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Become Part of Space History: Individuals or Groups

NASA Exploration Design Challenge logo

Charting Your Journey to Mars!

School-age children will study the effects of radiation on astronauts and analyze different materials that simulate space radiation shielding. After completing activities guided by educators, parents, college students or volunteers, the young scientists will recommend materials that best block harmful radiation.

All students completing the challenge can join participants from around the world to celebrate the Exploration Flight Test-1 of Orion by having their names flown on board as virtual crew members. The deadline to submit student names for the virtual crew is June 30, 2014.

Get started. Follow the steps on this page to complete the challenge.

Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Register to Participate in the NASA Exploration Design Challenge

Register before beginning the NASA Exploration Design Challenge. Registration is easy and free.

Click on the registration link. You will be taken to a National Institute of Aerospace website to complete the process. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email, which includes a link to submit student names for the virtual crew upon completion of the challenge. Please keep this email until completion of the challenge.

Exit NASA to Register
›  Register for the NASA Exploration Design Challenge  →

Step 2: Introduce the Design Challenge

Use the following Scenario to introduce groups or individuals to the NASA Exploration Design Challenge.

When astronauts are traveling through space, the space vehicle provides protection from space debris, which usually can be seen, and space radiation, which cannot be seen.

Space debris includes both natural (meteoroid) and artificial (man-made) particles. Space radiation comes from the sun and sources outside the solar system. Space radiation is difficult to block and can damage human tissue. Spacecraft for long space exploration missions, traveling beyond low Earth orbit, must be built with materials that give the space explorer more protection from space radiation than what is currently provided.

NASA and Lockheed Martin are developing the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. Orion will carry the crew to space and protect them during space travel beyond low Earth orbit.

Encourage participants to ask questions about Orion and the challenges explorers will face traveling to Mars by viewing one or more of NASA's "Ask the Experts" videos found on the NASA Exploration Design Challenge website.

Step 3: Guide Young Scientists and Engineers

Use the "Challenge Checklist" to guide learners through the challenge. Additional resources necessary to complete the challenge are below.
› Materials List [75KB PDF file]
› Script [2MB PDF file]
› Presentation [4MB PDF file]
› Ray Shielding Activity

Step 4: Submit Names for the Virtual Flight Crew

A. After completing Steps 2 and 3, please submit participant names for the virtual crew using the link on your confirmation email. If you need to have the link re-sent to you, please send an email to nasaedc@nianet.org.

These names are added to a list of all participants in the NASA Exploration Design Challenge. The list of names will fly on the Exploration Flight Test-1 of Orion as virtual crew members. The virtual crew will be the only crew flying on Orion's inaugural mission. The names must be submitted by June 30, 2014, to join the virtual crew.

B. After submitting these names, download certificates recognizing participation in the NASA Exploration Design Challenge. Certificates for all participants are available, including adults, and may be duplicated.

Step 5: Extend Your Experience

A. Extend interest and engagement by returning to the NASA Exploration Design Challenge website to find new video segments, resource links, and press releases.

B. Additional activities in the Resources section may be completed to strengthen student understanding about radiation and the effects of radiation on humans. These activities include inquiry explorations, hands-on activities and interactive simulations. 

C. Be sure to follow the same safety guidelines used in classroom or laboratory settings.

Safety in the Educational Classroom and Laboratory

Safety is an important goal for all curricular areas of education. Safety issues are a special concern for STEM-based (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) activities and courses. Many national and state academic standards address the need for schools and subject areas to promote student development of knowledge and abilities in a safe learning environment.

It is the responsibility of the school's administration for providing a learning environment that is safe, up-to-date and supportive of learning. Additionally, teachers are responsible for their students' welfare in the classroom and laboratory.

Teachers must be knowledgeable and diligent in providing a safe learning environment. Students should receive safety instructions relevant to the topics being taught. Assessments must accompany the lessons on safety, and records must be kept on student results. The teacher must properly supervise students while they are working. The teacher must inspect and maintain equipment and tools to ensure they are in proper working condition. Parents should be informed about the subject in which their child is enrolled and should be educated about the safety plan that is being used. The teacher should develop a safety checklist to assure safe conditions exist and procedures are being followed in the classroom and laboratory.

Safety Rules:
Below are examples of safety rules that may be used. Teachers should develop their own safety rules to fit the needs of their classroom.

  1. Conduct yourself in a responsible and safe manner at all times.
  2. Follow all written and verbal instructions carefully. If you do not understand a procedure or how to use a tool, ask your teacher before proceeding.
  3. Keep your work area clean at all times.
  4. Use proper safety protection, i.e., gloves, goggles, proper clothing.
  5. Notify your teacher in an emergency.

Do you have questions about the Exploration Design Challenge?
Email nasaedc@nianet.org


Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle
Orion will carry the crew to space and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities.
› Orion Home Page
› Orion Paper Model


The Radiation Challenge guide Space Faring: The Radiation Challenge Middle School Educator Guide (Grades 6-8)
The lessons in the guide link the disciplines biology, physics, astrophysics, planetary science and engineering with inquiry-based activities to introduce radiation biology to middle school students.

TLogo for Space Weather Center Space Weather Center Interactives  →
Activities from Space Weather include The Sun-Earth Connection, Plasmasphere, Spinning Magnet and Aurora Tube.

Satellites in space gather data about space weather NASA eClips™ Real World: Space Weather
This NASA video segment looks at space weather and examines the major ramifications space weather can have on Earth.

An eruption of a solar flare NASA eClips™ Our World: Two Eyes on the Sun
Learn about two satellites that NASA launched to collect data about the sun. Learn about solar eruptions and how they affect Earth and astronauts in space.

A black and white cartoon drawing of the CraTER spacecraft Cosmic Radiation Comic  →
Make a mini comic book about cosmic rays and the Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation, or CRaTER. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter orbits the moon every two hours. CRaTer, a scientific instrument that is the part of the LRO, detects cosmic rays around the moon and in space.

Cover of Radiation Math Radiation Math Educator Guide (Grades 6-12)
Use mathematics to discover the mysteries of radiation and how it affects humans.

Logo for Space Weather Center Space Weather Games  →
Select from a list of space weather online games. Choose either English or Spanish versions.

An example of a space weather action center shows displays with images and charts Space Weather Action Center  →
Set up a space weather action center in your classroom where students can monitor and report the progress of a solar storm.

A solar flare Exploring Magnetism Lesson Series  →
These seven guides about magnetism contain activity- or mathematics-based lessons on magnetic fields. The guides are designed for grades 6-8 and 9-12. The materials were developed following NASA science missions: STEREO-IMPACT, RHESSI, THEMIS and FAST.

An image of the sun beside words that describe variations of images Sun Viewer  →
Students view real-time NASA satellite images of the sun and Earth in this Flash-based viewer.

The sun Solar Physics -- The Sunspot Cycle  →
Learn how sunspot numbers are calculated.

Artist's drawing of solar flares traveling away from the sun The Scientific Importance of Studying Solar Flares
This NASA video segment explains how the High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager, or HESSI, satellite studies and monitors solar flares.

The words SPACE LIFE, with colorful montage of butterfly and flower, spider’s web, man and glovebox, and other life science images NASA's Teaching From Space -- Space Life Sciences
The NASA Space Life Sciences education website contains resources on living organisms in the space environment. Visit the topic sections for more information, and return to the website often for news on space life sciences research.

Page Last Updated: July 27th, 2016
Page Editor: Flint Wild