Mars Month Continues

Curiosity continues to work in good health. The rover traveled 30 meters during Sol 26, on Sept. 1. The drive included a test of the rover’s “visual odometry” capability for using onboard analysis of images to determine the distance it has traveled.

Throughout Sept., NASA Now classroom videos highlight various aspects of Curiosity’s mission on Mars. Be sure to check out NASA Now: Mars Month on the NASA Explorer Schools Virtual Campus.

To read more breaking news about Curiosity, visit: the mission website

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page.

Live Video Chat: Life as an Astronaut

Bob CabanaDate: Sept. 25, 2012
Time: 1:00 – 1:45 p.m. EDT

During this live video chat, NASA Explorer Schools offers students in grades 4-12 an opportunity to ask questions of astronaut and Director of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Bob Cabana about his education, astronaut training, living and working in space and the future of space exploration.

Participate in the chat by going to the chat page at 12:45 p.m. EDT.

Name That Asteroid Contest (Grades K-12)

Name that Asteroid!Students worldwide have an opportunity to name an asteroid from which an upcoming NASA mission will return samples to Earth. Scheduled to launch in 2016, the mission is called the Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer, or OSIRIS-REx. The competition is open to students under age 18. Each contestant can submit one name, up to 16 characters long. Entries must include a short explanation and rationale for the name. The contest deadline is Dec. 2, 2012.

For contest rules, guidelines, and application visit:

For more information about the OSIRIS-REx mission, visit:

NES Professional Development Web Seminar: Transit Tracks – Finding Habitable Planets

Professional Development Opportunity

As part of a series of electronic professional development experiences for educators, NASA Explorer Schools and the National Science Teachers Association are hosting a 90-minute live professional development Web seminar for educators on Sept. 19, 2012, at 7:30 p.m. EDT. In this Web seminar, you will learn about an engaging algebra activity called “Finding Habitable Planets” that allows students to analyze NASA data with the hopes of discovering planets in habitable zones of solar systems.

For more information and to register online, visit

Link to the Algebraic Equations: Transit Tracks—Finding Habitable Planets lesson on the Virtual Campus (requires log in).

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page.

2012 Cassini Scientist for a Day Essay Contest

The Cassini Scientist for a Day essay contest is open to all grade 5-12 students in the United States.

Students may work alone or in groups of up to four students. They write an essay of up to 500 words about one of three possible imaging targets (Saturn’s small moon, Pan; Saturn’s F Ring, or Saturn and its Rings) that the Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn can take this fall. Students justify their choice as to which they think would potentially yield the best science.

Winners are invited to participate in a teleconference with Cassini scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Winning essays will be posted on the Cassini website.

The contest deadline is Oct. 24, 2012 at noon, PDT. Teachers must submit their students’ essays online.

Download a flyer about the contest at

The URL for the Cassini Scientist for a Day website is
Send inquiries about the contest to

NASA Now: Geology: Curiosity-Main Science Goals

NASA NowDr. Ashwin Vasavada, deputy project scientist for the Mars Science Laboratory, discusses the main science goals for Curiosity, including the investigation of the presence of water and evidence of life on the Red Planet. 

This program is available on the Virtual Campus beginning Sept. 19. Preview the program below.


NASA Friday at Skiatook High School

NES educator Michael Lewis says things are really “taking off” in his technology class at Skiatook High School in Oklahoma. Every Friday is “NASA Friday.” On those days, Lewis will be using a variety of student lessons and activities provided by NASA and NASA Explorer Schools. His students will study, research and create various technology experiments in the same way scientists at NASA do. Students will use critical thinking, analysis, observation, experimentation and communication to solve the same kinds of problems astronauts and those in the aerospace industry face every day.

This school year, Lewis’ students have already made remote-launching vehicles. This activity helped them better understand the challenges NASA faced in launching and landing the scientific rover Curiosity, which landed on the planet Mars in August. The class also has discussed the tensile strength of various metals and organic products when under pressure. The students then divided into different teams to see which group could build the tallest structure using a common set of construction materials, spaghetti and marshmallows. One team built a 106.7-cm tall structure based on the triangle shape!

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page.

NASA Now: Forces and Motion: Curiosity — Entry, Descent and Landing

NASA NowDr. Anita Sengupta, a senior systems engineer, describes the nail-biting seven minutes of terror as Curiosity entered the Martian atmosphere barreling toward a landing on the Martian surface. Learn about specific engineering challenges and how they were met to successfully land the giant rover on the surface of Mars.

This program is available on the NES Virtual Campus beginning Sept. 12.


NES Professional Development Web Seminar: Lunar Nautics

As part of a series of electronic professional development experiences for educators, the NASA Explorer Schools project and the National Science Teachers Association are hosting a 90-minute Web seminar on Sept. 13, 2012, at 6:30 p.m. EDT. This Web seminar features three lessons for grades 5-8, focusing on a real-world understanding of Newton’s Laws of Motion and addresses common misconceptions associated with the laws. The featured lessons are Rocket Staging: Balloon Staging, Lunar Landing: Swinging Tray and Lunar Base Supply Egg Drop.

For more information and to register online, visit

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page.