NASA Now: Extremophiles

NASA Now logoOn Earth, we can find life anywhere liquid water is present. Scientists now have realized that “anywhere” includes such extreme environments as ice-covered Antarctic lakes, the dry Chilean desert and cracks in deep subsurface rocks.

The organisms living in these harsh conditions are called extremophiles. They survive and often thrive in environments once thought too hot, too cold, too salty, too acidic, too dry, or with too high pressure or too much radiation for life to exist.

Scientists are studying microbes living in Earth’s extreme environments so they can better understand places where life might have existed on other bodies in our solar system.

NASA Now Minute: Extremophiles

Wanted: Student Questions for Voyager, Humanity's Farthest Journey

Artist concept showing Voyager spacecraft approaching interstellar space.NASA’s Voyager spacecraft are hurtling towards the edge of our solar system, more than 10 billion miles away from our sun. Interstellar space – the medium between stars – is a region no human-made craft has ever been. On Apr. 28, 2011, a live NASA TV program will feature mission scientists discussing the distant areas Voyager 1 and 2 are exploring, 10 billion miles away from our sun. 

NASA is inviting classrooms to submit their single best question about the Voyager mission and interstellar space to the science panel. We are also inviting students to submit their best idea about what they would put on a new Golden Record, if one were ever created. 

How to Submit a Question

Teachers interested in submitting a classroom question should email as soon as possible to hold a spot in our random drawing. Please put “Voyager Question” in the subject line. Due to resources, only the first 20 educators who express interest will have their class’ question and answer posted on the Voyager website. Approximately 5 of these 20 questions will be randomly selected and submitted to our Voyager science panel during the live NASA TV program. (Note: teachers do not need to send the question immediately; they need only send an e-mail stating their interest in submitting a question.) The first 20 respondents will be given a deadline for question submission. 

How to Submit an Idea for the Golden Record: 

Teachers should send their students’ best idea for the Golden Record by Apr. 21, 2011, to Put Golden Record in the subject line. Ideas will be posted in a timely manner on the Voyager website.nclude school name, city and state along with the Golden Record idea. State if you would like teacher name and grade level included when we post the idea. 


There are many websites to help gather information for questions and Golden Record ideas. Here are a few to check: 


  •  Space Weather Media Viewer (go to Videos on the left and use the drop-down menu for videos to select heliosphere) 
  •  Space Place: Voyager (visit the “Sun Zone” once you go inside)

NASA Now: Lunar Mathematics and Mapping

Join Dr. James Garvin, Chief Scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., as he describes the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission and how it is helping us explore the moon like never before. Learn why NASA is interested in studying the moon, what kinds of treasures exist there, and what we might be able to do with them!

Garvin shows how the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, uses an instrument called LOLA to create better maps of the moon than we have ever had and highlights the connection between mapping and mathematics.

NASA Now Minute: Lunar Mathematics and Mapping

5th Grade Students Become Astrobiologists

Joan Labay-Marquez Gifted and Talented Facilitator at Curington Elementary taught her 5th grade students about a proposed NASA mission that will send a satellite to explore Jupiter and its moons to search for signs of life. 

To deepen their understanding of what constitutes “life” in our universe, and NASA’s plans to find it on other planets, students viewed the NASA Now video called “The Search for Life”. Students also viewed the archived NASA Explorer Schools chat of Dr. Joel S. Levine about the proposed ARES mission to Mars and its search for the presence of life on Mars. 

Labay-Marquez commented, “This activity fit into our GT instruction because these students have been studying about finding life on Mars in preparation for a Mars Rover competition later this year.”

This activity also inspired her students to create projects using the theme: Finding Life on Mars. They continued their roles as astrobiologists and used Legos and art/craft supplies to design and construct models of exploration vehicles and instruments looking for signs of life on Mars. 

For more detail about how to integrate these NES resources into your classroom, log into NEON and find the full write-up here: