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Earth to Space

Smithsonian Magazine

Earth From Space

Smithsonian Magazine

We live in an age of satellites; the skies above are full of them, usually just beyond our sight. And while we benefit plenty from the information they provide and the technologies they make possible, my favorite satellite product has to be the imagery. Many people marvel at the Hubble pictures of deep space, but my preference is for the images of Earth and especially the ones in which our planet turns into an Impressionist’s dream.

For years, the USGS has collected many of its Landsat images into “Earth as Art” collections, and now many of them are being displayed in an exhibit at the Library of Congress; you can see some here on Smithsonian.com.

But now I (and tens of thousands of others) are enjoying another collection: the European Space Agency’s Flickr stream. I’ve highlighted eight of my favorites from the Earth from Space category in the gallery below. Which ones would you consider hanging as art in your home?

Image by ESA / NASA. An icy landscape in northern Canada almost looks like water, as seen from the International Space Station. (original image)

Image by ESA / NASA. Who lives on the side of Mount Vesuvius? Their lights can be seen on the side of the volcano, an otherwise dark spot in the middle of Naples at night. (original image)

Image by Evisat / ESA. Crimson soil dominates the landscape of the Lake Eyre Basin, the lowest point in Australia. (original image)

Image by NASA. The ghostly green glow of the Aurora Australis, as seen from the International Space Station. (original image)

Image by ESA. Vegetation, false-colored in red, crawls up the side of the Himalayas and then abruptly stops. (original image)

Image by ESA. The color in this image, of the Tanezrouft Basin in the Algerian Sahara, comes from combining images from the Envisat satellite taken on three separate days; the colors represent differences in the images. (original image)

Image by JAXA / ESA. Japan’s ALOS satellite captured this image of the Gedo region of Somalia. (original image)

Image by ESA. This southern Pacific coral island, the Niau Atoll, completely encloses the inner hypersaline turqoise lagoon. (original image)

Earth from Space

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Online exhibit looking at what we can learn about Earth from satellite imagery and how this technology is being applied. Includes guided questions about how satellite technology helps today.

Anemometer Energy

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Student teams will be introduced to the phenomenon of how communities use wind energy to generate electricity. They will assess their local area for good sites to place a wind turbine. Using an anemometer, they will count the number of rotations in their chosen location. At the end of this challenge students will be able to determine strategies for optimal wind energy using 3D printed models and classroom materials.

Earth, Space, Mars

National Air and Space Museum
Earth, Space, Mars. Three watercolor sketches with notes written on the bottom of the paper; a generalization of how three framed painting will look together; a painting of space shown in the center with a portion of the earth and mars on the sides.

In March 1962, James Webb, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, suggested that artists be enlisted to document the historic effort to send the first human beings to the moon. John Walker, director of the National Gallery of Art, was among those who applauded the idea, urging that artists be encouraged "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race."

Working together, James Dean, a young artist employed by the NASA Public Affairs office, and Dr. H. Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art, created a program that dispatched artists to NASA facilities with an invitation to paint whatever interested them. The result was an extraordinary collection of works of art proving, as one observer noted, "that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company." Transferred to the National Air and Space Museum in 1975, the NASA art collection remains one of the most important elements of what has become perhaps the world's finest collection of aerospace themed art.

The spring of 1962 was a busy time for the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On February 20, John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. For the first time since the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. was positioned to match and exceed Soviet achievements in space. NASA was an agency with a mission -- to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge of sending human beings to the moon and returning them safely to earth by the end of the decade. Within a year, three more Mercury astronauts would fly into orbit. Plans were falling into place for a follow-on series of two-man Gemini missions that would set the stage for the Apollo voyages to the moon.

In early March 1962, artist Bruce Stevenson brought his large portrait of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, to NASA headquarters.(1) James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA, assumed that the artist was interested in painting a similar portrait of all seven of the Mercury astronauts. Instead, Webb voiced his preference for a group portrait that would emphasize "…the team effort and the togetherness that has characterized the first group of astronauts to be trained by this nation." More important, the episode convinced the administrator that "…we should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the …historic events" of the American space program.(2)

In addition to portraits, Webb wanted to encourage artists to capture the excitement and deeper meaning of space flight. He imagined "a nighttime scene showing the great amount of activity involved in the preparation of and countdown for launching," as well as paintings that portrayed activities in space. "The important thing," he concluded, "is to develop a policy on how we intend to treat this matter now and in the next several years and then to get down to the specifics of how we intend to implement this policy…." The first step, he suggested, was to consult with experts in the field, including the director of the National Gallery of Art, and the members of the Fine Arts Commission, the arbiters of architectural and artistic taste who passed judgment on the appearance of official buildings and monuments in the nation's capital.

