Live Chat With NASA Astronaut Michael J. Foreman

NASA Explorer Schools would like to extend an invitation to K-12 students across the United States to participate in a webchat with astronaut and veteran spacewalker Mike Foreman. The event will take place from 1 to 2 p.m. EST on Nov. 22, 2010. Foreman will answer questions about his spacewalking experiences, living and working in the microgravity environment of space, and his unique career path from high school through astronaut training.

For more information go to the information page on the NES Virtual Campus.

NASA Explorer Schools Dare Students to Dream

Students presenting their NASA-based research findingsInspiring the next generation of explorers, scientists, engineers and educators to “dream big” was the goal of this year’s NASA Explorer Schools National Student Symposium at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 

The symposium kicked off May 4 with a welcome dinner in the company of Bob Cabana, Kennedy’s director and a former space shuttle astronaut. About 60 fourth- through 12th-grade students and their teachers listened in awe as Cabana shared a vivid memory of seeing shuttle Endeavour awaiting liftoff on Launch Pad 39A with a remarkable rainbow overhead. Later that day in December 1998, Cabana and his crew would lift off on the 12-day STS-88 mission to begin construction of the International Space Station. 

“Our very first day in orbit, the wake up music was Judy Garland, ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow.’ It brought tears to my eyes,” Cabana said. “Somewhere over the rainbow dreams do come true because that was a dream mission from start to finish.” STS-88 took the first American module called Unity to the station and connected it to the Russian-built Zarya module, beginning the more than 10-year international collaboration and mechanical marvel in space.

The symposium participants were competitively selected after they completed an original investigation focused on existing NASA missions or research interests and presented it to the space agency via the Digital Learning Network. As their reward, they spent four days at the space center touring processing and launch facilities and the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, as well as participating in educational activities and a career panel question-and-answer session. They also presented their investigations to fellow students and NASA employees.

“Thank you, NASA, for this great opportunity,” said EmmaLee Beason, a fifth-grader from Oceanair Elementary in Norfolk, Va. 

Beason and her classmate, Iyana Stephenson, came up with their growing yeast in balloons experiment using different temperatures of water investigation after their teacher, Colleen Orman, traveled to Yellowstone National Park and taught them about geysers and organisms that thrive in extreme conditions. They found that the yeast organism preferred moderate temperatures, instead of extreme.

When asked what career field she would like to join when she gets a little older, Beason said an astrobiologist or a chef, or perhaps a chef for astronauts. She said working on this investigation taught her a lot about teamwork.

“Let’s say I become a chef and dinner service is in an hour and I’ve run out of a really important ingredient, I have to be able to trust my partner to run out and get that ingredient to finish the main dish,” Beason said. “And in astrobiology, I may need someone to help analyze data and materials.”

Luis Rabelo, a project manager for NASA’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, or EPSCoR, was on hand to listen to the students’ presentations and explained the multitude of career paths the space agency offers, including studying Earth’s climate, the sun, the solar system, or galaxies and black holes, as well as designing and launching rockets and capsules that will travel to low Earth orbit and beyond.

“Keep learning,” Rabelo said. “Continuous learning is so important because science is always changing.”

Fifth-graders Nell Curtin and Hazel Thurston from K.W. Barrett Elementary in Arlington, Va., and their classmates developed a sports game for space, called “Save the World,” using Sir Isaac Newton’s three laws of motion for their investigation. The project was awarded the “NASA Sports Challenge” and will be played aboard the International Space Station later this year, with a few modifications. The goal is for astronauts to gather objects and build devices to save the planet, which actually is just a large, soft ball, from incoming meteorites. 

Thurston ended their presentation with a small piece of advice for the space participants: “Play safe.”

Curtin said if she could ask the astronauts questions after they played, they would be, “Who won?” and “What was the most challenging part?”

Alicia Baturoni, a lead education specialist at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, asked the adults in attendance to think back to where they were when they were in elementary school.

“You’ve got a great head start,” Baturoni told the students. “I hope you are all really proud of yourselves.”

A day later, career panelist and chemical engineer Annie Caraccio echoed those sentiments.

“When I was in fourth-grade, I think I was only interested in Girl Scouts and playing soccer outside,” Caraccio said. “So congratulations . . . I look forward to seeing you accomplish great things and working with you in the future.”

Baturoni moderated the career panel, which boasted a wide variety of Kennedy employees, from a wildlife ecologist and human resource specialist to a chemist, engineer and contracting officer.

Afterward, the students participated in hands-on educational and skill-building activities. Elementary students built miniature robots using things like toothbrush bristles, wires and a small battery. The high schoolers built speakers using things like copper wire, a foam plate and a magnet. 

As they worked on their speakers, Fernando Zamora-Jimenez and Jakob Ingra, eighth-graders from High Point, N.C., talked about the investigation that brought them to Kennedy. They took cinnamon basil seeds that were flown in space and compared their growth to seeds that remained on Earth. They found that the space-flown seeds grew faster in the beginning, but also died faster. Their conclusion: The space-flown seeds weren’t accustomed to Earth’s climate.

