Saturday, August 16, 2014

Sally Ride EarthKAM Mission: Students See World From ISS

A view of the Sally Ride EarthKAM hardware set-up for use in the Lab Window Observation Research Facility (WORF) aboard the International Space Station. 

Image Credit: NASA

NASA is helping students examine their home planet from space without ever leaving the ground, giving them a global perspective by going beyond a map attached to a sphere on a pedestal.

The Sally Ride Earth Knowledge Acquired by Middle School Students (Sally Ride EarthKAM) program provides a unique educational opportunity for thousands of students multiple times a year.

EarthKAM is an international award-winning education program, allowing students to photograph and analyze our planet from the perspective of the International Space Station.

A Canadian student from Good Shepherd School in Peace River, Alberta, studies orbital paths of the International Space Station.

Image Credit: NASA

Using the Internet, students control a special digital camera on the orbiting laboratory to photograph Earth's coastlines, mountain ranges and other interesting geographical topography.

The camera has been aboard the orbiting outpost since the first space station expedition began in November 2000 and supports approximately four missions annually.

Schools around the world are lining up to participate in the program, which is growing by leaps and bounds.

The most recent mission, July 15-19, set summertime records, drawing nearly 36,000 students from 562 schools and summer programs in 34 countries across six continents.

Mission organizers believe they may set more participation records when the fall session begins Sept. 29.

EarthKAM officials have scheduled two new sessions that are set to begin in the next few months. Interested teachers or students can still sign up at the EarthKAM website.

"This program will help our students become more scientifically literate," said Annie Bourque, a teacher with Barnstead Elementary School in New Hampshire, one of the hundreds of schools that signed up for the recent summer mission.

"We want them to understand how new technology can help design tools to improve our ability to measure and observe our world. Real, current photographs of the Earth are powerful learning tools, especially when the students have a hand in creating them."

"The goal of the investigation is to cast the net wide and encourage all students to take advantage of this great opportunity from the space station," said Cindy Evans, Ph.D., International Space Station associate program scientist for Earth Observations at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

"It is also a great way for future scientists and engineers to explore the many aspects of spaceflight."

The outreach program staff is made up of a group of students attending the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), who have been accepted into the EarthKAM Voluntary Internship Program.

They operate as flight controllers, giving them training and inspiration for the next generation of space engineers.

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