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Jan. 29, 2002

John Bluck

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

Phone: 650/604-5026 or 604-9000

E-mail: jbluck@mail.arc.nasa.gov


Julie Howell

Space Foundation, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Phone: 719/576-8000, extension 103

E-mail: julie@spacefoundation.org


RELEASE 02-09AR

NOTE TO EDITORS AND NEWS DIRECTORS: Reporters are invited to attend the Space Foundation’s ‘Space in the Classroom’ conference Feb. 1 at the Golden State Museum in Sacramento, Calif., to learn about a new NASA website on which students can search for a fictional, habitable planet. This website will be described by Christina O'Guinn of NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. Her presentations on Feb. 1 will be from 9:15 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and from 10:45 a.m. to noon PST. The conference will be held from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST on Feb. 1 and from 7 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. PST on Feb. 2. The Golden State Museum is one block south of the state capital building at 10th and O Streets. Please bring press credentials to gain admittance.

STUDENTS CAN ‘SEARCH’ FOR A HABITABLE PLANET ON NEW NASA WEBSITE

Searching for a fictional planet on which people could live is one of the student activities available on a new NASA website that will open for business on Feb.1 at: http://astroventure.arc.nasa.gov

‘Astro ferret,’ a cartoon character, will guide students through a series of role-playing steps on the multi-media, interactive website. Young people using the 'Astro-venture' website can observe the effects of changes to the Earth and draw conclusions about what is needed for survival. Participants can ‘feel’ that they are part of an Internet world by receiving information seamlessly, through use of graphics, audio, video and audio transcriptions.

"Students in grades 5-8 are transported to the future where they role-play NASA occupations and use scientific inquiry, as they search for and eventually build a planet with the necessary characteristics for human habitation," said Christina O'Guinn of the educational technology team at NASA Ames Research Center, in California's Silicon Valley. "Supporting activities include Internet webcasts with real NASA scientists, online collaborations, classroom lessons, a student publishing area and occupation-related fact sheets and trading cards."

Webcasts enable students to watch live video, listen to audio and interact in real-time on the Internet with experts. The webcasts' URL is: http://quest.nasa.gov/astrobiology/astroventure/2002/index.html

Two one-hour Astro-venture webcasts will take place in April. The first, 'Habitable Planets,' will be on April 2 at 10 a.m. PST. The second, 'Doppler Shift,' will take place on April 9 at 10 a.m. PDT.

"Our goal is to inspire students to pursue science, math and technology careers by engaging them in an extremely compelling topic, astrobiology, in a way that is very relevant to them, focusing on Earth and human survival," said Donald James, education director at NASA Ames. Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution and destiny of life in the universe. "Research shows that it is crucial to capture students' interest in science before they reach high school," he said.

O'Guinn will describe the ‘Astro-venture’ website to as many as 150 teachers who will be attending a ‘Space in the Classroom’ conference Feb. 1 - 2 at the Golden State Museum in Sacramento, Calif.

The conference, for K-12 educators, is sponsored by the California Space Authority and will be hosted by the Space Foundation of Colorado Springs, Colo. More information about the conference can be found at: http://www.spacefoundation.org/sitc

The astronomy section of NASA’s new website zeros in on our solar system’s astronomical characteristics that make it livable to human beings.

"Students test cause-and-effect relationships to discover the characteristics that allow Earth to remain habitable. Students also will explore hands-on, inquiry-based lessons on states of matter and systems and then complete a mission in which they simulate the process scientists might use to find a planet that would be habitable to humans," said O’Guinn.

Students can participate in the NASA-sponsored Astro-venture Internet events without pre-registering. There is no charge.

The Astro-venture lessons meet national education standards and provide a purpose for understanding concepts such as states of matter. "Since we need liquid water to survive, we need to understand how liquid water is different from solid and gas and what conditions allow for water to be a liquid," O’Guinn explained. The website also highlights NASA careers and astrobiology research in astronomy, geology, biology and atmospheric sciences.

According to web team members, they are developing the website to meet educational standards, research-based instructional methods and the constraints of today's classrooms. The team includes instructional designers, graphic artists, multimedia programmers and web developers who work with NASA scientists, including some astrobiologists and their support personnel from the NASA Astrobiology Institute, which is headquartered, at NASA Ames.

Astrobiologists at NASA Ames are studying the organic chemistry of space, the formation of planetary systems, and the early history of the Earth, one NASA astrobiologist explained. These scientists investigate the origin of life and explore the most extreme environments that support life, from boiling hot springs to cold Antarctic rocks. Astrobiologists analyze martian meteorites for possible fossil evidence of life and carry out experiments in evolutionary biology using space shuttle flights.

"NASA Ames also is beginning a collaboration with California State University, Hayward, educational technology graduate students who are rapid-prototyping other modules and curriculum," O’Guinn said.

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