IPN International Space Education Professional Development Program, Houston (day 2)


Day 2 – Tuesday 03 February 2015

Today we visited NASA’s Human Research Program, Education & Outreach team. Their goal is to establish a comprehensive suite of educational programs and supportive materials for people of all ages and walks of life to learn about the challenges of human space exploration and the potential benefits to life on earth.

Dr Charles W. Lloyd, Program Manager, SA2 Human Research Program Education & Outreach Project, and his colleagues showed us a number of pages and resources that can be useful for STEM teachers in their classes. I will summarize here a few of those mentioned.

1. Researchers have some data on the effects of space on humans after 6 months out there (I say “some” as there have only been 540 astronauts so far, i.e. people who have been to space). But there is no data on the effects of a longer visit to space. Check out the planned one-year mission where American Astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian Cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will begin collaborative investigations on the International Space Station (ISS) on seven categories of research: Functional, Behavioral Health, Visual Impairment (it seems astronauts end up with cataracts), Metabolic, Physical Performance, Microbial and Human Factors. For a summary, check out the video on the HRP One Year Mission.

2. Connected to the One Year Mission, is the Twin Study. While Astronaut Scott Kelly will be in space, his twin brother Astronaut Mark Kelly, will stay on Earth. NASA has selected 10 investigations to conduct with these identical twins on the effects of spaceflight as compared to Earth by studying two people with the same genetics, but in different environments for one year. The research here will concentrate on Human Physiology, Behavioral Health, Microbiology/Microbiome and Molecular/Omics. See more on the research and the videos in their website.

3. Not all research on the effects is carried out in space. Read about the Bed Rest Studies: 70-day study to test the effectiveness of exercise on loss of muscle, bone and cardiovascular function (basically, test subjects, i.e. humans, stay in bed for 70 days with the bed tilted at -6 degrees in order to emulate the effects of reduced gravity).

4. Resources for STEM classes are readily available, free of charge and they can be downloaded and modified to fit each teacher’s lessons. See in the middle of the page Engagement and Communications Initiatives. I strongly recommend you have a look at Math and Science @ Work, and above all Mission X, an international educational challenge, focusing on fitness and nutrition, that teaches students how to “train like an astronaut.” This Mission X: Train like an astronaut is more for PE teachers, but could be a brilliant joint activity between the STEM and PE teachers. I look forward to seeing Scientix teachers join the event!

I leave you with a comment and a challenge question for you and your students:

The comment is: it is not about teaching Space Science in your classes, we know it is not in the curriculum for many of you, but about using this fascinating topic as examples in your classes on Newton Laws, Reproduction, Chemical reactions, Algebra, etc.

And the question: Why do astronauts eat tortillas instead of bread while in space?

More tomorrow,


Article written by: Agueda Gras Velazquez, Scientix Project Manager and Science Team Manager, European Schoolnet

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