Liftoff '98
A Texas Space Grant Consortium

Summer Institute

for Middle and Secondary School Teachers

July 13-17, 1998

Project Summary

LiftOff 98, the ninth annual workshop, explored Life on the Edge, an examination of the unexpected ways that life has adapted to harsh environments on Earth and the implications for finding living things elsewhere in the solar system and beyond. The workshop featured presentations and activities that dealt with the nature of life in extreme environments on Earth, the likely places to look for life elsewhere, and focused on the strategies and technologies required to carry out a search for life on Mars. Teachers also learned about ongoing programs and missions that offer the opportunity to bring real space science and engineering into the classroom. They were given a glimpse of the future during tours of NASA laboratories that are developing the techniques and hardware to allow humans to explore inhospitable environments both on the Earth and beyond to discover whether life in any form has arisen elsewhere.

Designed to include material relevant to teachers in many specialties, (such as biology, physics, chemistry, Earth science, environmental science, math, and technology) the program was developed and hosted by the Lunar and Planetary Institute, Center for Advanced Space Studies, with assistance from Space Center Houston and Johnson Space Center. Dr. Everett Gibson of the NASA Johnson Space Center gave the keynote presentation at the Countdown to LiftOff reception on the first evening of the program. Participants also toured the space suit laboratory and the lunar sample and meteorite curatorial facility at the Johnson Space Center, took over Space Center Houston for an entire evening, and had an opportunity to hear briefings on the latest plans for Mars missions including biomedical strategies and a novel rocket design. A Mars mission planning competition allowed teams of teachers to design their own series of exploratory missions to the Red Planet.

Twenty teachers from four states arrived at the Center for Advanced Space Studies in Houston on Monday evening for the Countdown to LiftOff reception. They were welcomed by TSGC and LPI staff as well as many of the scientists and engineers participating during the week.

The LiftOff workshops have shown that the excitement that teachers and students feel about space science and exploration can be tapped to enrich math, science, and technology classes. In addition, the workshops provide teachers the rare, unique opportunity to spend a week working with professional scientists, engineers, and outreach specialists involved in up to the minute missions and projects that are not yet well known to the public or the educational community. At LiftOff 98, for example, they participated in a hands-on lab using the newly developed ALTA reflection spectrometer, an innovative classroom instrument invented by an LPI scientist. They also were able to hear Franklin Chang-Diaz, NASA astronaut, describe an innovative rocket design that would substantially decrease the travel time to Mars.


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