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Why Space is Important

Apr 19, 2012   //   by Pamela Greyer   //   Latest Buzz  //  No Comments

Bringing cool space content into the classroom is an adventure I always look forward to.  On Tuesday, April 17, the space shuttle Discovery flew from Kennedy Space Center to Dulles International Airport piggy-back on a modified 747.  I thought about the three groups of students I was working with on ACT test prep and thought what a wonderful opportunity for them to see a space shuttle transported on a 747.  My first question to establish prior knowledge was for them to list some things they knew about NASA’s space shuttle program.

I received a few puzzled looks and several mutterings of “nothing,” which was not surprising to me.  I asked for a show of hands in each class of how many students had seen a shuttle launch in their lifetime.  Only two out of 78 students had seen a shuttle launch on television and only one had a fair amount of knowledge of a lot of things NASA but clumped it all together and asked me if the space shuttle was part of the Apollo thing.

I would say there has been a major disconnect over the last forty years in teaching space science and history in our elementary and high schools but disconnect is not the right word.  Absence is more aptly fitting. Whoever the curriculum developers have been over the years either were not interested or felt bringing space science and space exploration history into the curriculum would be too time intensive and take away from the core science fundamentals on space and our Solar System.  Here’s what’s in a typical 6th grade science textbook.

    There are nine planets in our Solar System.

      Our Solar System has a big star (a.k.a the Sun)

        Motion of the Earth & Planets (Reasons for seasons)

          The phases of the Moon

        7th grade science moves on to genetics, cells, light, etc. but there is no continuation of learning about space or the wonders of our own Solar System. There is no mention of NASA, rockets, satellites, space exploration, Apollo, Mercury, Space Shuttle, astronomy, etc. Unless a teacher is aware of the cool technologies that will allow them to bring the excitement and wonder of studying and learning about space, the content will go undiscovered by millions of young people. I’m not sure if there has been a study that links what a student learns in elementary school to their desire to pursue a STEM career upon graduation from high school but I’m confident if more children were aware of and exposed to all the fantastic programs, online content, and missions, their would be a greater embracing of science and a quest to learn as much as they can about what lies up there.

        Space was always a curious topic for me. We didn’t cover much in my elementary school that dealt with space and I don’t remember my teacher telling all of us to go home and make sure we watched the landing of Apollo 11 and write a report that we could share with the class on our thoughts of a man possibly landing on the Moon. I watched the landing by myself in the living room of my grandmother’s house on a combination television/record player. The TV set was a piece of furniture in itself and the screen was located to the left of the console. The small black and white screen provided entertainment for me while I grew up and even though there was a larger b&w television in the family room I can’t remember how I ended up in the front watching the Moon landing. It was probably because when I told my grandmother that we had a space craft that was going to land on the Moon she dismissed me with a comment, “That’s impossible.” Then she went on to add her opinion that every time they (NASA) launched a rocket it tore a hole in the atmosphere and that’s why we often had violent weather. She basically declined to watch because she insisted for years that we never landed on the Moon. Her point was the entire landing as well as the Moon backdrop was a mock-up erected on the NBC set. “Look at the flag,” she pointed out. “It’s stuck in the air like a stiff board.” I was too little for her to take my explanation of the amount of gravity on the Moon did not let the flag drape on the pole like it did on earth. I didn’t know much about space weather at the time so I couldn’t explain to her why the flag wasn’t blowing in the wind either. Even as I grew older and our space program advanced, she still wasn’t convinced that we ever landed on the Moon and until she left us continued to believe that it was just too far fetched to be real.

        Fast forward to toady. We have a space agency that has completed some truly amazing engineering feats of marvel. We jumped into the space race and put a man in orbit in a relatively short amount of time. We evolved that space craft and sent a better one to space and eventually to the Moon. We stopped lunar exploration but there was still so much out there we didn’t know or understand. All the while our textbooks and schools continued to leave space exploration and space science beyond the basics, out of the curriculum. After doing workshops and presentations over the last ten years, I have not seen a vast improvement. Yes, we now have classes at the high school level that focus on space science. Many of my friends incorporate NASA content and missions into their science lessons but those of us who embrace teaching space are not the majority. Our students are the lucky ones and in many cases we have been able to inspire them to become engineers, research scientists, physicists, astronomers, and perhaps even rocket scientists.

