One of Our Kind, Under Water

What a great time to be a teacher! In our last post, we highlighted
educator-turned-astronaut Joe Acaba, Astronaut Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger poses beside a T-38 jet trainerwho is orbiting Earth aboard the International Space Station. A teacher-turned-aquanaut just completed a mission under the waters of the Florida Keys. 

Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger taught high school science in
Washington state for five years. In 2003, she applied for NASA’s Educator Astronaut Program. NASA selected her to be an astronaut candidate in 2004, and she finished astronaut training in 2006.
She flew on the16-day space shuttle mission STS-131 in 2010. Dottie recently spent 12 days as commander of NEEMO 16 at Aquarius — the world’s only undersea research station.  Aquarius is owned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, and is located 3.5 miles off Key Largo, 62 feet below the surface next to a deep coral reef.

NASA uses Aquarius for the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations project. The NEEMO crew members, called aquanauts, are able to simulate living in a harsh environment such as explorers might encounter on an asteroid, moon or distant planet. As commander of NEEMO 16, Dottie led her crew in accomplishing the mission goals and also performing experiments that students and teachers could follow.

The NEEMO 16 crew's underwater portrait

You and your students can use videos of Dottie from her space shuttle mission to build a podcast about microgravity. The DIY Podcast Micro-g module features Dottie in videos 42-v Micro-g, 44-v Micro-g, and 45-v Micro-g.


DIY Podcast: Micro-g

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Get Involved: Spaced Out Sports

Space + sports = fun. Yes, I am a former math teacher, and I remember what adds up to engaged learning — start with two subjects that most students enjoy.

Hypothesis: Combining the wonder of space and NASA with the thrill of sports will motivate students for greater learning success.

And now the science teacher in me comes out.

Whether you take the mathematical approach or use the scientific method, NASA’s Spaced Out Sports design challenge can get the ball rolling. Okay, I’ll stop.

Students design a game for astronauts to play on the space station.

Students apply Newton’s Laws of Motion to design or redesign a game that astronauts on the International Space Station can play.

The competition is open to students in grades 5-8. Student teams will submit game demonstrations via a playbook and a video. Submissions will be accepted from schools, home school groups, and after-school or enrichment programs.

Watch the video of last year’s winners.

Use the DIY Podcast videos to jump-start students’ ideas and to find background information about Newton’s laws and microgravity.

•    DIY Podcast: Micro-g
•    DIY Podcast: Newton’s Laws
•    DIY Podcast: Sports Demo

DIY Podcast videos
•    Tightrope walking in microgravity
•    Microgravity baseball
•    Football on the station

The deadline for Spaced Out Sports submissions is March 16, 2012.
For details, visit the Spaced Out Sports website.

Teachers, let the games begin!

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New Don Pettit Experiments

During his tour as the science officer of Expedition 6, astronaut Don Pettit spent some of his Saturday mornings conducting a series of scientific experiments. He videotaped some of the experiments and downlinked them to the Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Pettit’s “Saturday Morning Science” experiments were conducted using ordinary items on the International Space Station. Pettit recently returned to the station as a flight engineer for Expedition 30. And again he is experimenting with everyday objects in microgravity.

White knitting needle with drops of water on it and a drop of water floating near


Don Pettit experimented with charged knitting needles and drops of water.
The drops orbited the needles before adhering to them.

NASA and the American Physical Society have begun a partnership to share videos from the space station with science fans around the world. The program is called “Science off the Sphere.” Each episode will end with a question for viewers. APS will review the responses and identify a winner. Pettit will recognize the winner in a later episode.

DIY Podcast Micro-g module

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Resources for Teaching Microgravity

Although the name implies that it’s small, microgravity is a big deal to NASA. Microgravity is the environment of near weightlessness that astronauts experience as they’re orbiting Earth. The study of microgravity opens the door to research possibilities and discoveries as well as to planning for future long distance, long duration exploration.

NASA Education has resources to help students learn about microgravity that will in turn prepare them to build better podcast episodes with the Micro-g DIY Podcast module.

The Microgravity Education website is loaded with lesson plans, articles and videos about microgravity. A page of opportunities announces contests and microgravity-related events in which students and teachers may participate.

“Free Fall Ball” is an interactive game on the Microgravity Education site.

The site’s interactive Free Fall Ball game is a fun feature. Shoot baskets in normal gravity and in no gravity to see if you have the skills to play anywhere in the universe

DIY Podcast Micro-g module

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Saturday Morning Science

One of the most interesting things about life on the space station — besides floating, and being in space, and observing Earth from above — is seeing how everyday things respond to microgravity. (Okay, I’m saying this as someone who has only wished to go into space, but I’m taking my best guess based on what I’ve seen and heard.)

From November 2002 to May 2003, Don Pettit, who holds a doctorate in chemical engineering, spent 161 days on the International Space Station as Expedition 6 NASA ISS Science Officer. During Pettit’s time off on Saturday mornings, he conducted spontaneous experiments in microgravity with everyday items. He recorded the experiments on video and called them Saturday Morning Science.

