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Jonas Dino
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
Phone: 650/604-5612 or 650/604-9000
E-mail: jonas.dino@nasa.gov

October 7, 2005
 
RELEASE : 05_52AR
 
 
NASA's Astro-Venture Helps Students Design Habitable Planets
 
 
If you could design your own planet, would it be habitable? Through NASA's Astro-Venture Web site, students can find out.

On Oct 1, 2005, the educational technology team at NASA Ames Research Center, located in California's Silicon Valley, added the eagerly awaited 'Design a Planet' and 'Biology Mission' modules to the Astro-Venture Web site. Asto-Venture is an interactive, multimedia-enhanced learning environment, in which students in grades 5 to 8 role-play NASA careers as they search for and design a planet habitable to humans.

"This multi-year project has developed a large following of teachers and students who have long been awaiting these final two multimedia modules," said Christina O'Guinn of the NASA Ames educational technology team. "This is now a complete interactive educational package that will engage students in the exciting topic of astrobiology."

In the 'Design a Planet' module, students can create their very own habitable planet by choosing from various planet and solar system characteristics such as star type, planet mass and the presence of active volcanoes and liquid water. Based on these characteristics, a planet is 'created' with feedback about whether it is habitable for humans, for extremophiles, or is uninhabitable. Extremophiles are microbes on Earth that live in extreme environments where humans and other animals could not survive, such as the hot springs in Yellowstone, or the ice in Antarctica.

After designing their planet, students and educators can submit their solutions and interact with astrobiologists through a one-hour NASA Quest Webcast on Nov. 17, 2005 at 11:00 a.m. PST. Funded by the NASA Astrobiology Institute at NASA Ames, scientists from the Virtual Planet Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., will answer student questions and show students how scientists are using computer modeling to search for habitable planets outside our solar system.

The Biology Mission module shifts the focus from the needs of humans, to the needs of other types of living creatures, allowing students to study organisms that serve as models in scientists' search for life elsewhere in the universe. The students join three NASA researchers as they study microbes that live in extreme environments such as the bottom of the ocean, within Antarctic ice, and in one of the world's highest lakes.

Astro-Venture highlights NASA careers and astrobiology research in the areas of astronomy, geology, biology and atmospheric sciences. Students play the roles of NASA scientists and researchers and use scientific inquiry to learn about the conditions that make human life on Earth possible and how to identify those conditions on other worlds.

Launched in early 2002, Astro-Venture has been updated with new modules and revised educator guides based on the results of a nationwide pilot test of 24 classrooms representing nearly 1,000 students. Now completed, Astro-Venture offers nine multimedia modules, four educator guides and more than 50 career fact sheets.

Astro-Venture is co-funded by the NASA Astrobiology Institute, the Virtual Planet Laboratory, the NASA Education Technology and Products Office and the NASA Explorer Schools Program.

For more information about Astro-Venture, visit:

http://astroventure.arc.nasa.gov/



For more information about educational products and NASA Quest challenges developed by the Ames educational technology team, visit:

http://quest.nasa.gov/



For more information about the NASA Astrobiology Institute at NASA Ames, visit:

http://astrobiology.arc.nasa.gov/



For more information about the Virtual Planetary Laboratory, visit:

http://vpl.ipac.caltech.edu/

 

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