For Release: Oct. 15, 1996
NASA Langley (757) 864-6121
York County Schools (757) 898-0391
Newport News Schools (757) 591-4507
RELEASE NO. 96-169
Local Schools To Take Part in NASA Mission
KidSat PROGRAM PUTS SHUTTLE CAMERA IN STUDENTS
Two Hampton Roads middle schools will take part in a NASA
mission in which students using the Internet can call down photos
shot by the Space Shuttle Atlantis as it orbits Earth in a flight
planned for January.
The Crittenden Middle School in Newport News and the Yorktown
Middle School in York County have been selected to participate in
the KidSat program, which involves 15 schools around the country
that are near agency field centers.
"It's an exciting way to learn, because KidSat combines
classroom work with an actual NASA mission in real time," said Dr.
Shelley Canright, precollege officer at NASA Langley Research
Center in Hampton, Va.
"Students will choose a subject they want to study, such as rain
forest burning or river pollution, and analyze shuttle photos of
that region as part of their research," said Canright, who is
coordinating the project with the Hampton Roads schools.
Students already are setting up Student Mission Operations
Centers that will be linked with STS-81, the 81st shuttle flight.
The nine-day mission is scheduled for launch Jan. 12 from NASA
Kennedy Space Center in Florida and will include a docking with the
Russian space station Mir.
KidSat's primary objective is to give middle school students a
chance to observe Earth from space while conducting scientific
inquiries based on their classroom studies. NASA is providing $1
million annually to the three-year pilot project. The project is
run by the University of California-San Diego, the Johns Hopkins
University Institute for the Academic Advancement of Youth in
Baltimore and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
The hope is that the program will inspire children to pursue
careers in math, engineering, science and liberal arts. Engineers
are expected to be in particular demand, with a predicted
26-percent increase in the need for professionals in that field by
Students will receive preliminary mission information about
three months before launch. Using that information and a special
curriculum provided by program sponsors, students will perform the
mission planning needed to prepare photo requests.
The images will be taken by a KidSat camera in the Atlantis crew
cabin and made available only if students correctly follow mission
protocols and issue the proper commands over the Internet.
Student planning involves determining the longitude and latitude
of the area they want photographed, as well as the exact time the
shuttle flies over it. Before and during the mission, evaluations,
verifications, orbital updates, weather information and other data
will be provided to the students over the Internet. The information
will help students not only plan their project but adjust to the
changes that inevitably occur in shuttle missions.
Commanding the camera
During the shuttle flight, students' image requests for each
orbit segment will be compiled into a single camera control file
and uplinked to a laptop computer on the spacecraft. The computer
will be connected to a digital camera, which automatically will be
command by the laptop to snap the photos at times predetermined by
students. After the images are taken, they will be downlinked and
sent to students over the Internet.
Each step in the process is critical, because without the proper
protocols NASA will not allow the uplink or downlink of the control
file. The students will not be given special privileges and must
meet NASA's mission operations standards.
STS-81 is the second KidSat mission. The first, in March 1996,
involved one middle school in South Carolina and two in California.
In that mission, STS-76, the Space Shuttle Atlantis took more than
300 photos over 10 days. Teachers should note that space in the
KidSat program is extremely limited and that various technical
requirements must be met before a school can be considered for
participation in the program.
Note to editors: Photos and a fact sheet are available
from either NASA Langley or the schools.
- end -
text-only version of this release