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Middle School Students Send Commands to the International Space Station
by Lori Keith for Johnson Space Center
Houston TX (SPX) May 11, 2012

File image.

While only about 200 astronauts have had the thrill of looking down at Earth and commanding systems on the International Space Station, literally thousands of everyday middle-school students have experienced similar excitement using the Earth Knowledge Acquired by Middle School Students, or EarthKAM, camera system.

EarthKAM is an educational activity and outreach investigation that also results in remote Earth sensing and observation. Using the Internet, the students control a special digital camera mounted aboard the space station, enabling them to photograph the Earth's coastlines, mountain ranges and other geographic items of interest from the unique vantage point of space.

While EarthKAM offers a powerful way for students to investigate Earth from the unique perspective of space, it is also inspiring the next generation of flight controllers for space programs - involving university students to control and operate the camera system and related activities from the ground.

In this interview, Brion Au, one of the investigation developers at NASA's Johnson Space Center, said, "EarthKAM is a payload by students, for students. They are in charge. This system provides a viewpoint that the astronauts's just awe-inspiring!"

So far, students have captured more than 40,000 photos of the Earth from the space station as it orbited the Earth once every 90 minutes, traveling at 17,500 miles an hour. The team at EarthKAM posts these photographs online for the public and participating classrooms around the world to view.

Au explains the details of this education investigation, which is inspiring students to explore the world by examining Earth, while promoting social studies, art, geography, science, technology, and math, among other important lessons involving research and teamwork.

EarthKAM was started by Dr. Sally Ride, originally flying on the shuttles. The camera is located in the Window Observational Research Facility, also known as the WORF, one of many of the station's research facilities. Learn what a teacher and student who have participated thought about their experience with EarthKAM. For more information, visit the EarthKAM main website.


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