“From this experience, I’ve learned that if you try your hardest, there really are rewards,” said Zamora-Jimenez, who is looking forward to joining the veterinarian or medical field and obtaining a private or commercial pilot’s license.

In the past, the NASA Explorer School Symposium only was open to fifth- through ninth-grade students. Priscilla Moore, an education specialist at Kennedy, explained the reason for opening it up to older students was to deliver NASA educational content to a much broader audience. 

“The NASA Explorer Schools mission is to be the agency’s classroom-based gateway to middle and high school students,” said Moore, “inspiring them to participate in NASA missions and develop their aptitudes in science, technology, engineering and math.” 

Rebecca Regan
NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center

NASA Features Earth Day Video Contest!

Everyone knows NASA as the space exploration agency. It’s easy to forget that exploring Earth is exploring a celestial body. It is, in fact, the only planet we’ve ever been to — our Home Frontier. To continue the celebration of Earth Day, NASA is giving you an opportunity to produce a short video about what you find inspiring and important about our unique view of Earth and understanding about how our planet works. After the contest ends on May 27, 2011, the feature selected as the best entry — chosen by a panel of NASA scientists and communicators — will be posted on the NASA home page.

Read the article in NEON for instructions and an overview of the video submission process.

Be sure to log into the NES Virtual Campus and check out our related Earth Day edition of NASA Now: Earth Day – Smog Bloggers at to see how we are monitoring air quality daily.

Opportunity for High School Students and Their Teachers to Participate in a Two-Semester Lunar Research Program for the 2011-2012 Academic Year

Lunar and Planetary Institute banner
The Center for Lunar Science and Exploration at the Lunar and Planetary Institute and NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston are looking for teams of highly motivated and dedicated high school students and their teachers to participate in a two-semester lunar research program for the 2011-2012 academic year. Under the mentorship of a lunar scientist, students work alongside their teachers as they undertake a national standards-based research project that engages them in the process of science and supports the science goals of the NASA Lunar Science Institute, or NLSI. At the end of the semester, students present their research results to a panel of lunar scientists in a competition with other teams for a chance to present their work at the NLSI Forum held in July 2012.

Contact Andy Shaner at 281-486-2163 or by e-mail for more information. You can also visit the program’s website or FAQ page.

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page.

NES Video Chat: Building and Testing Solid Fuel Rocket Motors

Collage of Sam Ortega photo and close-up of ignited solid rocket boostersNASA Explorer Schools invites K-12 students across the United States to chat with NASA civil engineer Sam Ortega, Program Manager of Centennial Challenge. Ortega will answer questions about building and testing solid fuel rocket motors and being a civil engineer at NASA during a live video webchat tomorrow, Tuesday April 19, 2011 at 2 p.m. EDT.

Link to the video chat website.

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: The Reason for the Seasons

NASA NOW LOGOIn this episode of NASA Now, you will learn what it’s like to study the atmospheres of other planets. We are approaching the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. Dr. Kelly Fast, astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., discusses the reason for the seasons. Fast explains what an equinox is and whether or not other planets in our solar system have seasons.

Corresponding NES Teaching Materials:


NASA Now Minute: The Reason for the Seasons

Tomorrow: Live Video Chat – Aquarius Habitat — Analog to the International Space Station

NASA Explorer Schools invites students in grades K-12 from across the U.S. and Department of Defense schools to participate in a live video chat with NASA engineer aquanaut Tara Ruttley. The event will take place on March 15, 2011, at 1 p.m. EDT. Students and teachers can submit questions to Dr. Ruttley during this hour-long chat. Ruttley will answer questions about participating in the NEEMO 6 project and her career as an engineer aquanaut and Associate International Space Station Program Scientist.

Go to the chat page on the NASA Explorer Schools Virtual Campus website to participate in the webchat. You’ll find background information about Ruttley and links to NEEMO. You do not need to be a participant of the NASA Explorer Schools project to join the chat. To learn more about NES, visit the website and click on the What Is NES? video or the About NES link.

Applications Now Available for NASA's INSPIRE Online Learning Community (9th – 12th Grade)

Inspire bannerApplications for membership to the 2011 – 2012 INSPIRE Online Learning Community, or OLC, are now being accepted. The deadline for applying is 12:00 p.m. CDT on June 30, 2011. This opportunity is for current 8th – 11th grade students, interested in pursuing a career in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, who will be enrolled in grades 9 through 12 for the 2011 – 2012 school year.
Using NASA missions of research and discovery as a foundation, members of the OLC have the opportunity to discover new knowledge while exploring their interests through unique activities and challenges; connect with NASA experts through weekly chats and blogs, as well as their peers on an exclusive discussion board; and equip themselves through access to resources designed to help students prepare for their future as well as information about other NASA competitions/opportunities.

Applications for the OLC can be found on the INSPIRE website.

Click here or more information on the INSPIRE project.

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page.