From: Ames Research Center
Posted: Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Students Will Contribute to NASA Lunar Mission by Tracking LCROSS Spacecraft
In an unprecedented scientific collaboration with a public school, the Lewis Center for Educational Research will team with NASA to lead students worldwide in tracking and monitoring a NASA lunar mission scheduled for launch in early 2009. The collaboration will provide a unique opportunity for students to become active participants in the NASA lunar mission, as the space agency looks to inspire the next generation of U.S. space explorers and scientists.
NASA Ames Research Center and prime contractor Northrop Grumman are spearheading the design and development of the Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) -- NASA's first major lunar mission in decades -- to determine whether there is water on the moon.
Students at the Lewis Center will monitor the spacecraft from their Mission Control, on the Lewis Center campus, by controlling a 110-foot-diameter radio-antenna in Southern California's Mojave Desert. Teachers and students around the world, including home-schooled children, will have the same opportunity to participate in the mission through the Lewis Center's Goldstone Apple Valley Radio Telescope (GAVRT) Program -- a partnership between the Lewis Center and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
During the LCROSS mission, which will last several months, participating students will help monitor the health and status of the spacecraft by tracking its signal. If it is present during times when the signal is not supposed to be transmitting, the students can report back to LCROSS mission operations, potentially revealing a problem with the spacecraft. That additional monitoring beyond the coverage provided by NASA's Deep Space Network could prove to be critical.
"Millions of us watched as man took his first step on the moon back in 1969, but today's students will be active participants in the first major lunar visit in the information age," said Rick Piercy, President and CEO of the Lewis Center, which operates two charter schools in San Bernardino County, California. "We are excited that we will be leading students around the world as we work with NASA and Northrop Grumman scientists on this pioneering effort that will help rekindle the flame of space exploration in America."
"The combined launch of LCROSS and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is NASA's most ambitious mission to the moon since the Apollo era," said Daniel Andrews, NASA LCROSS Project Manager. "It marks the first step in America's long-term commitment to space exploration, with the ultimate goal of setting up outposts on the moon, setting the stage for a manned mission to other planets. We believe that actively engaging students in the LCROSS mission will inspire today's students to become the scientists and astronauts of tomorrow who will design and fly those missions."
NASA plans to launch the mission to look for water-ice on the moon in early 2009, with the satellite directing an impactor to a crater on one of the lunar poles. Scientists will analyze the debris in the plume that will result when the impactor -- with the mass of an SUV vehicle -- hurtles into the moon.
About The Lewis Center for Educational Research
The Lewis Center for Educational Research, based in the Mojave Desert in Southern California, operates two public charter schools, including the innovative Academy for Academic Excellence (http://www.lewiscenter.org/aae/). The Lewis Center is the only K-12 school organization in the country to control day-to-day operations of a large NASA radio telescope. Since opening in 1990, the Lewis Center has hosted more than 100,000 students, teachers and parents who have learned the relevance of real science through radio astronomy, including more than 28,000 students who have participated online in the Lewis Center's GAVRT Program.
LCROSS is managed and flown from NASA Ames Research Center. The LCROSS Shepherding Satellite, built by Northrop Grumman Space Technology, carries a NASA-built payload instrument suite, and will guide the Centaur upper stage of its Atlas V moon rocket toward a target crater on the moon. LCROSS will release the two-ton Centaur upper stage to impact in a permanently-shadowed crater near the moon's pole. The shepherding spacecraft will fly through the debris plume, and use that payload of sophisticated instruments to assess the presence of water-ice or vapor. Minutes after the first impact, the shepherding spacecraft will impact the moon as well, creating a second opportunity for scientists to study lunar soil. LCROSS and its onboard instruments were built in just two years -- less than half the time of a typical spacecraft development program. NASA plans to launch the mission in early 2009.
GAVRT is a partnership involving NASA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and the Lewis Center for Educational Research (LCER) in Apple Valley, California. The Purpose of the GAVRT Program is to provide students and educators with curriculum vehicles that will promote science literacy, support a better understanding of the scientific community, and to provide the opportunity to collect real-time data with sophisticated science equipment through distance learning. It is a K-12 project using radio astronomy to provide an opportunity for students to experience real science and to learn that science is an ongoing process in which actual discovery is possible. GAVRT currently has trained 388 teachers at 221 schools in 36 states across the United States and at American schools in 13 countries and 3 U.S. territories.
Source: Lewis Center for Educational Research; Northrop Grumman Corporation; NASA Ames Research Center
CONTACT: Naush Boghossian of Larson Communications, +1-818-209-2787, for Lewis Center for Educational Research; or Jonas Dino of NASA Ames Research Center, +1-650-604-5612; or Sally Koris of Northrop Grumman Corporation, +1-310-812-4721; or Cheryl Thompson of Lewis Center for Educational Research, +1-760-946-5414, ext. 202
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