Coming to Your Neighborhood

It’s cool to watch the International Space Station fly overhead. The problem is you have to remember to check the sighting opportunities page to know when and if the station will be flying over your location.

Smartphones and tablet computers have apps that send alerts for station flyovers. The International Space Station above EarthBut what if you don’t have either?

Spot the Station to the rescue!

A new service that was announced on Nov. 2, the 12th anniversary of a human presence on the space station, alerts subscribers to station-sighting opportunities. Alerts are sent as an email or as a text message hours before the station flies over the subscriber’s neighborhood. Only flyovers that are high enough in the sky and last long enough to view are announced in the alert.

You and your students may sign up to have alerts sent to your phone or email. You may also want to create a multimedia project using one of our space-station-related DIY Podcast modules:

•    Space Station
•    Recycling
•    Micro-g
•    Fitness
•    Lab Safety
•    Solar Arrays
•    Sports Demo

The last week of November and the first week of December will offer good sighting opportunities in many locations.

Spot the Station

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Watch a Live Downlink

Tune in to NASA TV on Nov. 15 at 11:35 a.m. EST to see students involved in the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program talk live with astronauts Suni Williams and Kevin Ford who are on the International Space Station. Expedition 33 mission patch

SSEP is an educational research opportunity that allows students to design and send experiments to the space station through a partnership with NanoRacks, LLC. Williams has been involved in activating the latest round of SSEP experiments brought up on the Dragon spacecraft in early October.

The downlink, hosted at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., takes place during International Education Week. IEW is a joint initiative between the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education that celebrates the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide. Deputy Secretary of Education Tony Miller, NASM Director General Jack Dailey, Smithsonian Institute Assistant Secretary for Education and Access Claudine Brown, and the NASA Associate Administrator for Education Leland Melvin will participate in the program.

Watch the downlink; then build a multimedia project with the Do-It-Yourself Podcast module Space Station.


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One of Our Kind in Space

Teachers dedicate their lives to the next generation. As a middle school teacher, I remember doing just about anything to teach a great lesson.

Astronaut Joe Acaba was/is a middle and high school teacher. (Aren’t we always teachers, even after we step out of the classroom?) Joe taught science and math, but now he’s on the International Space Station. He became an astronaut in 2004. He has visited the station before as a mission specialist on space shuttle mission STS-119. This time he’s going to live and work on the station for several months as a flight engineer for Expeditions 31 and 32.

Alt tag: Astronaut Joe Acaba, ready for a spacewalk, wears a white spacesuit

Because he’s a teacher-turned-astronaut, education is in his blood. Visit the Teach Station website to learn about upcoming education opportunities. Don’t forget to follow Joe on Twitter and read his blog, The Great Outer Space.

Students may want to incorporate Joe’s visit to the space station into their podcast episodes using the Space Station module.

Now is a good time to learn about the International Space Station, while a teacher is on board.

 Expedition 31 crew poster with Robonaut 2   Expedition 32 crew poster

Teach Station

Expedition 31 

DIY Podcast: Space Station

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All Things Station

The International Space Station is massive. And NASA has a massive amount of Web pages about the station. How can you cut through the technical data and focus on the educational aspects of the station so students can benefit from the orbiting science laboratory?

The answer is the Teach Station website. The new site is the place to go for lessons, activities, opportunities, news and other educational resources related to the space station.

The Teach Station logo with a silhouette of the International Space Station


The site is one of many websites offered by the Teaching From Space Office. Teaching From Space offers experiences and resources not found anywhere else. Through the Teach Station site you can learn about Inflight Educational Downlinks. These downlinks put you in touch with astronauts aboard the International Space Station to answer questions related to your classroom studies.

Teach Station is the site to find resources for students as they’re building podcasts using the Space Station module. Teach Station has the who, what, when and where of International Space Station news.

