ISS Expedition 24 Crew to Talk with NES Middle School Students

About 400 sixth- through eighth-grade students and their teachers at NASA Explorer School Conyers Middle School in Conyers, Ga., will participate in a live downlink with astronauts aboard the International Space Station, which is scheduled to take place on Wednesday at 12:20 p.m. EDT. Selected students will ask questions of astronauts Tracy Caldwell Dyson, Doug Wheelock and Shannon Walker, members of the 24th crew who live and work aboard the station. NASA Television will broadcast video from the space station during the event.

For NASA TV downlink, schedule and streaming video information visit:

Link to the NES Virtual Campus Home page.

Last Shuttle External Tank Rollout at Michoud Assembly Facility

External tank departs assembly building at MichoudThe last external tank (designated ET-138) scheduled to fly on a shuttle mission was completed on June 25 at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans. ET-138 will travel on a 900-mile sea journey to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where it will support shuttle Endeavour’s STS-134 launch.

Taller than a 15-story building and more than 27 feet in diameter, the external tank feeds 145,000 gallons of liquid oxygen and 390,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen to the main engines. The three main components of the external tank include a liquid oxygen tank, liquid hydrogen tank and a collar-like intertank. The intertank connects the two propellant tanks, houses instrumentation and processing equipment, and provides the attachment structure for the solid rocket boosters.

When ET-138 arrives at KSC, it will be mated to shuttle Endeavour and solid rocket boosters for the STS-134 mission, scheduled to launch no earlier than mid-November 2010.

To read more about the mission, visit the NASA website at

You and your students can read about NASA missions and what they do at

FlyBy Math Releases New Online Tool

NASA has released an interactive online tool enabling students to simultaneously visualize and manipulate three linked representations of a distance-rate-time problem. The side-by-side tool format features two airplanes (each flying at a constant speed) on merging jet routes, the corresponding distance-vs.-time graphs, and the corresponding linear equations.

Students can manipulate an airplane’s speed and starting position on its route, rotate or shift the associated line on the graph, and change the parameters of the associated equation. As students change one representation, the other representations update accordingly.

The free classroom materials include the tool, student workbooks, assessments, teacher guides, and alignments to grades 5-9 mathematics standards for all 50 states.

The new tool is an addition to FlyBy Math from NASA Smart Skies — distance-rate-time investigations engaging students in the challenges faced by air traffic controllers.

To access the new tool, visit

To access all of the Smart Skies mathematics investigations, visit

Questions about the Smart Skies website and tools should be directed to

NASA Rover Finds Clue to Mars' Past and Environment for Life

Mars outcrop called “Comanche”Rocks examined by NASA’s Mars rover Spirit hold evidence of an ancient wet, non-acidic environment that may have been favorable for life. Confirming this mineral clue took four years of analysis by several scientists.

Spirit inspected many rock outcrops, including one called Comanche by scientists. They discovered magnesium iron carbonate makes up about one-fourth of the measured volume in Comanche samples. That is a tenfold higher concentration than any previously identified for carbonate in a Martian rock. 

Massive carbonate deposits on Mars have been sought for years without much success. Numerous channels apparently carved by flows of liquid water on ancient Mars suggest the planet was formerly warmer, thanks to greenhouse warming from a thicker atmosphere than exists now. The dense, ancient Martian atmosphere was probably rich in carbon dioxide, because that gas makes up nearly all the very thin, modern atmosphere.

Lunokhod Once Was Lost but Now It's Found — After 40 Years

A Soviet robot lost on the dusty plains of the moon for the past 40 years has been found again, and it is returning surprisingly strong laser pulses to Earth. “We shined a laser on Lunokhod 1’s position, and we were stunned by the power of the reflection,” says Tom Murphy of UC San Diego, who leads the research team that’s putting the old robot back to work. “Lunokhod 1 is talking to us loudly and clearly.”

The remote-controlled rover traveled almost seven miles during its 11-month lunar tour, relaying thousands of TV images and hundreds of high-resolution panoramas of the moon back to Earth. It also sampled and analyzed lunar soil at 500 locations. Then Lunokhod-1 was lost — until last month when NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter found it again.

Murphy’s initial reaction was disbelief: “The signal was so strong; my first thought was that our detector was acting up! I expected the rover’s reflector to be degraded and dull after all this time, so I thought, ‘This couldn’t possibly be it.’ But it was. We got about 2,000 photons from Lunokhod 1 on our first try. After almost 40 years of silence, this rover has a lot to say.” 

To read more about the rediscovery of Lunokhod 1, visit

Big Lunar Eclipse

Saturday, June 26th, there’s going to be a lunar eclipse — and for many residents of the USA, it’s going to be a big one. The eclipse begins at 3:17 a.m. PDT when the moon enters the sunset-colored shadow of Earth. By 4:38 a.m. PDT, the moment of greatest eclipse, 54 percent of the moon’s diameter will be covered. From beginning to end, the event lasts almost three hours.

Although the eclipse is only partial, it will be magnified in size and charm by the “Moon Illusion” — a result of the eclipse occurring close to the horizon from viewing sites in the USA. For reasons not fully understood by astronomers or psychologists, low-hanging moons look unnaturally large when they beam through trees, buildings and other foreground objects. In fact, a low moon is no wider than any other moon — cameras prove it — but the human brain insists otherwise. The effect will be particularly strong in western and central parts of the USA and Canada where the moon will be setting as the eclipse reaches maximum.

NASA Satellite Images Used to Locate Ticks

Blacklegged tick resting on a blade of grass
Finding a tick usually involves a squeamish self-examination — carefully rubbing fingertips through your scalp, meticulously scanning your body, and groaning “eyeww” if a little bloodsucker is discovered. But now there is a new way to discover these pesky, disease-laden critters — via satellite!

Two University of Alabama at Birmingham graduate students are pioneering the new technique as part of a NASA program called DEVELOP. They’ve been using satellite images of Alabama’s Talladega National Forest to reveal likely areas of the forest where ticks may flourish. The students used what they learned from their NASA advisor, Dr. Jeff Luvall of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, to classify levels of vegetation and moisture in 12 locations in the forest. They then created detailed digital maps and images showing likely tick habitats — areas where dense vegetation overlapped those with high soil moisture. 

If you want to know more about the program, visit:

To read about other uses for NASA satellite imagery in education visit

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page.

Women in Space Day!

Did you know that 53 different women including cosmonauts, astronauts, payload specialists and foreign nationals have flown in space? That six different female cosmonauts have flown with the Soviet/Russian program and 47 different women have flown with NASA?
In 1963, Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space when she piloted the Vostok 6 spacecraft. Later, she married Andrian Nikolayev, another cosmonaut. Their child Yelena was the first child born to space-faring parents.
Sally Ride was the first American woman in space but the third woman in space overall after Tereshkova and Svetlana Savitskaya. Savitskaya flew on Soyuz T-7 on Aug. 19, 1982.

Peggy Whitson was the first woman to complete a six-month tour of duty aboard the International Space Station as the station commander for Expedition 16 in April 2008.

For more information on Inspirational Women of NASA, have yourstudents visit

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page

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Welcome to the NASA Explorer Schools Teachers Corner! This forum supports the NES project by disseminating NES project information as well as providing NASA mission updates that may be of interest to students and teachers. It is also a place for educators to share comments and ideas on how NASA’s educational materials and mission of research and discovery connect with what is taught in classroom.

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