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NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars

Students participating in the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) activity can expect to advance their capabilities in STEM, helping to prepare them for better representation and service in STEM fields. NCAS has three missions designed to challenge and build student knowledge and skills by focusing on NASA’s mission goals, collaboration, and career pathways.

Mission 1: Discover

A 5-week, self-paced online course.

This orientation to NASA sets a baseline for all students wishing to pursue subsequent NCAS missions. Students will gain a broad knowledge of what NASA has in its current plan and how they can play a role. STEM based activities embedded in the online course include live and recorded subject matter expert lectures, interactive multimedia on NASA content, interactions with fellow aerospace scholars, knowledge assessments including a final project, and guidance and support from trained professional educators.

Continue to Mission 2 about
Twenty students – along with their parents, teachers, and classmates – met virtually with Mars rover team members

Mission 2: Explore

Allows students to participate in one of two educational simulation experiences.

Exploration simulation is a gamified mission to the Moon or Mars where students develop a design solution that integrates multiple systems. This simulation highlights the acts of prioritizing and making trade-offs to remain within constraints. Career simulation situates students to take on mock roles as NASA employees to gain exposure to workplace structure and culture. This simulation highlights the personal responsibilities and team dynamics needed to accomplish a huge goal such as a lunar surface exploration mission.

Continue to Mission 3 about


Must have successfully completed the most recent NCAS Mission 1: Discover

Mission 3: Innovate

An Engineering Design Challenge.

Students will participate in a week-long robotics competition with an NCAS partner institution OR a 3-week hybrid (online/onsite) capstone project at a NASA Field Center. STEM based activities for all students will include an engineering design challenge as well as facility tours, live subject matter expert presentations, a resume workshop, a networking event, a job shadowing opportunity, and a 4-year college campus visit. Students affiliated with an NCAS partner institution will participate in a robotics competition. Robotics Competition: Students affiliated with an NCAS partner institution will participate in a robotics competition. During the 4-day engagement, students collaborate with team members as a fictitious aerospace company vying for a NASA rover contract. Working in assigned roles, students utilize STEM-industry mentors to guide the rover design. Capstone Project: Students unaffiliated with an NCAS partner institution will participate in a capstone problem based on current challenges faced by NASA mission directorates. Thus, this engagement begins with online activities two weeks prior to the actual onsite event to brief students on the emerging and relevant details of the problem. Leading up to and during the 4-day onsite event, students develop possible solutions to the capstone problem and report them to a panel of NASA guests.

Continue to Eligibility about
NCAS Mission 3: Innovate, NCAS student Monica Michael takes her turn flying the X-59 simulator.


Must have successfully completed the most recent NCAS Mission 1: Discover and NCAS Mission 2: Explore

Get Started


Mission 1: Discover

  • U.S. Citizenship
  • High school graduate or equivalent
  • At least 18 years of age by beginning of Mission 1: Discover.
  • Currently attend a U.S. community college
  • Completion or concurrent enrollment of 9+ college credits of STEM coursework
  • Able to commit to a 5-week online session
  • Internet access
  • Have not previously participated in NCAS

Mission 2: Explore – Successful completion of previous Mission 1: Discover

Mission 3: Innovate – Successful completion of previous Mission 1: Discover and Mission 2: Explore

How to Apply

To complete the NCAS application:

  1. Sign up or Log in to the NASA STEM Gateway.
  2. Explore Opportunities for College STEM Experiences.
  3. Apply for NCAS Mission 1: Discover.

You will need to provide:

  • Contact information.
  • Community college transcripts (official or unofficial) must include the following:
    • Your name.
    • Your school’s name.
    • 9 credits of college STEM courses, either completed or in-progress.
    • Proof of current enrollment.
  • 300-word (max) explanation of why you want to participate in NCAS.

Download this FAQ document for additional application help.

If you experience any technical difficulties with the application, please email to

NCAS Timeframe

NCAS has two consecutive schedules to engage community college students and institutions year-round.

  • Schedule A: August through February
  • Schedule B: February through August

Applications are accepted from April 1 until 11:59 p.m. EDT on June 10, 2024.

Upcoming Information Sessions:

  • Wednesday, June 5, 5 – 5:45 p.m. EDT

Scan the QR code below or Click here to join the live meeting(s) via Microsoft Teams.

Click here to review a prerecorded meeting.

NASA Contact

For more information about the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars program, please email questions to

Get in Touch
Images from the Third day of the Summer 2023 NCAS Mission #3 Capstone event.