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Rachel Prucey
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

April 1, 2008
NASA Spaceward Bound Mojave Expedition Makes Desert a Classroom
MOFFETT FIELD, Calif., -- Why would anyone choose to spend a week in the dusty, desolate desert? That is just what a team of more than 30 NASA scientists, world-renowned planetary experts and teachers are excitedly gearing up for as part of the Spaceward Bound Mojave program.

On April 8, NASA will host a media day in Zzyzx, Calif., to offer news media a behind-the-scenes look as teachers, students and scientists collaboratively perform scientific fieldwork.

The team will have trekked into the Mojave Desert and set up camp for a five-day science research expedition aimed at studying how the Mojave is similar to Mars and the moon and search for life in extreme environments. Pre-service teachers paired with scientists will study the Mojave’s unique geologic formations and the extremophiles, or supremely adapted microbes, which live there.

“These teachers are joining a real expedition,” said Chris McKay, a planetary scientist at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., with extensive experience in fieldwork in extreme environments who is leading this year’s expedition. “They'll experience field astrobiology as its being done, and see the mistakes, witness the discoveries, take part in field discussions and everything else as it unfolds.”

Spaceward Bound was developed by the Education Division at Ames and is funded by the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA’s Headquarters in Washington. The project is tied directly to NASA's goal of engaging Americans in its missions through participatory educational activities. This year’s Mojave program is in partnership with the California State University Chancellor’s Office, San Francisco State University and the California State University Desert Research Station.

WHO: Spaceward Bound Mojave Expedition Participants
- NASA engineers and educators, including:
o Chris McKay, Ames Planetary Scientist, Spaceward Bound Expedition Lead;
o Liza Coe, Spaceward Bound Expedition Education Lead;
- Scientists and college students from California state universities, research institutes and universities in New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, Georgia and Canada;
- Teachers from schools in Oakland, Calif.; San Francisco, Calif., and Australia.

WHAT: An opportunity for a behind-the-scenes look at a group of NASA scientists, pre-service teachers and undergraduate science students as they study and explore the unique geological formations and microbial life in the Mojave Desert.

WHEN: Tuesday, April 8, 2008
7 a.m. - 8:30 a.m. PDT: Launch of hot air balloon with remote-sensing equipment to detect subterranean formations.
9 a.m. - 10 a.m. PDT: Interview sessions with NASA scientists, teachers and students
10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. PDT: Tour of scientific research sites with scientists and teachers conducting research.

Reporters planning to attend the media day should contact Rachel Prucey, Ames public affairs specialist, at (650) 604-0643 or (650) 930-6149 before 4 p.m. PDT, Friday, April 4.

WHERE: California State University Desert Research Station at Zzyzx, Calif.

For information about the NASA Spaceward Bound Project and this year’s participants, visit:

For more information on NASA and its programs, visit:

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