Training the next generation of space explorers10/12/2013
New Zealand students will have the chance to work with NASA astronauts in 2014.
Spaceward Bound 2014 is an educational opportunity for secondary school students to work with NASA astronauts and local experts.
It’s hoped that stars will align for Spaceward Bound to happen in New Zealand schools in 2014. The education programme will be a collaboration between NASA, KiwiSpace, and the Mars Society.
Spaceward Bound started with scientists, teachers, and students in the United States, and has also been successful with schools in other countries across the world.
For it to succeed in New Zealand, it would require teacher interest and support, says Kiwispace education coordinator Haritina Mogosanu.
“The idea is that the NASA team comes here and teachers apply for time with them. The programme will involve visiting locations that are relevant for space research, such as Rotorua and some parts of the South Island, and the astronauts will be directly involved in teaching the science,” she says.
How are locations chosen?
Haritina says the scientists are interested in finding extreme places known as ‘analogue environments for planetary exploration’ – for example, extremely arid or cold zones – and closely studying the characteristics of these zones. These conditions are then compared to those you might find on the surface of the moon or a planet.
“Extremophiles are organisms that live in extreme conditions – like very hot or cold temperatures.
New Zealand has one of the biggest pools of extremophiles in the world. This is one of the things it has to offer to the world in terms of space research,” she says.
The scientists focus their work on these places and do research and space exploration. This involves looking closely at organisms and studying how humans might survive in this environment. Another focus is space gear: what kind of clothes, instruments, and other equipment might be needed in such an extreme environment, for example.
The two components of Spaceward Bound
The Spaceward Bound programme has two distinct parts: the first being the ‘real’ NASA research that involves teachers and students working in an authentic way. The students are able to meet the scientists and work alongside them in their research.
Expeditions typically last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. The expedition also serves as an opportunity for the local experts and NASA who team together to forge collaborations that can help make scientific discoveries relevant to space exploration.
“Whatever measurements have to be done, the teachers and students are engaging and contributing to the work, which is absolutely unique,” says Haritina.
The education component of Spaceward Bound relates to the ESSE (Earth and Space Science Education) curriculum stream. Through the programme, hands-on resources will be created for the teachers.
NZ Curriculum-relevant resources will be created here using local technology and expertise. Teachers will be able to replicate these experiments in their school lessons for a highly engaging experience for students and teachers, she says.
“A proposed route for the expedition will be identified in advance, with a variety of field sites relevant and specific to New Zealand geography. We really want this project to be as hands-on and inclusive as possible.”
Haritina says the Spaceward Bound project is an exciting opportunity for New Zealand students and their schools.
“Science students are our future. We want to grow the next generation of space explorers.”
There will soon be a website for more information. New Zealand Science Teacher will keep you updated.
And for more information about extremophiles, see http://www.kiwispace.org.nz/x/uYDMAQ