PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICE
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
PASADENA, CALIF. 91109. TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011
Contact: Stephanie R. Zeluck
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASESeptember 23, 1997
STUDENTS PREPARE THIRD FLIGHT OF KIDSAT PAYLOAD ABOARD SPACE SHUTTLE
The Space Shuttle Atlantis, scheduled for launch on the STS-
86 mission on September 25, will support the third and final
flight of KidSat, NASA's pilot education program that uses an
electronic still camera aboard the Shuttle to bring the frontiers
of space exploration to a growing number of U.S. middle schools
via the Internet.
KidSat is a NASA-sponsored research and development project
that links middle schools, high schools and university students
to Space Shuttle missions. The mission of KidSat is to
understand and demonstrate how middle school students can
participate in scientific observations of Earth by using mounted
cameras onboard the Space Shuttle to support their classroom
Students engage in a process to select and analyze images of
Earth during Shuttle flights and use the tools of modern science
-- such as computers, data analysis tools and the Internet -- to
widely disseminate the images and results. A team environment is
implemented, modeling scientific research and space operations to
promote student growth, discovery and achievement.
These students remotely operate an electronic still camera,
mounted in the right overhead window on the flight deck of the
Space Shuttle to take digital photographs of Earth. Middle school
students are responsible for planning the photo requests, which
involve calculating the longitude and latitude of a region, as
well as the exact time the Shuttle flies over it. High school
and university students then compile the requests into a single
control file which is forwarded by KidSat representatives at the
Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston to a laptop computer
connected to the camera. Using special flight software, the
laptop automatically commands the camera to snap the pictures
requested by the middle schools. This image data will be
transmitted back to a computer archive on Earth, where students
can then access their pictures using the Internet.
KidSat has flown on two previous Shuttle missions: the first
was in March 1996 (STS-76) and the second in January 1997 (STS-
81). The third and final mission of this pilot program is
planned for the September flight of STS-86. Whereas three U.S.
middle schools participated in the first flight of KidSat, 52
schools will be participating in this flight.
"What's happened over the last three years is that the
KidSat students have really taken over the project, and they've
been the ones who have created and done the work," said Dr. JoBea
Way, principal investigator for KidSat at JPL. "One of the things
that's been the most impressive has been how students in
classrooms across the country have utilized all kinds of local
and NASA resources, external resources in their local science
community and the international science community via the
Internet. They've studied parts of their country that they might
not have thought about before, and have gained a sense of
responsibility by starting a project, finishing it and educating
adults in the process."
More than 300 KidSat photos were taken during STS-76, and
another 500 were taken during the second KidSat flight, STS-81.
These can be accessed at the following URL:
The three-year pilot program is a partnership between NASA's
Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the University of California at
San Diego (UCSD) and the Johns Hopkins University Institute for
the Academic Advancement of Youth (JHU-IAAY).
During the Shuttle mission, the KidSat mission operations
center at UCSD is staffed by undergraduate and high school
students. The center is modeled after Mission Control at JSC.
The students receive telemetry from the Shuttle on their computer
monitors and can listen to and receive instructions from NASA's
flight controllers over direct channels to JSC.
The KidSat mission operations team monitors the Shuttle's
progress around the clock and continually provides up-to-date
information to the middle schools, who are using the Internet to
send instructions to photograph specific regions of the Earth.
Since any change in the Shuttle's orbit can affect students'
selections, UCSD constantly updates this information so that the
middle schools may re-plan their photographic requests if
necessary. This is done through a sophisticated World Wide Web
site that allows students access to interactive maps of orbit
ground tracks to aid in photo selection.
When the image requests have been verified by KidSat mission
operations, they are compiled into a single camera control file
and forwarded electronically to the KidSat representatives at
JSC. They pass this file on to flight controllers, who uplink it
to the computer-camera system on board the Space Shuttle. Special
computer software developed by students at JPL will translate
these commands to control the camera. These same students
trained the astronauts on the use of the software and the
installation of the KidSat camera in the Shuttle's overhead
After the photographs are taken, they are sent back down to
the KidSat data system at JPL, staffed by high school students
during the mission and posted on the World Wide Web for the
students to study and analyze. The curriculum used by the middle
school students and teachers is being developed by John Hopkins
University's Institute for the Academic Advancement of Youth and
UC San Diego.
The KidSat pilot program is sponsored by NASA's Office of
Human Resources and Education, with support from the Offices of
Space Flight, Mission to Planet Earth, and Space Science.