LiftOff '99 Program Summary

In 1990, the Texas Space Grant Consortium created the "LiftOff" program, a continuing series of summer education and training workshops for high school teachers and students. A collaborative effort of Texas Space Grant Consortium members and affiliates, NASA, and industry, the workshops are organized around an aerospace or space science theme drawn from NASA's diverse engineering and scientific research programs. The program is designed to combine the strengths of the collaborators to enrich teaching and learning of science, mathematics, technology and engineering.

LiftOff '99, the tenth annual summer workshop, explored the small bodies of our solar system. Entitled "Catch a Falling Star: Comets, Meteorites and Asteroids," it was an examination of the small planetary bodies left over from the formation of the solar system and the space missions that are currently investigating them. Hands-on activities, lectures, and field trips were combined with daily sharing of space science activities and materials that were developed by or been successful to participants.

The workshop featured presentations by NASA scientists representing the Stardust mission to a comet, the NEAR mission to an asteroid, the committee on sample return missions from small bodies, the collection of Antarctic meteorites, the study of meteor showers and the observation of the Shoemaker-Levy comet impact on Jupiter. Scientists from the Lunar and Planetary Institute gave presentations on the discovery of Ice on the Moon, the Kuiper Belt comets and recent discoveries in planetary science.

The workshop also included meteorite and lunar sample certification for educators interested in obtaining samples for study in their classroom from the Johnson Space Center Curatorial Facility. Several inquiry-based activities were presented to the teachers by LPI education staff including building a comet model from dry ice, constructing a simple Galilean telescope, age-dating asteroids by counting craters, creating impact craters, analyzing meteorite samples, modeling differentiation in asteroids, and practical examples of remote sensing techniques.

Teachers had the opportunity to visit an observatory, a planetarium and an amateur star party. They also experienced the Challenger Center simulated mission, "Rendezvous with a Comet" where they were able to practice team-building skills by learning how mission control teams work with scientists and crew members.

Teachers were given tours of NASA's International Space Station and Space Shuttle mock-ups and training facilities, and the Russian Soyuz capsule training simulator. They were given a look at the assembly of the International Space Station through presentations by the astronaut James Newman, the former Chief of Spaceflight Training, Frank Hughes and Space Station flight controller Holly Ridings. Teachers also visited the NASA Educator Resource Center located at the Space Center Houston to receive additional materials.

Designed to include material relevant to teachers in many field ( such as biology, physics, chemistry, Earth science, environmental science, math, and technology) the program was developed and hosted by the Lunar and Planetary Institute and the Center for Advanced Space Studies, with assistance from Space Center Houston and Johnson Space Center.

Twenty-three teachers from six states participated in this weeklong event. 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. The workshops also provide teachers the rare for some, unique opportunity to spend a week working with professional scientists and engineers.

Teacher reflections from LiftOff '99 include:


Last Modified: Mon Sept 20, 1999