Volume 5, Number 2 March/April 1997
ASA IS BRINGING THE FRONTIERS OF SPACE EXPLORATION to students in 15 U.S. middle school classrooms via the World Wide Web. KidSat is a three-year pilot education program that uses an electronic still camera aboard the Space Shuttle. The program, a partnership among the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) and Johns Hopkins University Institute for the Advancement of Youth, was launched with Atlantis earlier this year for the second time.
KidSat's mission operations center at UCSD is staffed with undergraduate and high school students during the Shuttle mission. The center is modeled after Mission Control at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC). The students receive telemetry from the Shuttle on their computer monitors and can listen to and receive instructions from NASA's flight controllers over direct channels to JSC.
The KidSat mission operations team monitors the Shuttle's progress continuously, providing up-to-date information to the middle school students who use the Internet to request photographs of specific regions of the Earth. When the image requests have been verified by KidSat mission operations, they are compiled into a single-camera control file and forwarded electronically to the KidSat representatives at JSC. They pass this file on to the flight controllers, who uplink it to an IBM Thinkpad connected to the KidSat camera. Software on the Thinkpad, developed by students working at JPL, uses these commands to control the camera.
Once taken, the photographs are sent to the KidSat Data System at JPL, staffed by high school students during the mission, and posted on the World Wide Web for the students to study and analyze. The Institute for the Advancement of Youth and UCSD are developing the curriculum for the middle school students and teachers.
Some of the topics the students explored during the first KidSat mission were weather, biomes, the relationship between history and geography and the patterns of rivers on the landscape. Students also could search for impact craters and study the relationships of center pivot irrigation fields with available water supply.
Images and student results are posted on the KidSat home page. Interested public school districts, teachers and students may view the images and information provided by students during and after the mission via this World Wide Web site: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/kidsat
The KidSat pilot program is sponsored by NASA's Office of Human Resources and Education with support from the Offices of Space Flight, Mission to Planet Earth and Space Science.
For more information, contact Dr. JoBea Way at Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
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