Beginning in the summer of 1990, the NASA’s Texas Space Grant Consortium initiated week-long professional development training for teachers. This aerospace workshop, called LiftOff, emphasizes science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning experiences by incorporating a space science theme supported by NASA missions. Teacher participants are provided with information and experiences through speakers, hands-on activities and field investigations that promote space science and enrichment activities for themselves and others.
Humanity’s interest in the heavens has been universal and enduring. Humans are driven to explore the unknown, discover new worlds, push the boundaries of our scientific and technical limits, and then push further. The intangible desire to explore and challenge the boundaries of what we know and where we have been has provided benefits to our society for centuries.
While robotic explorers have studied Mars for more than 40 years, NASA’s path for the human exploration of Mars begins in low-Earth orbit aboard the International Space Station. Astronauts on the orbiting laboratory are helping us prove many of the technologies and communications systems need for human missions to deep space, including Mars. The space station also advances our understanding of how the body changes in space and how to protect astronaut health.
Our next step is deep space, where NASA will send a robotic mission to capture and redirect an asteroid to orbit the moon. Astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft will explore the asteroid, returning to Earth with samples. This experience in human spaceflight beyond low-Earth orbit will help NASA test new systems and capabilities, such as Solar Electric Propulsion, which we’ll need to send cargo as part of human missions to Mars. NASA’s powerful Space Launch System rocket will enable these “proving ground” missions to test new capabilities. Human missions to Mars will rely on Orion and an evolved version of SLS that will be the most powerful launch vehicle ever flown.
Engineers and scientists around the country are working hard to develop the technologies astronauts will use to one day live and work on Mars, and safely return home from the next giant leap for humanity. NASA also is a leader in a Global Exploration Roadmap, working with international partners and the U.S. commercial space industry on a coordinated expansion of human presence into the solar system, with human missions to the surface of Mars as the driving goal.
This is the beginning of a new era in space exploration in which NASA has been challenged to develop systems and capabilities required to explore beyond low-Earth orbit, including destinations such as translunar space, near-Earth asteroids and eventually Mars. Exploration – Past, Present, and Future – Liftoff 2016!
Liftoff is open to any Grade 4 – 12 teacher. Any Texas teacher that is accepted into the workshop will receive all expenses paid – hotel, meals, transportation and tours. The program highlights include:
• Presentations by NASA scientists and engineers
• Tours of NASA and Space Center Houston
• Hands-on, inquiry based classroom activities aligned to educational standards
• Career Exploration
• Teacher Feature (sharing of classroom lessons and activities matched to education standards)
• Opportunity to interact with researchers dedicated to space missions
Former participants rate LiftOff as one of the best professional development programs they have ever attended. The deadline for receiving applications is April 15 for LiftOff 2016 and should be submitted through the online system: http://www.tsgc.utexas.edu/liftoff/