Liftoff '98
A Texas Space Grant Consortium

Summer Institute

for Middle and Secondary School Teachers

July 13-17, 1998


Monday, July 13

Countdown to LiftOff Reception and Keynote Talk
Dr. Everett Gibson, planetary scientist at the Johnson Space Center gave the keynote talk, The Search for Life on Mars.

Tuesday, July 14

Weird Life

Allan Treiman of LPI led teachers in a discussion of what constitutes life what are the characteristics and features that we use to classify something as living or nonliving? The wide-ranging discussion was called Life and the Universe and the Whole Darn Thing.

Rita Karl, LPI Education Specialist, led the group in a series of Weird Life Classroom Activities, some of which were keyed to the Scientific American Frontiers video, "Going to Extremes,"included with lesson plans and background information in the take-home packets.

Allan Treiman followed up on some specific questions raised by the keynote talk in Martian Meteorite 84001: Does it Bug You? Teachers participated in a classroom demonstration of the half life of a radioactive element that is the key to radioisotopic age dating of samples such as the meteorite.

Looking for Life

LPI's Walter Kiefer gave teachers a slide show of current mission results that may suggest places to look for life elsewhere in our own solar system. In Looking for Life in All the Right Places, he talked about the Galileo spacecraftıs ongoing mission to the Jupiter system, where it has returned images of the moon Europa that show a surface of fractured, shifting ice sheets that suggest to some that a liquid ocean may exist underneath.

Allan Treiman focused on Mars as a place to scour for signs of life, either in the distant past or even today in regions below the harsh radiation environment of the surface. In Prospecting with Invisible Light, he led teachers through a lab using hand-held reflection spectrometers to examine three samples of simulated martian soil, some seeded with different substances that might or might not indicate the presence of life.

Wednesday, July 15

From Suits to Rocks

On Wednesday morning, teachers visited the Advanced Space Suit development lab at Johnson Space Center. In Suited for Mars, engineer Joe Kosmo gave the group an extensive tour of the facility and demonstrated features of an advanced space suit and improved gloves and helmets for eventual travelers to Mars. Scientist Dean Eppler surprised teachers who moved up to get a close look at what they thought was an uninhabited suit by "coming to life" before their eyes.

Teachers strolled across the JSC campus to Building 31 and the lunar and meteorite curatorial facilities. Marilyn Lindstrom, a JSC scientist and meteorite curator, and Karen Stocco, a local teacher, led teachers through hands-on activities focusing on Rocks from Space.

LPI's Buck Sharpton gave a slide presentation on Big Rocks from Space. He related the detective work that he and other researchers have been doing for the last decade to solve the mystery of what killed the dinosaurs and nearly 70% of all species on Earth 65 million years ago. The answer, that a 6-mile-wide comet or asteroid crashed into Earth on the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, has important implications for the development of life on Earth and elsewhere in the solar system.

Thursday, July 16

Human Life on the Edge

Thursday's activities focused on Mars as the most likely target for the search for life beyond the Earth. Nancy Ann Budden of LPI presented up to the minute strategies developed by JSC's Mars Exploration team for going to the Red Planet using a "live off the land" approach to hold down costs.

JSC medical researcher and manager John Charles presented the Biomedical Risks for Mars Travelers. He detailed the physiological hazards from radiation, cardiovascular deconditioning, and bone demineralization that would be encountered in the nearly year-long travel time to Mars in a microgravity environment.

From Suits to Rocks
One way to minimize the physiological and psychological stresses of the trip to Mars is to get there much faster than we are able to with current rocket technology. NASA astronaut Franklin Chang-Diaz explained his innovative rocket concept using exhaust modulated plasma propulsion in VASIMR: A Fast Trip to Mars.

What the Future Holds?

LPI scientist Robert Herrick introduced the Mars Mission Planning activity to teacher teams. Each team responded to a NASA Request for Proposal to design a series of missions to Mars, including mission goals and strategies as well a detailed budget of spacecraft, equipment, and instruments and their associated costs.

Finally, LPI Director David Black gave teachers a glimpse of what it will be like to look for Life on the Far Edge signs of life that we may be able to detect on planets around other stars in the not too distant future.


Wednesday, 31-Dec-1969 18:00:00 CST