        As Discovery moves into the Smithsonian, a whole new generation of space lovers will have a chance to get up close and personal with her. Hopefully teachers will show space shuttle launches to their classrooms, talk about the importance of the space shuttle program and the advances it allowed us to make, and set the path for the future of human space flight and exploration where our young people will be poised to step up and fill the shoes of innovators whose time has come to pass the torch. In order for that to happen, we MUST engage, inspire, and educate our youth on what was, what is, and what is yet to come. We also need to make learning about space a necessity instead of a hobby or past-time. Every time I look at the stars or I see a bright twinkle that I recognize as a planet, I am awed and amazed. Viewing the Moon through my telescope still brings chills to me and when I take an image with a remote telescope I am inspired even more. This is the paradigm shift that needs to happen to encourage our youth to see space and dream to the outer limits but first we need to make sure we are sharing space goodness with everyone we come in contact with.

        That’s my charge of the day. Go tell someone to look up at night. Follow the Moon, identify some stars, look for the International Space Station. Save up for a ride on Virgin Galactic, dream to be an astronaut, or develop technologies for current NASA and commercial space missions. It is true that there are no limits on the imagination.

The Diva Discovery’s Curtain Call

Apr 18, 2012   //   by Pamela Greyer   //   Latest Buzz  //  No Comments

Classy Ride

Tuesday was the beginning of the celebration for the historic space shuttle Discovery.  Providing oohs and ahhs as well as tears and smiles, Discovery,  flyin atop a modified 747 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to Washington’s Dulles Airport, gave many their first glimpse at OV-103, curiosity seekers impressed at the attention taken away from so many daily lives to come out and spot Discovery, and others, such as astronauts, NASA employees, and a group of space tweeps to whom Discovery has a very special place in our hearts, a nostalgic walk down memory lane.  @NASA asked their followers to post pictures they caught of Discovery as she flew overhead.  The images are breathtaking and will be as lasting in our memories as the sight of Discovery launching into space over a 27 year time period and completing 29 missions.

Discovery launched the Hubble Space Telescope and conducted the second and third Hubble service missions.  In 1988, Discovery was the orbiter chosen to “Return to Flight” following the 1986 Challenger disaster and for the “Return to Flight” missions in July 2005 and 2006 after the Columbia disaster.  Discovery also carried astronaut John Glenn on STS-95 who at the age of 77 showed the world he had the right stuff making him the oldest person to go into space.

In my own memories of Discovery, I watched her launch on several missions in the NASA Aeronautics Education Laboratory with students acting as mission control specialists.  I was there for her planned launch in November, 2010 only to watch days go by with continued technical problems causing several launch scrubs and quite a few disappointed space enthusiasts who left Kennedy Space Center without seeing her take her final flight.  Fortunately many of us came back in February as part of the Neverending NASA Tweetup and finally saw Discovery take the sky.  She did that one last time on April 17, 2012 on a piggy-back ride of a lifetime.

The joy is by no means over.  Thursday, April 19, 2012 will be Discovery’s entrance to the Smithsonian Museum’s Air and Space Museum.  You can follow the excitement live from the Udvar-Hazy center as well as on NASA TV.  I will be watching and living vicariously through the tweets and excitement of my fellow STS-133 tweeps who will be there in person and everyone else who will  Discovery installed as a piece of living history for generations to come.


Moonbuggys, Moonbuggys, and More Moonbuggys!

Apr 4, 2012   //   by Pamela Greyer   //   Latest Buzz, NASA  //  No Comments

Gearing the drive trainFIRST Robotics seems to consume my life and time between January and March but this year I decided to take on an additional engineering challenge. Having secured a workspace on the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology I took out on a journey to involve my students in a competition I had been reading about for the last three years, NASA’s Great Moonbuggy Race! I love building things (the robots have finally broke me down and now I can’t get enough of greasy chains, actuators, T-slotted aluminum, brackets, motors, sensors, gears, sprockets, and……well you get the idea.) I Tweeted about registration for the 19th annual Great Moonbuggy race, gathered a willing crew of students who had no idea what a Moonbuggy was, and thus the adventure began. I have chronicled our progress and our challenges in a fascinating blog on CNN’s Light Years and CNN’s Schools of Thought blogs.

It has been exhilarating, exciting, and insightful while at the same time frustrating, complicated, and nerve-wrecking. Building a Moonbuggy is a 360 degree turn from building a robot. The same design and engineering principles remain but unlike FIRST you don’t get a kit of parts and there is no quick-build chassis kit. You get specifications from the Moonbuggy site as far as the dimensions, height off the ground, turning radius of the wheels, and a few other really neat requirements that the Moonbuggy has to have like a radio and a communications box. Hey, it’s just like the real Moonbuggy or Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) that was used in the last three Apollo missions to the Moon. Yes, can you believe my high school students are building vehicles similar to the ones NASA sent to the Moon?

I find it quite fascinating myself which is why I brought the idea to my students. I mentioned it to my guys from robotics in 2010 and they looked at me as if I needed to be stuffed into a space capsule and blasted to the Moon just to get the crazy Moonbuggy idea out of my system.
In 2010 we did Moonbots, a Google Lunar X Prize LEGO Mindstorms challenge. Team Cubwano did a lot of research on the Moon and I thought our entry was pretty good. The epic fail of course was designing the Mindstorm robot in Google Sketchup because none of my robotics students had the least interest or desire to learn CAD. On the final day I found myself in a huff and puff as I realized I would need to clean up the design before we could submit it. The team left me in the lab that Friday and I made a promise to myself to never undertake a project like this again without students in the right frame of mind.

Which segues me to the next question, “What exactly is the right frame of mind?” This year I found the answer. A group of young people that look forward to challenge, especially if they are interested in engineering as a possible career once they graduate from high school, the right mentor/coach who gives all of her after-school time and weekends, effort, and sometimes money to make it work, and lastly the fun of working together as a team to take an idea off the paper and into reality. I thought I had the right students in 2010 but there was something missing. I started the Moonbuggy team with two of them as captains but thanks to their own efforts they worked their way off both the Moonbuggy and the robotics teams. It was the shot in the arm the team needed and because I believe there are no coincidences in life I found an amazing group of students at the high school I am currently working at. When joined with my other students from high schools around Chicago, we have a winning combination and a team that I am incredibly proud of.

We made a design, decided on materials, and came up with a team name. We are the Incredible Spyders!

Our two week spring break has created a lull in the action but we’ll be back next week. There is a change happening at the school so I have no idea what it’s going to be like when we return but I’m packing my bags to make the trip to Huntsville on the 12th of April. To see what it has been like over the last couple of months read my Moonbuggy posts which have appeared on CNN’s Light Years and Schools of Thought.

The first installation of the our moonbuggy story appeared on the CNN Schools of Thought and Light Years blog.  Our second installation appeared on CNN’s Light Years blog.  Follow the team as we prepare to make the journey to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Al April 12-14.


Who Wants to be an Astronaut?

Jan 9, 2012   //   by Pamela Greyer   //   Latest Buzz  //  No Comments

If you missed the announcement in November that NASA has opened applications for it’s 2013 Astronaut class you still have time to apply for a once in a lifetime chance to have a career that many desire yet few are chosen for. Seems that being an astronaut is a dream that many people have. Even this guy applied to NASA.