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Seeing the Station

Remember in the movie “October Sky” when the family went outside and watched as the Russian Sputnik satellite flew overhead? It looked like a point of light moving across the sky. That had to be a cool and somewhat frightening experience. When the International Space Station flies over, it looks similar to what was shown in the movie. If the conditions are good, you and your students might be able to see the station flying across the night sky. Seeing the station makes it relevant and could make students more enthusiastic when they create a podcast episode using the Space Station DIY Podcast module.

NASA has a website that tells where and when the station will be flying over, the station’s location in the sky at that time, and the amount of time it will be visible. You and your students can figure out when it will be passing over your community.

Another NASA page shows the current location of the station on a world map. This page is fun because you can see when the station is in daylight or darkness.

Screenshot of the space station orbital tracking map


The Brain Bites video “How Can I See the Space Station?” shows how that tiny point of light will look as it flies overhead.

One evening as I was leaving work, the space station flew overhead. My co-worker pointed it out. I jumped out of my car and ran into our office through the back door. There were only a few people left in the building so I shouted, “The station is flying over,” and dashed out the front door because the station was flying over the building. My colleagues caught up with me outside. Believe it or not, some of us at NASA are geeks and still love to watch the station fly over.

When I was teaching, I would give my students the “assignment” of watching for the station. Eighth-graders can be as excited about seeing the station as some of us at NASA are.

My most exciting station sighting was in Florida during the launch of STS-131. The shuttle was on the launch pad for a 6:30 a.m. liftoff. It was still dark. At about 6:15 a.m., the station flew over in front of the moon. The experience couldn’t have been better if someone had planned it.

Look up and see the station as soon as you can. And, oh yes, there is an app for that. Search for apps for your smartphone or tablet computer, and you may find several versions of an app that will alert you when the station is flying over.

•    Station Sighting Opportunities
•    Station Tracking Map

DIY Podcast: Space Station

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If I Could Talk to the Astronauts

NASA discovers new worlds, builds better aircraft, sends probes to the end of the solar system, studies Earth, and launches humans into space. On top of all that, NASA has free opportunities for teacher and student involvement.

Another one of those opportunities is coming soon. NASA is accepting proposals from educational institutions that would like to host a videoconference with astronauts who are on board the International Space Station. The event is called an In-flight Education Downlink. During the downlink, students and astronauts have a 20-minute question-and-answer session as the astronauts orbit Earth. I like to call it the ultimate “ask-the-expert” experience.

The proposals, due June 1, 2012, will allow the selected institutions (schools, districts, museums, etc.) to downlink with the space station Expedition 33 and 34 crews. Astronauts Sunita Williams, Kevin Ford and Thomas Marshburn will answer students’ questions. Williams is returning to the station. She lived and worked on the station 195 days during her tour as flight engineer for Expeditions 14 and 15 from December 2006 to June 2007. She is featured in the DIY Podcast: Fitness module.

Watch astronauts Dan and Don talk to elementary school students
during a recent downlink.

Even before you submit a proposal, you and your students can participate in an interactive webcast with Williams. On May 2, 2012, from 9:30-10:30 a.m. EDT, Williams will discuss her past experiences with NASA and the science she’ll be performing during her next mission. The webcast is made available by NASA’s Digital Learning Network.

What kind of questions would your students ask if they could talk to the astronauts? Would they be motivated to learn more about science, technology, engineering or math? 

NASA’s Teaching From Space Office makes the In-flight Education Downlinks available. TFS will even help you plan your proposal with informal online sessions to answer your questions. As part of the application, you will need to explain your plan for post-downlink activities. How will you use the downlink experience to continue to motivate your students and the community? Consider including clips from the downlink in your DIY Podcast creations.

Don’t miss these chances to talk to NASA astronauts.

For more information, contact the Teaching From Space Office by email at or by phone at 281-244-7608.

Here are a few articles to help and inspire you. Good luck.

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    New DIY Podcast Topic Module: Space Station

    I could go on and on praising the International Space Station. You will probably recognize that when you see our newest DIY Podcast module — Space Station.

