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NASA, U.S. Chess Federation to Begin Earth vs. Space Match
Earth vs. Space

Expedition 17 Flight Engineer Greg Chamitoff aboard the International Space Station will begin a game of chess against the earthbound public on Sept. 29. Photo Credit: NASA

It will be the Earth vs. space in a unique chess match, and you can help Earth win.

NASA and the U.S. Chess Federation (USCF) are teaming up to host the first public chess match between astronaut Greg Chamitoff, in orbit aboard the International Space Station, and the public. Key players in the game, set to begin on Monday, Sept. 29, will be the kindergarten through third grade U.S. Chess Championship Team and its chess club teammates from Stevenson Elementary School in Bellevue, Wash.

The K-3 champions will select up to four possible moves each time it is Earth's turn, and then the public will vote on which move will be made. NASA will transmit the winning move to Chamitoff, who will respond. The USCF will facilitate the match on its web site at:


"For the past 10 years, the International Space Station has been an important platform to learn about living in space. We're excited to have the opportunity to engage not only young students, but the public at large in this unique chess match," said Heather Rarick, lead flight director for the current space station mission at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

"We hope the excitement and interest this game generates will inspire students to become interested in chess," said USCF Executive Director Bill Hall. "Chess is a valuable tool to lead students to become interested in math and to develop critical thinking skills, objectives we focus on in our work with schools nationwide."

Chamitoff, a station flight engineer now speeding around the Earth at five miles a second, is a chess aficionado who brought a chess set with him when he arrived at the complex on the STS-124 space shuttle mission in June. Chamitoff has added Velcro to the chess pieces to keep them from floating away in weightlessness.

With him on the station for Expedition 17 are Commander Sergei Volkov and Flight Engineer Oleg Kononenko. Chamitoff is set to return home on a shuttle mission in November. Aboard the station, the crew is supported by control centers at sites around the world -- in the United States, Moscow, Japan, Germany, France and Canada. Chamitoff has been playing long-distance chess in his off time with those control centers during his mission. So far, he is undefeated.

The game against the public will move at a pace of one move per day on weekdays only. Play may be slower, however, because Chamitoff only makes moves when his workload permits. Whenever Chamitoff responds, the Earth will respond after the public votes.

The USCF, established in 1939, is the governing body for chess in the U.S. and is dedicated to extending the role of chess in American society. It promotes the study and knowledge of the game for its own sake and as a useful tool in the classroom for developing critical thinking and social skills.

For more information about the USCF, visit: