Shoot for the Moon!
Artist's rendering of the LCROSS spacecraft and Centaur separation

Initial results indicate LCROSS found evidence of water ice near the moon's south pole. Image Credit: NASA
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LCROSS was designed to make an impact. And that it did, in several ways.

The Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite mission consisted of two parts -- a Centaur rocket upper stage and the Shepherding Spacecraft. Both components made a literal impact on Oct. 9, 2009, when they struck a crater near the south pole of the moon.

When they did, LCROSS made an impact on science and the future of space exploration. Based on the data from the LCROSS mission, scientists believe that water ice is present on the moon. This, in turn, could have a huge impact on future lunar missions.

But LCROSS had an impact in yet another way -- on students around the world. Schools and other organizations held events to use the LCROSS mission to inspire student interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Among them were schools that have participated in the NASA Explorer Schools project, a NASA effort to use agency resources to partner with educators in teaching STEM disciplines. The NES project supports NASA's goal of attracting and retaining students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

One of those schools was North Ridge Magnet School in Moreno Valley, Calif. The school has a club associated with the Goldstone Apple Valley Radio Telescope. The GAVRT observatory is a partnership involving NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and The Lewis Center for Educational Research in Apple Valley, Calif., that provides educational opportunities for teachers and students.

A student reviews data on computer screens

North Ridge students used a radio telescope to track the LCROSS mission. Image Credit: NASA
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Prior to the LCROSS impact, 25 elementary school students at North Ridge participated in radio telescope runs to track the LCROSS spacecraft. Working with GAVRT technicians, the students calibrated the telescope and found and tracked LCROSS. They used the data they collected to compute the spacecraft's speed and its distance from Earth. The staff at GAVRT told the students more about the LCROSS mission and its objectives.

"Being in this program helped me realize how cool space is," said Nick, one of the North Ridge students. "I know now it is important to find water on the moon because we can travel beyond where we have been so far."

Said another student, Alexandra: "Tracking LCROSS was a life-changing experience because it made me enjoy math and science even more. If we could continue doing these missions in sixth-grade, I would want to study the spacecraft more."

"It has been an awesome experience working with all the teachers and scientists while learning about these exciting missions," said Jocelyn, another North Ridge student. "The LCROSS mission was exciting because I got to learn more about the moon and the spacecraft going to the moon."

Of course, not every school has access to a handy neighborhood radio telescope, and Jacox Elementary School in Norfolk, Va., was among the many schools that planned exciting and educational activities without one.

Kashiri holds a small shuttle near a globe as students watch

Rudo Kashiri talked with students and their families about the scale of the Earth-moon system. Image Credit: NASA
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Students and their families were invited to a NASA Night at the school earlier in the week of the LCROSS impact. Families worked together on a variety of activities -- from creating scale models of Earth and the moon to solving a scenario about a malfunctioning platform on the moon.

Rudo Kashiri, an education official from NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., attended the event. Kashiri led students and parents in activities and explained more about NASA and the LCROSS mission.

Jacox officials made an immediate connection between the LCROSS mission and education. At the event, students learned more about the school's upcoming science fair. "I made the connection with parents and kids that reaching NASA is an achievable goal, and that it starts with school science fair projects," said Jacox teacher Katie Boyd.

LCROSS made an impact on the lunar surface, and, thanks to schools like North Ridge and Jacox, it also made an impact on students who may someday explore other worlds.

Related Resources
NASA Education
NASA Explorer Schools   →

David Hitt/NASA Educational Technology Services