Elvis at NASA 1963

Elvis applies to NASA in 1963's "It Happened at the World's Fair". Image courtesy @NASA

Today, January 8th, is Elvis’ birthday and @NASA posted this picture to day happy birthday Elvis. In the film, Elvis was a pilot. I’m sure crop dusting is a long way from wanting to go into space but hey, it’s a movie. Whether the idea was NASA’s or the producers, or Elvis himself, it got a big product placement shot for NASA and possibly increased interest in our nation’s fledgling space program and inspired some kids who watched the movie to desire to be a rock star and an astronaut at the same time.

I say dream big and reach beyond the stars. Dreams do come true!

Here is the link to apply to be part of the 2013 astronaut class. The application closes January 27, 2012 so get to it!

It’s Official….I’m an Author!

Jan 4, 2012   //   by Pamela Greyer   //   Latest Buzz, NASA, The Launch Pad  //  No Comments

And to think I had started to not think at all, my book and my characters had come to a stall. It’s belief in oneself and a strong self esteem that will keep you inspired and able to dream!
—- Pam Greyer

Starwhirl2012 is the year that many of my dreams will actually come true! In 2006 (it’s been a long time coming) I sat under an amazing starry sky in Arizona on a beautiful summer night. Staring at the stars led to a conversation about student misconceptions of how far away stars were, how we see their twinkle, and most importantly the fact that they are always in the sky but we need the cloak of night for their brilliance to shine! From this conversation came the idea for a book. I’ve been told for years that my strength and true talent is in writing. I realized this many years ago as an undergrad student when a professor told me I had a true gift for writing. My initial dream was to one day win a Cleo award for some phenomenal advertising copy that would surely lead to an award winning campaign. Over the years I wrote everything from print ads, to radio and television commercials, documentaries, business-to-business marketing, collateral pieces, and everything in between. I bought every copy of Writers Digest for years and decided that I would pursue a career as an author. I just had to sit down and write something!

Well I never found the time or to be more specific I never took writing a book seriously. I made some attempts at starting a novel or two over the years but my heart wasn’t in it. When I began teaching years ago I saw this as an opportunity to share not only my skill with a video camera and an editing console, but I could also teach young people how to write and tell stories. I did that over the course of a twenty+ year career as an educator teaching English, Science, and coordinating programs along the way. When I became the Director of the NASA SEMAA Chicago site I came full circle back to my first passion of science but I could also inspire students to develop a love of words as they wrote, blogged, and researched some of the coolest science content on the planet. The idea for the book came in the same year as budget cuts to NASA’s education programs were threatening the closure of some SEMAA sites. We were on that list and I was determined to do everything in my power to keep the opportunity for our young people to stay engaged with NASA.

I originally thought it would be a novel for young adults and I began crafting characters and creating an outline. Then on a flight back to Chicago from Arizona that was more bumpy than normal I caught an inspiration. I think it was really more a fear that if the plane fell out of the sky I would at least have begun my book and while I wouldn’t have it finished in a two and half hour flight it would at least be a good framework and I would know that I didn’t just abandon the idea. That night I wrote seventy-five percent of the book and it morphed from being a novel into a children’s book complete with rhymes and some really stellar characters! I shared it with my family and my son thought it was incredible. “Finish it,” was all he said. This should have been an easy task but I let other things in my life that I gave power and precedence to become more important. I embarked on a mission to move the NASA Aeronautics Education Laboratory to a new location and get the SEMAA site re-opened. Every so often my son would look at me and say, “Finish your book.”

He gave me a deadline of his birthday in June of 2010 but of course while I did go back to the story and did some editing I still wasn’t finished. I watched the principal and Chief Area Officer district shut down one of the most fabulous and unique K-12 STEM programs with NASA as a prime content provider and made a decision that sometimes a incredibly large school district may not be the best partner to effect improvement in science instruction. So armed with seven years of experience in inspiring young people to develop a love of learning about and doing science, The NASA Lady was born. Over the last year I have had some of the most incredible experiences. I was selected for five NASA Tweetups and attended three; the launch of STS-133, 2011 JPL Tweetup, and the SOFIA Media Event. I was selected too for the NASA HQ Tweetup with Astro_Wheels (astronaut Doug Wheelock) and the return of STS-135 at Johnson Space Center in Houston but other commitments kept me from these. I went to the Mojave desert with Teachers in Space and flew in a glider with former space shuttle commander Rick Searfoss and wrote up an experiment that will hopefully get me into the next class of pioneer teachers who will fly into sub-orbital space on XCOR’s Lynx spacecraft in the very near future.

