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Meet Maggie Masetti
Who are NASA's Earth and Space Science Explorers?

The middle school students who track weather to study its effect on bursting tree buds. And the scientist studying black holes in distant galaxies. But also the teacher whose class shares Earth science data with students around the world. And the engineer who designs robotic instruments to probe hard-to-reach planets. All of these people are Earth Explorers, Space Science Explorers or both. The Earth Explorers and Space Science Explorers series features NASA explorers, young and old, with many backgrounds and interests.

Maggie Masetti stands next to a model of a telescope

NASA education and outreach specialist Maggie Masetti stands next to a model of the James Webb Space Telescope. Image Credit: NASA

Have you ever heard someone say a picture speaks a thousand words? Pictures don’t actually talk, of course. So why do people say this? Because a picture can help explain what might otherwise take a lot of words.

Maggie Masetti keeps this in mind when making games and Web sites. She works at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. She wants to make learning Earth and space science easier and more fun. Pictures are often a perfect way to do just that.

Maggie created the new "Scope It Out!" game. The game is on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Web site. The telescope is a satellite planned for launch in 2014. It will help scientists study the universe.

The James Webb Space Telescope does not look like a regular telescope. But it has similar parts that do similar things. "Scope It Out!" uses pictures to show how light travels through telescopes. Players compare the James Webb Space Telescope with a regular telescope and with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

Another game Maggie is working on will let students design their own satellite. The game will teach about the science of satellites. It also will teach about the cost and challenges of building one.

Screenshot of the 'Scope It Out' game

Maggie Masetti designed the "Scope It Out" game that helps students compare the James Webb Space Telescope to a traditional telescope. Image Credit: NASA

How did Maggie get interested in science? Her father was in the U.S. Air Force and always loved airplanes. She remembers going to air shows and making model rockets with her dad when she was a child. She went to Space Camp in 10th-grade and dreamed of being an astronaut.

During college, Maggie started working at NASA. Her work combined her love for science with an ability to explain it to people. "I think science is very important," she said. "It's very important to have a curiosity about the world around us."

For more than 10 years, Maggie has worked on both Earth science and space science projects.

Maggie helped with the Amelia the Pigeon Web site. Amelia is a cartoon pigeon that carries a camera as she flies. The site teaches about remote sensing by following Amelia. Remote sensing is a method satellites use to take pictures of Earth.

The key to making science easier to learn is to relate it to things people know, Maggie says. For example, she helped design an activity that uses pieces of candy. The activity teaches about X-rays.

Screenshot of the 'Amelia the Pigeon' Web site

Maggie Masetti also worked on the "Amelia the Pigeon" Web site that teaches students about remote sensing. Image Credit: NASA

Maggie admits that science isn’t always easy. She studied astronomy in college. Astronomy is the study of the universe. It was a lot harder than she thought it would be.

"I thought it was a lot of looking through telescopes and stargazing," she said. But she soon found out astronomy has a lot to do with math and science, too. For example, scientists need math to understand things like stars and galaxies.

As tough as they may be, math and science are important, Maggie says. They teach the basic ideas needed to explore Earth and space. "It's like learning an instrument," she said. "You have to practice scales and get sounds out of it before you can play anything beautiful."

Related Resources
James Webb Space Telescope   →
"Scope It Out!" Game   →
Hubble Space Telescope
The Adventures of Amelia the Pigeon   →
Meet the Next Earth Explorers
Meet the Next Space Science Explorers

Written by Prachi Patel, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies
Adapted for grades K-4 by Dan Stillman, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies