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The KidSat Student Mission Operations Center-SMOC

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1 Author(s)
K. Rackley ; Mason Preparatory Sch., Charleston, SC, USA

KidSat was a NASA pilot project wherein middle school students investigated their world with images of the Earth using a digital camera onboard the space shuttle. Students requested and retrieved Earth images in Student Mission Operations Centers (SMOCs) located in their schools using the Internet as their communications link while the shuttle was in orbit. In the SMOCs, students selected specific geographic sites around the world, determined the map coordinates for each site, and relayed the site data to a KidSat computer on the shuttle via a KidSat Mission Control Gateway (MCG). The computer then activated the KidSat digital camera mounted in the window of the shuttle, and the images were downloaded to the KidSat data system and posted on a web page for the middle schools students. The SMOC was a miniature mission control center modeled after NASA's Mission Control Center in Houston, TX, but with a very specific purpose: to image the Earth with the KidSat camera. The SMOCs had one primary task: target and verify images of the Earth to meet the objectives of their school's investigation themes. Students were organized into teams that planned investigations and associated locations to image, monitored orbit paths and flight timelines, checked weather conditions at the targeted sites, and provided public information to the local media. The SMOCs made the KidSat program unique and exciting as students actually used NASA technology in combination with school equipment to actively participate in a shuttle mission. Prior to launch, students gathered information, asked questions, hypothesized outcomes, and planned ways to test their hypotheses using the Earth images. From their studies, they were able to draw conclusions, for example, about the relationship between man and the environment. In a school setting, the application of knowledge is too often restricted to controlled science lab experiments in which the outcome is already known. KidSat opened a world of possibilities, allowing students to investigate issues using images to determine actual conditions. KidSat successfully adapted NASA technology for use in the middle school curriculum, expanding the horizons of those who were involved

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing  (Volume:37 ,  Issue: 4 )