I stay connected with presentations and outreach workshops as a NASA Solar System Ambassador and my volunteer work with the Stars @ Yerkes teacher program will never stop. In reflection of all the challenges I faced in 2011 I also realized that I accomplished some amazing things including the release of our 2010 Imagine Mars Student video project. Thus inspiration hit me at last and I took to the laptop and finished the book on Christmas Eve battling the second worse cold I’ve had in the last ten years but at last I am an author of a book!

They say inspiration comes in many ways and in celebrating the completion of my book there still lies another road ahead, getting it illustrated. The good thing about a novel is you only need cover art but a children’s book isn’t a children’s book without art on every page. A friend of mine and I wanted to catch the Dr. Seuss exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry before it leaves this Sunday. As we walked through the exhibit it was full of inspiration at every turn. Theodore Giesel was more than just a children’s author. He was an incredible illustrator who drew editorial cartoons, magazine covers, and advertising campaigns. While his Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, One Fish, Two Fish, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas is embedded in the hearts and memories of most of us, his genius went far beyond that. I read so many of his books to my son when he was little and I always wondered how he came up with those fantastical animals and moving contraptions. The exhibit explained all that, especially the sculptures which he created from beaks, horns, and other parts of dead animals from the Springfield, Massachusetts zoo his father ran. On the way into the Secret Garden, a collection of artwork that Geisel kept away from public eyes for years, there was a large wall that had a very simple message and a series of steps to turn any aspiring writer into a published author. The writings were simple and straight to point. It started off with a huge rejection slip and mentioned the twenty nine publishers that rejected his first book And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. There was no talk about finding your muse or creating a comfortable writers space to get inspiration. The philosophy was simple, just write. The same words that my son said to me over and over and over.

Dr. Seuss Quote

The big blue wall encouraged coming up with an idea, crafting your characters, and telling a story. It’s just that simple. Finish it! At the end there was a suggestion too that with the plethora of outlets available for getting your book published these days you could be on your way to literary fame just like Dr. Seuss in no time!

Of course, just like Dr. Seuss my mind never stops. As soon as the illustrations are done the book will be published for the Amazon Kindle and other eReaders. I will epublish it but I want to read it as well to young people so I will need hard copies. There is still magic in turning the pages of a book and running your fingers over beautifully illustrated pages. The book will become part of my new 2012 science literacy initiative and I am excited to share my characters with people around the world to help bring a greater understanding to often confusing science concepts. The little book that almost wasn’t has spawned a complete series that I see in my head even as I write this. I don’t know if I’ll write over forty books like Dr. Seuss but I’m on a roll and as they say, “You’re only as good as your last piece of work.”

It’s great to be alive but even greater to have an opportunity to continue inspiring people from all walks of life in every corner of the world with the wonders that are science and the beauty that space and our Universe so gladly offer up to all of us every day for free.

Peace and Prosperity in the New Year!

XOXO – The NASA Lady

FIRST Adds Kinect for Xbox 360 Technology for 2012 Competition

Oct 12, 2011   //   by Pamela Greyer   //   Latest Buzz, Robotics  //  No Comments

Dean Kamen has done it again. Kamen, inventor and founder of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) continues to provide excitement and innovation to the FIRST Robotics Competition by putting real world technologies in the hands of high school students with the addition of Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox 360 technology that will ship with the standard Kit of Parts for the 2012 FRC season.

Kinect for Xbox 360 technology will allow the competitors to “be the robot” which gives the drivers and the human players competing on the field a new level of technological insight through the use of a natural user interface. “This has got me excited!” said E. Bell, senior and lead student programmer of FIRST Team 2462, the Digibots.

