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Jonas Dino
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
Phone: 650/604-5612 or 650/207-3280

Nov. 17, 2004
RELEASE : 04-107AR
Astrobiology Education Web Adds Dynamic Atmosphere Module
As NASA prepares to investigate the atmosphere of Saturn's moon, Titan, NASA education experts are helping students investigate the importance of an atmosphere to human life.

The Educational Technology Team at NASA Ames Research Center, located in California's Silicon Valley, has updated its award-winning Astro-Venture Web site with the addition of an Atmospheric Science Mission module. The site encourages students in grades five through eight to 'design' their own Earth-like planets suitable for human habitation. Students also can 'role-play' NASA occupations.

"Imagine, if you will, the power to build a planet that could support life," said Mark Leon, acting education director at NASA Ames. "This is the task placed before students as they discover the primary building blocks for supporting life on a rocky, Earth-like world. This new addition to our NASA educational complement is sure to engage the inquisitive mind."

The Atmospheric Science Mission module provides students with a creative, online activity to learn how NASA scientists study atmospheric temperatures, pressures and composition. Students in small teams play the roles of atmospheric chemist, climatologist and meteorologist to develop a hypothesis about the formation and significance of an atmosphere to living things. Available to the students is a multitude of NASA resources including data collected about the atmospheres of Mars and Venus.

Throughout their journey, NASA atmospheric scientists guide the students. These scientists provide students with feedback in order to refine their observations and focus their investigations. At the end of each mission, students use the information gathered to decide whether a planet can or cannot support human life.

"The Astro-Venture Atmospheric Science Mission adds an exciting new dimension to our suite of astrobiological explorations," said Christina O'Guinn, Education Technology Team lead. "The multidisciplinary nature of astrobiology lends itself well to attracting students with diverse interests." Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution and destiny of life in the universe.

The Atmospheric Sciences module strengthens Astro-Venture's collection of interactive, multimedia modules and activities that highlight careers and astrobiology research at NASA. The Atmospheric Sciences module joins astronomy, geology and biology modules that have been available since Feb. 1, 2004. After completing all the modules, students can use what they have learned to design a planet that would support human habitation. The site's career section contains fact sheets and trading cards with information about NASA career opportunities and NASA people who work in those careers.

Astro-Venture connects the classroom to actual NASA astrobiology missions. They include research conducted by the NASA Astrobiology Institute; the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy airborne telescope; the Terrestrial Planet Finder observatories that search for planets outside our solar system; the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn; and the Sample Collection for Investigation of Mars project.

The national and international educational community has recognized Astro-Venture with many awards and inclusion in prestigious educational software collections and international education exhibits.

In addition to Astro-Venture, the Ames Educational Technology Team produces a wide range of multimedia educational materials for students, teachers, parents and other NASA enthusiasts, available on the NASA Quest Web site. Quest connects K-12 classrooms with NASA people, research and science through mission-based challenges and explorations supported by NASA scientists, live interactive Webcasts, chats, forums and online publishing of student work.

For more information about Astro-Venture, visit:

For more information about NASA Quest and additional Ames Educational Technologies Team products and activities, visit:

For more information about NASA astrobiology research, visit the NASA Astrobiology Institute Website at:

For more information about NASA education, go to:


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