Water with drops of color suspended in a wire loop
Water is being held in place by a metal loop to demonstrate
surface tension in microgravity.

Pettit performed experiments with large spheres of water, soap bubbles, antacid tablets and other items on the station. Microgravity had interesting effects on those simple items. You can watch some of the experiments on these sites:

We have made some of Pettit’s clips available in the DIY Podcast Micro-g module. Students may want to perform and film some of these simple experiments to add a comparison of their 1-g experiments to Pettit’s micro-gexperiments to their podcast episode.

Students may want to use some of the photographs of Pettit’s experiment. The photos begin on this page.

Pettit returned to the station on Dec. 23, 2011 as a crew member for International Space Station Expeditions 30 and 31. You can check the NASA website to find out what he’s doing on the station this time.

DIY Podcast Micro-g module

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Micro-g — One of the Best Modules Yet

Our newest DIY Podcast module is one of the best yet — IMHO — in my humble opinion.

With the Micro-g module, you and your students can build podcast episodes about the fun part of space exploration — microgravity.

Water sphere floats with colored candies and the symbol for microgravity inside it

Fifty-five video clips are in this module. Nancy Hall, a NASA engineer for space station research, explains microgravity and NASA’s interest in using microgravity research.

Mike Fincke has firsthand experience with microgravity — more than just a little. As an astronaut, he has spent more time in space than any other U.S. citizen. Fincke has logged 381 days, 15 hours and 11 minutes in orbit. He was a space station science officer and flight engineer for Expedition 9 on the International Space Station in 2004. In October 2008, he returned to the station as the commander of Expedition 18. His most recent mission in orbit (and in microgravity) was space shuttle mission STS-134 in 2011. In the videos, Fincke shares his experiences in microgravity.

Expedition 20 and 21 flight engineers Nicole Stott and Bob Thirsk discuss microgravity from the station.

Besides those interviews, we have fun B-roll — you know, that extra background footage like they use on the news. This footage includes astronauts enjoying free fall by doing things you can’t do on Earth. Footage also shows the behavior of liquids in microgravity. You can use footage of NASA’s microgravity platforms that show how NASA creates microgravity on Earth — reduced-gravity aircraft, the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory and drop towers.

Start previewing and downloading now. Students are sure to have fun with this module.


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You in Microgravity

For years, doctors have been writing books with word “You” in the title. Well, how about telling your own story: You in Microgravity?

NASA does not run short on the cool factor. And here’s another cool way for teachers to get involved. When you’re not planning lessons to meet education standards, teaching those lessons, or grading students’ work, along with all of the other things you do, you might consider proposing an experiment that could be conducted in microgravity.

The Teaching From Space Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas has announced an opportunity for K-12 teachers to propose an experiment that could be conducted on a reduced-gravity aircraft. The aircraft will fly approximately 30 roller-coaster-like climbs and dips to produce periods of microgravity and hypergravity, ranging from 0 g’s to 2 g’s. You are invited to submit a proposal for an experiment that you and a team of your colleagues could perform in reduced gravity.

The DIY Podcast connection is this: Your students are building a podcast using one of the modules filmed on the International Space Station. They have seen examples of experiments conducted in microgravity but still have questions. If you had been selected to fly your experiment on the microgravity aircraft, you could give them a firsthand account of the experience. Design an experiment with your students. If you are selected to fly, they could use video footage from your experiment in their podcast.

Ideas for experiment should include a variable that is affected by gravity. Look at the Sports Demo module for some examples. Maybe there is an experiment that students would like to see that demonstrates one of the laws of physics.

Visit the Microgravity University website for more information or send an email to Your team’s proposal must be submitted by Sept. 21, 2011.

For more ideas, read these articles and watch these videos:

The Ups and Downs of Liquid Density
The Ups and Downs of Water Droplets
The Ups and Downs of Convection
Toys in Space Mission 5 Buzz Lightyear To Infinity and Beyond! Games
Buzz Lightyear Toys in Space Activity
Toys in Space

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New NASA Student Homework Helper on Microgravity

NASA Education has published a new Homework Topics article about microgravity that might be helpful when your students are using the DIY Podcast to write scripts for their production. “What is Microgravity?” will give students a better understanding of why a little gravity is a big deal. The article also points to a new gallery of microgravity images that students can use in their podcasts.

The effect of microgravity is a common theme in DIY Podcast topic modules that feature astronauts demonstrating activities on the space shuttle and the International Space Station. In the Sports Demo module, for example, astronaut Clayton Anderson discusses how microgravity would affect games such as baseball, basketball and football. In the Newton’s Laws module, astronaut Dan Tani demonstrates how motion is different in a microgravity environment.

What Is Microgravity? Grades 5-8
Fun in Microgravity Picture Gallery
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