Teams on the field will interact with their robots using gestures detected by a high level Kinect sensor that will give students more control over their field strategy. The joystick can become a tool of the past which will be an innovation in itself. I’m excited because programming is an invaluable skill that once learned will allow my students to always be hirable or employable. While gaming companies have used natural user interfaces for some time, more corporate, institutional, and government entities are realizing the benefits of NIU’s and incorporating them in software applications, new products, and learning environments.

FIRST has been in my life since 2002 when I was asked to join FIRST Team 1064 as the Visual Coordinator. I remember telling the coach that I would be delighted to take pictures and capture video footage of the team in competition as well as behind the scenes but I wouldn’t do anything that would cause me to break a fingernail! Motors, chains, drills, acuators, and other mechanical parts soon became a part of my life as did my laptop and a change in roles to become the programming mentor. The robot may look lean and mean and have some of the best innovations added to it but without a solid program in both autonomous and driver controlled modes nothing is going to happen.

I don’t game often so this will be a new experience for me but one that will be second nature for Bell and other students on FIRST teams who use the Kinect NUI in games they play on their Xboxes. Bringing familiar technology that lets the student get even closer to the game being played on the field as well as learning how to incorporate this technology into their robots is a natural for FIRST. Inspiring them to gain 21st century work skills and be the future STEM game changers is even more valuable. In 2011 Dean made FIRST loud thanks to and the Black Eyed Peas. In 2012 he’ll make FIRST interactive as well as innovative.

Read more about the FIRST and Microsoft Kinect for Xbox 360 partnership and the cool innovations coming to the 2012 FRC season by following this link

Fond Farewell

Aug 12, 2011   //   by Pamela Greyer   //   Latest Buzz  //  No Comments

Life has been a whirlwind of activity before, during, and after the launch of STS-135. As they often say, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray,” could never be more true. Live streaming worked great for STS-133. Not a glitch and had no network connection issues. The same could not be said for sts-135. Take 1 million people (Yes, I said it, 1 million people) scattered, or in some cases elbow to elbow, in a small geographic area like the Space Coast with everyone Tweeting, calling, capturing video, etc. and the strain on the cellular towers just couldn’t take it. I’ll take pause here. Watch the magnificence of the final flight of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program as Atlantis, STS-135 carries three men and one woman riding on a rocket into space.

I lost all cell communication at 9:05 am just as I approached the security checkpoint heading to Kennedy Space Center. There was a group of Space Tweeps already there but with no phone signal I could only walk around KSC and hope to find them. I settled for a nice spot near the Astronaut Memorial right next to a jumbo screen keeping a close eye on Atlantis as she sat on the launch pad waiting to lift off and listening to Mission Control at Johnson Space Center which was as exciting as waiting for liftoff itself.

KSC was not as crowded as some of the other viewing locations, particularly Space View Park where I originally planned to watch Atlantis take to the sky. The notion of arriving at around 5 pm the day before launch without a tent, a tarp, a rain poncho, or any place that I could sleep became less and less of an attractive option. Much love and appreciation to @mgrabois who gave me a badge to KSC with my only desire to get the envelope post marked on launch day and mailed to me.

Unlike the Tweetup and all of the special attention we received from NASA, viewing on your own was a different story. Some of us secured causeway tickets, others had special invites to view from places like the Astronaut Hall of Fame, and some just played it by ear. The fortunate STS-135 Tweetup folks got an up close and personal view and experience at the press site but their encounter included a slew of press and other people who came to see, record, and disseminate information on the final launch of America’s space shuttle program. Nevertheless it was history in the making and the last time we would see these magnificent space vehicles take flight.

