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Greetings Explore! Community

This newsletter is intended to highlight Earth and space science information and opportunities for informal educators. If you have events, resources, news, or activities to share, or would like to give us feedback, please contact us at

Calendar of Events




1 Reaching Forward Annual Conference for Library Staff, Rosemont, IL
2 International Astronomy Day
5-8 Florida Library Association Annual Conference
Massachusetts Library Association Annual Conference
7 Delaware Library Association Conference
11-12 National Library Legislative Day, Washington, D.C.
12-13 NASA Space Science Workshop, Memphis, TN
13-15 Maryland Library Association Annual Conference
14-15 Louisiana Support Staff Association of Libraries Annual Statewide Conference


2 Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) Launch (no earlier than)
14-17 Special Libraries Association Annual Conference, Washington, D.C.


Spotlight On . . .

New Community Members from Texas and North Carolina

NASA Space Science Workshop participants watch their bottle rocket launch into the air.

NASA Space Science Workshop participants watch their bottle rocket launch into the air.



We'd like to welcome the trainers who attended our Explore! workshops this winter and spring. Thirty-four trainers attended our Explore! Staying Healthy in Space Workshop on February 16-17 at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas. Participants delved into the challenges astronauts face while in space, and they discovered that many of those challenges are the same ones children (and adults!) struggle with here on Earth. Presentations by scientists and hands-on activities explored how astronauts meet the basic needs of good nutrition, sleep, exercise, cleanliness, and recreation.

Seventeen new trainers from Texas attended the Explore! Mars Workshop at the end of March as a pre-conference session at the Texas Library Association 2009 Annual Conference. Participants spent a day with sand, mud, and rice crispie treats doing various hands-on activities that model volcanoes, impact craters, and channels on Mars…all in the name of science!  Greetings also to those who attended our “Space Science Resources for Students” during the conference and joined our community.

Thirty-one trainers joined us in Raleigh, North Carolina for our NASA Space Science Workshop April 15-16, which encompassed not only the topics of staying healthy in space and Mars, but also NASA's missions to the Moon and beyond, the rockets that will take us there, and the outposts we will establish on the Moon and Mars.

Welcome all! We're glad to have you with us!

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Find resources for your programs at the Lunar and Planetary Institute's Connect to the Moon website.
Find resources for your programs at the Lunar and Planetary Institute's Connect to the Moon website.

Connect to the Moon
The Lunar and Planetary Institute has created an education and public outreach site, Connect to the Moon, which is designed to provide one-stop access to a broad range of lunar-related education and public outreach products. The site provides material for classroom teachers, students, families, and informal educators. More material and information will continue to be added to the site, so check back often!


Mars in Google Earth
In collaboration with NASA researchers at Arizona State University, Google created some of the most detailed scientific maps of Mars ever made. Zoom in and pan around the maps to investigate volcanoes, channels, and impact craters.  The maps can be used in Google Earth to fly to Mars in a virtual 3D environment. Use this site in conjunction with the Explore! Mars: Inside and Out! suite of activities.

Bring music to your programs and events!  AstroCappella is a marriage of astronomy and music, developed by astronomers and educators, and professionally recorded by the professional a cappella group, The Chromatics.  Many of the songs, activities, and background science materials are freely available on this site.

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Events and OpportunitiesTop Stars: Educators Invited to Submit Examples of Inspiring Uses of Hubble in Education
U.S. formal (K-12, college) and informal educators -- both individuals and teams of up to four members -- are invited to submit their best examples of using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope in science, technology, engineering or mathematics education.  Entries may include any combination of text, graphics, video and photos. Selected entries will be recognized as "Top Stars."  Educators selected as Top Stars will have their entry featured on the Top Stars Web site and will receive a high-quality Hubble image print and an invitation to attend (via teleconference) a special briefing by a Hubble scientist or engineer.  In addition, the top 10 Top Stars will be recognized as "Gold Stars." These educators will receive an official letter of commendation from NASA, be featured in an article on, be invited to present their entry to other educators nationwide over the NASA Digital Learning Network, and more. The Top Stars Web site will begin accepting entries April 30, 2009.

ISS EarthKAM Spring 2009 Mission
Turn your library into an ISS EarthKAM Student Mission Operations Center (SMOC) through the ISS EarthKAM program!  Setup stations where your students can target, request, and retrieve images from a digital camera on board the International Space Station.  (Check out the suggested setup here.) Registration is required and is restricted to middle school educators.  The Spring 2009 Mission runs April 28-May 1, 2009.

If you don’t wish to sign up, check out the public archive of ISS EarthKAM images, i.e. cool pictures of Earth from space!

Use the ISS EarthKAM resources in conjunction with the Explore! Space Stations activities.