    Selecting photos for the image page was like deciding which of your family’s pictures to use in the photo album — you know they’re all cute. Well, maybe it’s not that bad, but I had some tough decisions to make when it came to excluding pictures and videos. They’re all good.

    I probably said this about the last module, but I’m excited about this one. The videos are informative and fun. The possibilities are nearly endless when it comes to ways for students to use the video, audio and images to create a podcast episode. The station is real-world science; it’s off the planet; and things float there. Exciting!

    The International Space Station orbiting Earth

    This module has video and audio clip interviews from two experts. Camille Alleyne is the assistant program scientist for the International Space Station. Mike Fincke currently holds the NASA record for most time in orbit.

    One of the many perks of my job is interviewing experts. I wanted to ask Ms. Alleyne questions all day. The more I listened the more impressed I was about the science taking place on the station. We have a lot of good things going on up there that are benefitting the world. I think I love the space station.

    Interviewing Colonel Fincke was just plain fun. You’ll see what I mean when you watch the clips. Fincke gives us the perspective only someone who has lived on the station could.

    We also have footage of astronaut Garrett Reisman giving a tour of the space station in 2008. This was before the station was finished, but you’ll get a glimpse of life aboard the station.

    We also have extra footage of the station. And because there is so much to learn about the station, we have added an extra page of links that students can use for more research.

    Beware of station overload!

    DIY Podcast: Space Station

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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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    Watch a Live Q & A Session From the Space Station

    Many of our current DIY Podcast modules feature astronauts on the International Space Station. To see firsthand what goes on there and to hear student questions to the crew, watch a live downlink.

    Four crew members float through the space station in four different directions.
    Expedition 28 flight engineer Ron Garan and other crew members
    float through the International Space Station.

    Tune in to NASA TV Monday, Aug. 29, at 12:35 p.m. CDT as the Museum of Flight hosts a live question and answer session between students and astronauts Ron Garan, Mike Fossum and Satoshi Furukawa. The museum currently offers a variety of activities that explore science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, and the space program. The museum seeks to use the downlink to bring these subjects alive and inspire the audience to pursue a variety of STEM activities. Students from Aviation High School, Puyallup High School, Civil Air Patrol, and Liberty High School will take part in this unique opportunity.


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    Another Opportunity . . . The Ultimate “Ask the Expert” Experience!

    You have another opportunity to speak with space station astronauts. The event is called an In-flight Education Downlink. During a downlink, students can interview astronauts and cosmonauts as they orbit Earth every 90 minutes. The format of the downlink is similar to that of a videoconference. This is the ultimate “ask the expert” experience.

    There is currently a call for proposals for an educational downlink with International Space Station Expeditions 29 and 30. These crews are scheduled to be aboard the station between September 2011 and March 2012. To be considered for an event, you must submit an application. NASA’s Teaching From Space Office is looking for organizations that will draw large numbers of participants and integrate the downlink into a well-developed education plan.

    Students stand in front of large screen showing astronauts on the space station

    As a part of your plan, you should explain how you currently use NASA materials in the classroom. Since this is a unique opportunity, you should consider inviting members of the community to attend the event.  Read an example of two teachers who planned a cross-country downlink event together. They also use DIY Podcast.

    Show your involvement with NASA by including how you use DIY Podcast. You might want to use the DIY Podcast topic modules to plan the types of questions you would like your students to ask. If you’ve been perusing the modules and wondered how something works in space, this would be a good time to ask. One key component of the application is to explain how you will use the downlink experience after the event.

    I’ve included some links below to articles and videos about downlinks. I hope these help inspire you to apply. Good luck.

    For more information, contact the Teaching From Space Office by email or by phone, 281-244-7608.

    The deadline to submit a proposal is April 29, 2011.

    In-flight Education Downlinks Home

    NASA Offers Schools and Education Groups Chance To Talk To Space

    Cady Talks With NYC Students at Women’s Academy of Excellence video

    D.C.Students Connect With Station Astronauts video

    Reaching for the Stars in NYC: NASA Holds Education Forum to Inspire the Next Generation of Explorers

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