For those of us without tickets there were plenty of places to watch a shuttle launch. The previous evening we had driven out to the Airforce base and noticed a long stretch of road with the perfect view to watch the launch, not as close as the press site but nonetheless a great spot to see Atlantis rise into the air. We got out of the car and spent some time just looking at Atlantis all lit up on the launch pad and reflecting that this would be the last time an orbiter would be in that position and on launch pad 39A. We’ve seen them all, Discovery, Endeavor, Challenger, and Columbia, and Atlantis launch countless numbers of time into space. America mourned the tragic losses in the Challenger and Columbia tragedies but it reminded us of a fact that @AVClubVids has said often and presented in a SpaceUp San Diego Conference talk that space is dangerous. Listening to astronauts talk about their feelings on launch day solidifies this fact. Yet, many of us took the space shuttle program for granted and many argued that it was a colossal waste of money and manpower. What is was in reality was an opportunity for man to reach for the stars. Perhaps we didn’t work hard or fast enough, as we had done in the past, to make the dreams of space exploration beyond low Earth orbit a reality. Maybe we became complacent in our own arrogance that not only had we conquered space travel and landed on the Moon but we were the Masters of the Universe.

Perhaps it is the sense of taking a risk to do something that many people would easily take a pass on is what sets astronauts apart from the rest of us. As Atlantis ended her mission, people were heard to say that NASA was shutting down. So far from the truth and perhaps in a way many of us don’t quite understand yet it may be just the shot in the arm NASA needs. There are so many missions in space right now that just like the space shuttles people have ignored. After all, who but oceanographic and Earth scientists would care about an instrument, Aquarius, in space that measures the amount of salt in the atmosphere? Or a mission to Jupiter, Juno, that will reveal many undiscovered facts and open up a whole new conversation on the gas giant. Grail is going to study the Moon and later this year the biggest and baddest Mars robotic rover, Curiosity, will launch to give us a more thorough and in-depth investigation of what lies on Mars following in the footsteps of Spirit, Opportunity, Phoenix, and Pathfinder. In order to find out what’s out there we have to explore and we’ve been doing that sort of in the dark from the eyes of the public as you really have to have a love for space to follow what NASA has been doing everyday for more than fifty years.

It doesn’t matter if the space shuttle program was what brought you into the fold or you have been a space/astronomy/astrophysicist geek for sometime, the fact that you have caught the bug is all that counts. I have taught space science and immersed myself in all things NASA for many years and until the STS-133 launch I never gave much thought to the possibility that I could one day go into space. The Zero-G flight was incredible experience and one that I considered would be the closest I’d ever come to really being in space. After hanging around orbiters, shuttle launches, robotic rovers, rockets, and other liked minded people who believe in human nature and the power of innovation did have a profound effect on me. We often talked about how the Tweetups were a life changing experience and many of us have blogged about it. For me it was not only a life changer but a mind changer as well. While I have always had a deep appreciation of Planet Earth, I began to view what I did everyday in an entirely different light. The shuttle launches for me became a head clearer, looking at the ordinary that I had taken for granted and beginning to see it as the extraordinary. This is a blog post in itself and one that I will sit down and craft soon. In the meantime, as the orbiters are preparing to make their final journey into museums, spend a few moments to live in the moment of two orbiters on a path of similar destiny.

Two orbiters on the runway at Kennedy Space Center

A two-fer!

Physics and Chemistry!

Jul 7, 2011   //   by Pamela Greyer   //   Latest Buzz  //  No Comments

GM guys. The Tweetup is LIVE! Go to NASA Television to watch. Tweetup what you are learning. Tomorrow log on when you get into the lab. Launch is set for 10:28 am if rain doesn’t cause a scrub which means Atlantis won’t launch.

For those people who have asked about the assignment and how to do it here are the directions:

Use the background information on the Ares rocket. You will also need to refresh yourself on Newton’s Laws.

Fundamental Concepts and Principles, Grades 9-12
• Objects change their motion only when a net force is applied. Laws of motion are used to precisely calculate the effects of forces on the motion of objects. The magnitude of the change in motion can be calculated using the relationship F=ma, which is independent of the nature of the force. Whenever one object exerts a force on another, a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction is exerted on the first object.