Beyond Words: The Dollar General School Library Relief Program
Beyond Words provides funding to public schools affected by disasters to rebuild and expand library media programs. Grants range from $5,000 to $15,000 each and can be used to defray the cost of replacing or supplementing books, media, and/or equipment in the school library media center.  Eligible applicants must be located near a Dollar General, represent public schools serving students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12, In addition, the library must have suffered damage or loss due to a natural disaster, fire, or an act recognized by the federal government as terrorism or the school must have absorbed a significant number of displaced/evacuated students.  Funds will be available from June 2008 to May 2010. Grant applications will be accepted on an ongoing basis, with applications reviewed the first of each month.  Complete program information and eligibility requirements are available at the Beyond Words section of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Web site.

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Workshops and Courses

Afterschool Universe – Training Sessions
Afterschool Universe is a hands-on astronomy program targeted at middle school children out-of-school-time settings. It explores basic astronomy concepts through hands-on activities and focuses on the Universe outside the solar system. Information sessions and training workshops are being held at various locations across the country.

  • Early-mid May 2009 in Arizona
  • Mid-June 2009 in Greenbelt, MD at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

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Mission News and Science

Mission News and Science

NASA Takes Its First Steps Back to the Moon This Spring
The Apollo landing on the Moon will celebrate its 40th Anniversary this summer, and NASA is taking its first steps back to the Moon with the launch of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) this spring. LRO has been undergoing testing since February and is scheduled to launch no earlier than June 2, 2009.

Artist concept of LRO
Artist's concept of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Credit: NASA
After launch, LRO's journey to the Moon will take approximately four days. LRO will then maneuver into a polar orbit approximately 50 km above the Moon's surface (a little over 30 miles), closer than any other lunar mission.

LRO will spend at least one year orbiting the Moon and collecting detailed information about the lunar environment. Instruments aboard LRO will provide key information for establishing a lunar outpost by 2020. In addition, the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), which will launch alongside LRO, will collect data about the possibility of water ice on the Moon.

Plan an event around the June 2 launch date to celebrate the LRO mission and revitalize interest in our closest neighbor, the Moon. Use the Explore! To the Moon and Beyond! with NASA's LRO Mission suite of activities to bring the Moon to the future lunar explorers attending your youth programs!

Fresh Mars Impact Craters Blast Ice Onto Surface
Adapted from the Universe Today, March 31st, 2009 article by Anne Minard


Impact crater on Mars showing ice. Credit: NASA/JPL/ University of Arizona


Fresh impact craters on Mars have revealed more evidence of stable ice that’s been hiding just beneath the surface all along, say scientists working on images sent back by the HiRISE camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The craters appeared sometime between January and September of last year, in areas that had been previously imaged without them prior to January 2008. The impacts served as “natural probes” to excavate evidence that helps scientists understand where ice is found on Mars. The new craters are a significant clue, because they hit not in the high latitudes where planetary scientists are fairly certain about stable ice, but in the mid-latitudes where the ice’s reach is unclear.

Use this current headline news in conjunction with the Explore! Mars: Inside and Out! suite of activities.

Why Space Hates Our Bones (and what we can do about it)
Adapted from the Universe today, March 23rd, 2009 article by Anne Minard

Think it might be fun to live in space? Better ask your bones.

Earth’s space agencies have tackled some of the major obstacles to living in space, with pressurized spacesuits that offset the deadly vacuum and deflect incoming solar and cosmic rays. But in the absence of gravity, astronauts aboard the International Space Station are still losing up to 10 times more bone mass than most Earth-bound post-menopausal women.

In an attempt to address this bone loss, University of Washington researchers asked 22 volunteers to remain in bed, in a six-degree, head-down tilt position for 84 days that mimics the physiologic adaptations astronauts experience during spaceflight. Halfway through their commitment, the volunteers have already shed light on how bone loss in astronauts might be slowed. 

Half of the study participants perform individually prescribed intermittent treadmill exercise similar to workouts by astronauts in space – but with one important difference: they are pulled towards the treadmill surface by a harness applying greater force than what the research team has previously measured during walking and running on the International Space Station treadmill.  Of the five study subjects so far who have been assigned to the exercise group, bone loss in four of them has been prevented in important skeletal regions by the treadmill exercise countermeasure, while the six non-exercising control subject participants all lost bone mass.

The final set of U.S. solar arrays was installed on the International Space Station in March.
The final set of U.S. solar arrays was installed on the International Space Station in March. Credit: NASA

International Space Station Has All of Its “Wings”
Adapted from NASA's STS-119 Mission: Boosting the Station Power by Elaine M. Marconi

In March, space shuttle Discovery delivered a final set of U.S. solar arrays to the International Space Station (ISS).  With the unfurling of two, one acre-sized "wings," the orbiting outpost now is able to draw on 120 kilowatts of usable electricity and its capacity to perform science experiments has doubled.

Use this current headline news in conjunction with the Explore! Space Stations activities.


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