For Release: Jan. 10, 1997
NASA Langley (757) 864-6121
York County Schools (757) 898-0391
Newport News Schools (757) 591-7453
RELEASE NO. 97-002a
Jan. 12 launch:
KIDSAT PROGRAM PUTS SHUTTLE CAMERA IN
Two Hampton Roads middle schools will participate in a NASA
shuttle mission that is scheduled for liftoff Sunday, Jan. 12, at
4:27 a.m. from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. During the 9-day
mission, students will use the Internet to call down photos shot by
the Space Shuttle Atlantis as it orbits Earth.
The Crittenden Middle School in Newport News and the Yorktown
Middle School in York County are taking part in the
(KidSat) program, which involves 15 schools around the
country that are near NASA field centers.
The KidSat camera will be activated aboard the shuttle on
Monday, Jan. 13.
Students have set up Student Mission Operations Centers linked
with STS-81, the 81st shuttle flight. The mission will include a
docking with the Russian space station Mir.
KidSats 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,
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
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 NASAs 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.
Note to editors: Photos and a fact sheet are available
from either NASA Langley or the schools. Or visit the KidSat
Shuttle launch updates are available by calling a recorded
message at Kennedy at (407) 867-2525.
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