Sally Ride Earth Knowledge Acquired by Middle School Students (Sally Ride EarthKAM) - 09.26.18

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Not everyone can go to space, but everyone can see Earth from an astronaut’s perspective with the Sally Ride Earth Knowledge Acquired by Middle School Students (Sally Ride EarthKAM) program. Thousands of students can remotely control a digital camera mounted on the International Space Station, and use it to take photographs of coastlines, mountain ranges and other interesting features and phenomena. The EarthKAM team posts the students’ images on the Internet, where the public and participating classrooms can view Earth from a unique vantage point.
Science Results for Everyone
Look Ma, I’m taking pictures from space! The Sally Ride EarthKAM program allows students to request photographs of specific Earth features, which are taken by a special camera mounted on the International Space Station when it passes over those features. The images are posted online for the public and students in participating classrooms around the world to view. Since 1996, more than 24,000 photos have been taken during 30 missions on the space station via this program, the only one that gives students such direct control of an instrument on a spacecraft orbiting Earth.

The following content was provided by Sally Ride, Ph.D., Deborah Barnhart, Ph.D., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details

OpNom: EarthKAM

Principal Investigator(s)
Sally Ride, Ph.D., University of California, La Jolla, CA, United States
Deborah Barnhart, Ph.D., U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Huntsville, AL, United States

Sara Graves, Ph.D., ITSC, UAH, Huntsville, AL, United States
Robert Griffin, Ph.D., Earth System Science, UAH, Alabama, AL, United States

Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, United States
University of California at San Diego, San Diego, CA, United States
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, United States
Technical Education Research Centers (TERC), Cambridge, MA, United States
Information Technology and Systems Center (ITSC) UAH, Huntsville, AL, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
National Laboratory Education (NLE)

Research Benefits
Information Pending

ISS Expedition Duration
March 2001 - December 2002; November 2002 - May 2003; April 2003 - March 2016; March 2016 - April 2019; -

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
Sally Ride EarthKAM requires no crew interaction after initial setup. It requires power only during operation.

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • The objective of Sally Ride EarthKAM is to integrate Earth images with inquiry-based learning to enhance curricula in support of national and state education standards; to provide students and educators the opportunity to participate in a space mission and to develop teamwork, communication, and problem solving skills; to engage teams of students, educators, and researchers in collaborative investigations using remotely-sensed data; and to incorporate the active use of Web-based tools and resources in support of the learning process.
  • The Sally Ride EarthKAM camera has been a permanent payload on board the International Space Station (ISS) since Expedition 1 and supports approximately four missions annually. The goal of Sally Ride EarthKAM is to provide students with the capability to take images of Earth from a camera mounted in the International Space Station and to use these images for investigative projects.
  • The Sally Ride EarthKAM image collection and accompanying learning guides and activities are extraordinary resources. Depending on how the images are used, Sally Ride EarthKAM can provide cross-disciplinary support in teaching activities ranging from earth science, space science, and environmental science, to geography, social studies, mathematics, communications, and art.

ISS Science Challenge Student Reflection

ISS Science Challenge Selected Project
We learned that Sally Ride EarthKAM helps students study and examine Earth from space. Students are also able to decide what pictures of Earth that they want. The most important thing that we learned is that astronauts do interesting experiments on the ISS.
- Lydia and Clowey, Grade 6, North Tama Elementary School, Traer, Iowa


Sally Ride Earth Knowledge Acquired by Middle School Students (Sally Ride EarthKAM) is a NASA-sponsored education program that enables thousands of students to photograph and examine Earth from the unique perspective of space. The purpose of Sally Ride EarthKAM is to integrate the excitement of ISS with middle-school education. Sally Ride EarthKAM invites schools from around the world to take advantage of this exceptional educational opportunity. In addition to the many schools in the United States, schools from 12 countries have also participated.
Middle-school students learn about spacecraft orbits and Earth photography, and then target and request their desired images by tracking the orbit of the station, referencing maps and atlases, and checking weather. Their requests are then collected and compiled by students at the University of California, San Diego, CA. With help from representatives at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX compiled requests are uplinked to a computer on board ISS. This computer records the requests and transmits them to the digital camera, which takes the desired images and transfers them back to the computer. The images are then downlinked to Sally Ride EarthKAM computers on the ground. Within hours, the Sally Ride EarthKAM team makes the photographs available on the World Wide Web for easy access by participating schools as well as the general public. Schools then explore the images in support of national, state, and local education standards. Students learn to recognize and research features in the images, place the images in global context using maps and atlases, and make connections with the topics and subjects they are studying.