Here is what you should do when you design your rocket:

Fundamental Concepts and Principles
1. Design a solution or product.
• Consider constraints.
• Communicate ideas with drawings and simple models.
2. Implement a design.
• Organize materials.
• Plan work.
• Work as collaborative group.
• Use suitable tools and techniques.
• Use appropriate measurement methods.
3. Evaluate the design.
• Consider factors affecting acceptability and suitability.
• Develop measures of quality.
• Suggest improvements.
• Try modifications.
• Communicate the process of design.
• Identify stages of problem identification, solution design, implementation, evaluation.
The challenge satisfies the following criteria for suitable design tasks:
• Well defined, not confusing.
• Based on contexts immediately familiar to students.
• Has only a few well-defined ways to solve the problem.
• Involves only one or two scientific concepts.
• Involves construction that can be readily

You won’t build this rocket but think of the activity as the process real rocket scientists use to design rockets. You can write on the packets and do the design on a plain piece of paper.

Do the same thing tomorrow for the thermal shield activity tomorrow.

If you have any questions just Tweet me!

You’re Invited to be part of history!

Jun 28, 2011   //   by Pamela Greyer   //   Latest Buzz  //  No Comments

Live video of STS-133 Space Shuttle Discovery Launch!

On July 8th, 2011 (if launch remains on schedule) YOU are cordially invited to participate in the launch of STS-135, Space Shuttle Atlantis. For the last ten years, our NASA Aerospace Education Laboratory in Chicago was the pulse of mission control during daytime shuttle launches giving students an opportunity to not only watch a shuttle launch but learn the science, physics, and engineering behind the shuttles through hands-on activities in the AEL. STS-132 was the last group of students to participate in a mission control shuttle launch experience in our AEL. In October, 2010 a new era in watching space shuttle launches began for me as a participant in the STS-133 NASA Tweetup. The delay of STS-133 to a February 2011 launch allowed me to introduce virtual participation for my students, families and communities which changed the experience of a shuttle launch from watching coverage on NASA TV or other online news sources to an experience of really being right there with me. I will be connecting schools, educators, parents, families and communities once again to share with me live coverage of the last space shuttle launch.

On July 7th and 8th pre, live, and post launch events will be broadcast live on my Ustream, The NASA Lady, channel and on my Live! page here on the site. I’m encouraging everyone to watch, join in, and ask questions using the live chat feature. It promises to be not only a chapter in history that will bring to a close NASA’s human spaceflight program but a special time in history where we, as a collective humanity, will come together to celebrate the successes and scientific advancements and achievements as well as reflecting on the tragedies of the 30 years of the space shuttle program which reminds us that while going to space is dangerous it is the final frontier for humans to explore and that frontier will provide us with opportunities for a journey that will last far into the future.

For our youth, we are heading into exciting times. While NASA is passing the baton of designing and launching human spaceflight vehicles to commercial companies, an unpresecendented number of opportunities in STEM careers and entrepreneurial ventures are opening. My generation watched and many of us took the leap to work for NASA as engineers, scientists, researchers, mission control specialists, education outreach specialists, contractors, etc., or even became astronauts!

While the space shuttle never reached its original goal to make inexpensive weekly launches (estimated by NASA during the Nixon administration to cost around $7 million each and currently costing around 1.6 billion) into space a reality, the program has accomplished milestones including the launch and servicing of the Hubble Space Telescope, international cooperation in the building of the International Space Station, and launching probes to Venus and Jupiter. The shuttle program has also sustained a cooperative international working environment in space on board the ISS (International Space Station) and besides the human crew, STS-135 will carry a payload of cargo including a year’s worth of supplies, clothing, and equipment to the ISS.

As NASA launches the final mission of its 30 year space shuttle Program and, at least for the near foreseeable future, our government goes out of the human spaceflight business and bring to a close another era in America’s space program, you can be there! I’m looking forward to you joining me on July 7 & 8.

See ya live from Florida!