project through which tribal college students are now relating a modern oral history -- about climate change.
The video series, "Where Words Touch the Earth," documents environmental changes observed by Native Americans. Each 12-15-minute episode is fully developed and produced by Native American students representing different ecosystems across the United States. NASA selected the schools and provided the funding, but it was the students who retained complete creative control of the production and its content.
"I wanted them to tell their stories -- that's the only way you're going to get a jewel," said David Adamec, a scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., who had the vision for the project.
Adamec conceived of the project while visiting the Crazy Horse monument in South Dakota for a summer vacation in 2007. "Why not take advantage of the information contained in oral history and combine it with the climate resources we have at NASA?"
Now, students and elders from Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan., have produced a segment that explores the dramatic changes observed in the plains ecosystem. Producers from Northwest Indian College in Bellingham, Wash., portray how climate change has impacted salmon populations in the coastal ecosystem.
Students from Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan.,  were responsible for all aspects of producing a segment for Where Words  Touch the Earth, from writing and directing to camera work and editingTribal colleges in New Mexico, North Dakota and Wisconsin representing a desert, prairie and woodland environment, are now beginning to film. The final product aims to weave together all the perspectives and achieve a cohesive story of the Native American perspective on climate change.
Already, the student films are reaching and educating students across the United States. In fall 2008, public television production house WGBH Boston started working closely with the Bureau of Indian Education providing digital content and working with students and their teachers. "We started learning more about the intersection between traditional tribal communities and science education, and specifically around climate change," said Howard Lurie, Associate Director of Educational Productions for WGBH Boston.
On March 31, WGBH's Teachers' Domain launched the "Where Words Touch the Earth" collection, an online collection that disseminates repurposed versions of the documentaries so that they can be integrated into sixth- to 12th-grade classrooms. Teachers can download short clips, essays and discussion questions -- all linked to state standards.
"We think that it’s a unique way for elementary, middle and high school students to get deeper into the science," Lurie said.
The exchange goes both ways. "We might have assumed a disconnect between the traditional tribal community and hard science, but there's not," Lurie said. "Being connected to tradition doesn't mean you can't be a scientist."
Today, the educational dialogue continues, as students and instructors from Navaho Technical College in Crownpoint, N.M., visit Goddard to meet with Adamec and video specialists at Goddard, tour the center, and lay the groundwork for a new oral history.
Related Links:
The complete Where Words Touch the Earth collection

Read more

Popular Posts