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Space Applications
To participate in EarthKAM, middle-school students learn about spacecraft orbits and Earth photography, and then request their desired images by tracking the orbit of the space station. They also check the weather to make sure the ISS will have a clear view. University students who operate the program at the University of Alabama in Huntsville operate as flight controllers, and provide training and inspiration for the next generation of space engineers.

Earth Applications
Students explore their requested images by studying maps and atlases to place the snapshots in a global context. Images from EarthKAM can be incorporated into a wide range of student curricula, including environmental science, space science, geography and social studies, communications and art.

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Operational Requirements and Protocols

Using the Internet and interactive Web Pages, students target sites that the ISS passes over during the mission time frame. The image requests are collected and compiled into a Camera Control File, which the Sally Ride EarthKAM team uplinks to the Station SSC. The SSC then activates the camera at specified times and stores the resulting images onto the Ops LAN File Server. The images are then downlinked as quickly as resources permit for posting to the Internet.
Sally Ride EarthKAM is monitored from the Telescience Support Center at JSC (Mission Control) and operated from the Sally Ride EarthKAM Mission Operations Center at UAH. Operations are coordinated through the Payload Operations Center at MSFC.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

As of December 2007, more than 89,000 students from over 1,400 schools worldwide, as well as members of the general public, have used Sally Ride EarthKAM to investigate every corner of the globe. Images taken by the participating schools are posted on the Sally Ride EarthKAM Web site for use by the public and participating classrooms around the world. Started in 1996, Sally Ride EarthKAM has conducted 30 missions on ISS and offers more than 24,000 photos of the Earth. No other NASA program gives students such direct control of an instrument flying on a spacecraft orbiting Earth, and as a result, students assume an unparalleled personal ownership in the study and analysis of their Earth photography. (Evans et al. 2009)

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Results Publications

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Ground Based Results Publications

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ISS Patents

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Related Publications

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Related Websites
Picturing Earth From Space
NASA Fact Sheet
EarthKAM (Twitter)
Sally Ride EarthKAM
Sally Ride EarthKAM Facebook

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image This image shows two students from Sacaton, Arizona who participated in theSally Ride EarthKam project for three missions. The students are locating area's on a map that were captured by the EarthKAM camera.
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image Third graders from Sacaton, Arizona tracking the ISS for their Sally Ride EarthKam project.
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A student from Sacaton, Arizona using a computer to correlate images captured by the Sally Ride EarthKam camera to the position of ISS.

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image Expedition 10 Science Officer and Commander Leroy Chiao in front of the Sally Ride EarthKam camera holding a student greeting from Wissahickon Middle School, Ambler, PA.
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Students from Lowery Intermediate in Louisiana are studying a map to compare "Delta's around the world to our Delta".

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Students at Gonzalez Middle School are using computers to help select potential target sites for the Sally Ride EarthKam camera.

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image Images from left to right: Flat Stanley, a 3rd-grader who was flattened by a blackboard and now travels the world collecting adventures. Stanley is sent out across the country to have adventures. This image was taken before Flat Stanley traveled to ISS during Expedition 11. NASA ISS Expedition 11 Science Officer, John Phillips and Flat Stanley onboard ISS.
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NASA Image: ISS012039214802 - Sally Ride EarthKAM students captured this picture of fragile coral reefs in the Tuamotu Islands in the South Pacific. The students are investigating the formation of atolls, the kinds of plants and animals found on this remote island, and how the people who live there support themselves.

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NASA Image: JSC2006E03489 - During Sally Ride EarthKam operations, ISS Deputy Program Scientist Julie Robinson uses a globe to showcase a potential photo target to sixth-grader Lucas at Westbrook Middle School in Friendswood, Texas.

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image NASA Image: JSC2006E03491 - Seventh-graders Emily and Jessica from Westbrook Middle School in Friendswood, Texas use a map and the Internet to determine the latitude and longitude of their next picture during the February 2006 Sally Ride EarthKam session.
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Annotated Sally Ride EarthKam image of the Coig River showing the sediment outflow into the Pacific Ocean from the river, requested by students during the EarthKAM session in August 2006. Students relate these sediment patterns to those in their own regions, such as along the gulf coast.

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image NASA Image: ISS014-ESC2-054080412 - This image of India and the Arabian Sea was taken by students from Bernotas Middle School in Crystal Lake, IL during Expedition 14 in February 2007. This image highlights the geographical features of a coast line and peninsula.
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image NASA Image: ISS032E006291 - View of the EarthKAM (Earth Knowledge Acquired by Middle School Students) payload set-up in the U.S. Laboratory/Destiny WORF (Window Observation Research Facility) rack.
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