Enthusiastic Crowd Enjoys 'Return to the Moon Family Night'
 
Students Will Contribute to NASA Lunar Mission by Tracking LCROSS Spacecraft

Patrons take their hand at controlling a remote control rover. The activity was sponsored by the NASA Robotics Alliance Project and the all-girl NASA Ames/Girl Scout FIRST Robotics team, the 'Space Cookies.'  Photo Credit:  NASA Ames Research Center / Eric James Moon enthusiasts of all ages view the fascinating features of the moon through one of the 25 telescopes set up by the local amateur astronomers for the event. Credit: Photo Credit: NASA Ames Research Center / Eric James
Apple Valley, CA – In an unprecedented scientific collaboration with a public school, the Lewis Center for Educational Research will team with NASA to lead students worldwide in tracking and monitoring a NASA lunar mission scheduled for launch in early 2009. The collaboration will provide a unique opportunity for students to become active participants in the NASA lunar mission, as the space agency looks to inspire the next generation of U.S. space explorers and scientists.

Thousands of moon enthusiasts of all ages gathered at NASA's Ames Research Center on Saturday, Sept. 6, 2008 to partake in NASA Ames’ second 'Return to the Moon Family Night.'

Approximately 4000 guests braved late afternoon temperatures that soared into the 90s to learn about NASA's plans to return to the moon, initially with robotic missions, then with humans and eventually establishing of a lunar outpost by the year 2020.

A steady stream of cars passed through the main gate from the beginning of the event at 3 p.m. PDT and continued into the evening as the event evolved into a moon-viewing party.

The next generation of explorer examines his possible future workplace. Photo Credit: NASA Ames Research Center / Eric James Moon enthusiasts of all ages view the fascinating features of the moon through one of the 25 telescopes set up by the local amateur astronomers for the event. Credit: Photo Credit: NASA Ames Research Center / Eric James
For the visitors, event organizers developed a comprehensive collection of space-themed presentations and displays, robotics demonstrations and hands-on activities that highlight the moon and NASA's Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS).

Evidence suggests that near the moon's poles, craters that have not seen sunlight in billions of years, may contain water ice. The LCROSS mission, launching in early 2009 will investigate one of these craters.

For those wanting to learn about the mission, key LCROSS personnel gave hourly presentations and representatives from Northrop Grumman, United Launch Alliance, Ecliptic Enterprises Corp. and the Lewis Center for Educational Research staffed information booths to discuss their roles in the mission.

In conjunction with the presentations, visitors were encouraged to make dirty snowballs to mimic a comet; constructed home-made spectrometers that split light into its component wavelengths; test their knowledge of the moon; or dance in front of the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) project’s infrared camera. Kids were especially fascinated with how the camera displayed different body temperatures from a red-hot forehead to a tongue cooled by a drink of water.

As anticipated, the event attracted large numbers of young children filled with curiosity. The event exhibitors were happy to respond to that curiosity with information about astronomy, math and science. These children are the right age to help carry out NASA’s exploration plans for the moon, Mars and beyond as the next generation of scientists and engineers.

The event also attracted large numbers of high school students that were interested in robotics. NASA’s Robotics Alliance Project sponsored booths that featured NASA sponsored FIRST Robotics teams and the chance to run micro rovers through a lunar obstacle course.

As darkness approached and temperatures cooled, lines formed behind the 25 large telescopes set-up to view the moon’s features. A network of local amateur astronomers eager to share their passion about space provided the telescopes for the event.

“Visitors waited in long lines to get a glimpse of our constant companion, the moon,” said Brian Day, one of the organizers of the event. “As an amateur astronomer, it is great to see in others the excitement that looking through a telescope brings.”

The second Return to the Moon Family Night was a success due to the participation countless exhibit personnel, volunteers and NASA personnel.

“I’m very thankful to all of the participant and visitors that helped make this event a success,” said Day. “It has been a very exciting, fun-filled night of exploration.”

Exhibitors included: Orion, SETI, United Launch Alliance, Northrop Grumman, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the Lewis Center for Education Research, the NASA Ames Small Spacecraft Office, the NASA Robotics Alliance Project, the SOFIA project, the NASA Ames Supercomputing Facility, the Planetary Society, Ecliptic Enterprises Corp., the NASA Lunar Sciences Institute and the Ames Education and Public Outreach team.