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Mom, Dad, It's Not a Joke, I'm Working a NASA Mission to the Moon
06.15.08
 
College applications sometimes have outrageous embellishments about a student's accomplishments, but wait until college application reviewers hear from students who participated in the Goldstone Apple Valley Radio Telescope (GAVRT) program:

Accomplishments
• Tracked and collected telemetry from NASA's Lunar CRater Observing and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) during its transit to the moon and provided data to the LCROSS mission operations team.

Students working in the GAVRT control roomImage above: Students work in the GAVRT mission control room. Click image to enlarge Credit: Lewis Center for Educational Research.

Sounds like a big exaggeration but it's not. GAVRT students will soon be contributing to an actual NASA space mission by helping supplement spacecraft telemetry data received by the LCROSS mission operations team, as LCROSS makes a series of looping orbits around the Earth before impacting the lunar surface. They will not simply be watching a simulation or looking over the shoulder of teachers or scientists but instead will serve as real members of a secondary telemetry team that will be controlling a huge, 34-meter radio-antenna to gather and interpret data that will be reported back to LCROSS mission operations.

Goldstone 34 meter radio telescopeImage above: Goldstone 34 meter radio telescope. Click image to enlarge Credit: Brian Day. With a multitude of spacecraft and celestial objects being tracked by the Deep Space Network, the LCROSS mission potentially could benefit from the additional coverage provided by the GAVRT students. The student telemetry team will be able to listen to the spacecraft for a longer period of time since the Lewis Center for Educational Research, Apple Valley, Calif., the parent organization of GAVRT, controls the dish that is dedicated for use by the students. If the students detect a problem with the spacecraft, they can alert the LCROSS mission team.

"Being a part of the LCROSS Mission is something I will never forget. When I look back at my time in high school after graduation, the LCROSS mission will certainly be one of the biggest highlights," said Chase Bains, an eleventh grade student in the GAVRT program. "Participating in American's return to the moon is something I would have never imagined experiencing. I am eternally grateful to NASA, the Lewis Center for Educational Research, and GAVRT for giving me such a unique opportunity," he concluded.

Student working in the GAVRT control roomImage above: Student Chase Bains in the GAVRT mission control room. Click image to enlarge Credit: Lewis Center for Educational Research. LCROSS is a secondary payload that will launch with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) at the end of 2008. LRO will make detailed maps of the moon's surface and LCROSS will search for water ice in a permanently shadowed crater on one of the lunar poles.

With NASA placing major emphasis on participatory exploration, members of NASA Ames Education team are working with staff at the Lewis Center and Northrop Grumman Space Technology, NASA's spacecraft partner for LCROSS in Redondo Beach, Calif., to prepare students to participate in and support the LCROSS mission. Participatory exploration is the concept in which students become active participants in NASA missions instead of being passive recipients of information.

“Participatory exploration has been demonstrated to increase student engagement and make these NASA missions more relevant," said Brian Day, education and public outreach lead for LCROSS. "We are excited that the LCROSS Student Telemetry Team project has the potential to provide more than one thousand students the opportunity to be contributing members of NASA's return to the moon."

Ames education specialist works with GAVRT teacherImage above: Alicia Baturoni , Ames education specialist works with a GAVRT teacher. Click image to enlarge Credit: Brian Day. In preparation for this incredible opportunity, managers at GAVRT successfully tracked and received the carrier signal from spacecraft A of NASA's Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory (STEREO) mission. STEREO A and its twin, STEREO B, are studying activity on the sun's surface. The test verifies that the GAVRT system will able to track LCROSS.

Goldstone Apple Valley Radio Telescope program is a partnership between NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and the Lewis Center for Educational Research. The program connects K-12 student teams with the scientific community to facilitate student discovery.

For more information about the Lewis Center for Education Research, visit:
http://www.lewiscenter.org/
For more information about the Goldstone Apple Valley Radio Telescope Program, visit:
http://www.lewiscenter.org/gavrt/
 
 
Jonas Dino
NASA Ames Research Center