Mars Month Comes to NES

Now that NASA’s rover, Curiosity, has successfully landed on Mars, NES is excited to designate September 2012 as Mars Month. Each week during September, NASA Now classroom videos will highlight an aspect of Curiosity’s mission on Mars.

NASA Now is a weekly 5-7-minute classroom video designed to give your students firsthand information about NASA’s missions, research and facilities and to introduce them to some of NASA’s most fascinating people and careers. You can find a new NASA Now video on the NASA Explorer Schools Virtual Campus each Wednesday during the school year.

For each NASA Now video, you get a description of the video, an Extension Activity, and questions you may ask your students before and after watching the video. There is also a set of vocabulary words, related resources, career information, and a connection to NASA missions or projects. All of these components are provided so you can easily use the NASA Now programs to bring relevant current NASA events to your classroom.

Closed-captioned videos can be streamed from the Web, or a non-captioned mp4 version can be downloaded to your computer.

You may preview NASA Now videos at the NES YouTube channel.

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page.

Celebrate the Landing of the Mars Curiosity Rover

Artist's Concept: A Moment After Curiosity's TouchdownIn a few days, NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory, Curiosity, is set to land on Mars. What will this rover do? Curiosity will look for things that sustain life: signs of long-term water in the past or present and the right chemical ingredients for life (e.g., carbon-based molecules, the chemical building blocks of life). Use this historic occasion to introduce current real-world science and engineering to your students.

Curiosity is scheduled to land on Mars at 1:31 a.m. EDT on Monday, Aug. 6, 2012. (That’s 10:31 p.m. PDT, Sunday, Aug. 5.) That evening, Mars will be visible in the night sky with a telescope or with the naked eye. Take this opportunity to host a Mars-gazing party! Just after sunset, Mars will be roughly 150 million miles away from Earth, and the Curiosity Rover will be only hours away from arriving to this distant orange dot in the night sky. Submit your events to

— Looking for activities to get students excited about the upcoming landing? A number of short, hands-on activities relating to the mission are available at

For a basic overview of the Red Planet, visit the following websites:

Basic Information on Mars
Mars Image Collection
3-D Images of Mars

Want to know more about the area where the Curiosity rover will be landing on Mars? Visit the following websites to learn more about Gale Crater:

Destination Gale Crater: August 5, 2012 at 10:31 pm PDT
Gale’s Mount Sharp Compared to Three Big Mountains on Earth
National Parks as Mars Analog Sites

The Curiosity rover will landing using a bold new landing technique. Check out the “Seven Minutes of Terror” video to see how rockets, parachutes and a “sky crane” will help Curiosity make a soft landing on Mars.

Live media coverage of the Curiosity landing begins at midnight EDT (9 p.m. PDT) on NASA TV. To find NASA TV on your local cable provider, or to view the coverage online, visit

Curiosity also has a presence on Twitter and Facebook.


For up-to-the-minute mission information about the Curiosity rover and progress toward its Mars landing, visit and

NuSTAR Opens X-Ray Eyes

Artist's concept of NuSTAR in orbitNASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has snapped its first test images of the sizzling high-energy X-ray universe. The observatory, launched June 13, is the first space telescope with the ability to focus high-energy X-rays — the same kind used by doctors and dentists — into crisp images.

Soon, the mission will begin its exploration of hidden black holes; fiery cinder balls left over from star explosions; and other sites of extreme physics in our cosmos.

“Today, we obtained the first-ever focused images of the high-energy X-ray universe,” said Fiona Harrison, the mission’s principal investigator at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, who first conceived of NuSTAR about 15 years ago. “It’s like putting on a new pair of glasses and seeing aspects of the world around us clearly for the first time.”

The story about NuSTAR in orbit is a great extension for NASA Now: Electromagnetic Spectrum: NuSTAR. To access this episode of NASA Now, first log into the NASA Explorer Schools Virtual Campus.

To read more about NuSTAR’s X-ray eyes, visit the NuSTAR mission website.