Webb's memo of March 16, 1962 was the birth certificate of the NASA art program. Shelby Thompson, the director of the agency's Office of Educational Programs and Services, assigned James Dean, a young artist working as a special assistant in his office, to the project. On June 19, 1962 Thompson met with the Fine Arts Commission, requesting advice as to how "…NASA should develop a basis for use of paintings and sculptures to depict significant historical events and other activities in our program."(3)

David E. Finley, the chairman and former director of the National Gallery of Art, applauded the idea, and suggested that the agency should study the experience of the U.S. Air Force, which had amassed some 800 paintings since establishing an art program in 1954. He also introduced Thompson to Hereward Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

An imposing bear of a man standing over six feet tall, Lester Cooke was a graduate of Yale and Oxford, with a Princeton PhD. The son of a physics professor and a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was both fascinated by science and felt a personal connection to flight. On a professional level, Cooke had directed American participation in international art competitions and produced articles and illustrations for the National Geographic Magazine. He jumped at the chance to advise NASA on its art program.

While initially cautious with regard to the time the project might require of one of his chief curators, John Walker, director of the National Gallery, quickly became one of the most vocal supporters of the NASA art initiative. Certain that "the present space exploration effort by the United States will probably rank among the more important events in the history of mankind," Walker believed that "every possible method of documentation …be used." Artists should be expected "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race." He urged quick action so that "the full flavor of the achievement …not be lost," and hoped that "the past held captive" in any paintings resulting from the effort "will prove to future generations that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company."(4)

Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut to fly, was scheduled to ride an Atlas rocket into orbit on May 15, 1963. That event would provide the ideal occasion for a test run of the plan Cooke and Dean evolved to launch the art program. In mid-February, Cooke provided Thompson with a list of the artists who should be invited to travel to Cape Canaveral to record their impressions of the event. Andrew Wyeth, whom the curator identified as "the top artist in the U.S. today," headed the list. When the time came, however, Andrew Wyeth did not go to the Cape for the Cooper launch, but his son Jamie would participate in the program during the Gemini and Apollo years.

The list of invited artists also included Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth's brother-in-law, who had served as a wartime artist with the Army Air Force; George Weymouth, whom Wyeth regarded as "the best of his pupils"; and John McCoy, another Wyeth associate. Cooke regarded the next man on the list, Robert McCall, who had been running the Air Force art program, as "America's top aero-space illustrator. Paul Calle and Robert Shore had both painted for the Air Force program. Mitchell Jamieson, who had run a unit of the Navy art program during WW II, rounded out the program. Alfred Blaustein was the only artist to turn down the invitation.

The procedures that would remain in place for more than a decade were given a trial run in the spring of 1963. The artists received an $800 commission, which had to cover any expenses incurred while visiting a NASA facility where they could paint whatever interested them. In return, they would present their finished pieces, and all of their sketches, to the space agency. The experiment was a success, and what might have been a one-time effort to dispatch artists to witness and record the Gordon Cooper flight provided the basis for an on-going, if small-scale, program. By the end of 1970, Jim Dean and Lester Cooke had dispatched 38 artists to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and to other NASA facilities.

The art program became everything that Jim Webb had hoped it would be. NASA artists produced stunning works of art that documented the agency's step-by-step progress on the way to the moon. The early fruits of the program were presented in a lavishly illustrated book, Eyewitness to Space (New York: Abrams, 1971). Works from the collection illustrated NASA publications and were the basis for educational film strips aimed at school children. In 1965 and again in 1969 the National Gallery of Art mounted two major exhibitions of work from the NASA collection. The USIA sent a selection of NASA paintings overseas, while the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created two exhibitions of NASA art that toured the nation.

"Since we …began," Dean noted in a reflection on the tenth anniversary of the program, the art initiative had resulted in a long string of positive "press interviews and reports, congressional inquiries, columns in the Congressional Record, [and] White House reports." The NASA effort, he continued, had directly inspired other government art programs. "The Department of the Interior (at least two programs), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Army and even the Veterans Administration have, or are starting, art programs." While he could not take all of the credit, Dean insisted that "our success has encouraged other agencies to get involved and they have succeeded, too."(5)

For all of that, he noted, it was still necessary to "defend" the role of art in the space agency. Dean, with the assistance of Lester Cooke, had been a one-man show, handling the complex logistics of the program, receiving and cataloguing works of art, hanging them himself in museums or on office walls, and struggling to find adequate storage space. In January 1976, a NASA supervisor went so far as to comment that: "Mr. Dean is far too valuable in other areas to spend his time on the relatively menial …jobs he is often burdened with in connection with the art program."(6) Dean placed a much higher value on the art collection, and immediately recommended that NASA officials either devote additional resources to the program, or get out of the art business and turn the existing collection over the National Air and Space Museum, "where it can be properly cared for."(7)

In January 1974 a new building for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was taking shape right across the street from NASA headquarters. Discussions regarding areas of cooperation were already underway between NASA officials and museum director Michael Collins, who had flown to the moon as a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Before the end of the year, the space agency had transferred its art collection to the NASM. Mike Collins succeeded in luring Jim Dean to the museum, as well.

The museum already maintained a small art collection, including portraits of aerospace heroes, an assortment of 18th and 19th century prints illustrating the early history of the balloon, an eclectic assortment of works portraying aspects of the history of aviation and a few recent prizes, including several Norman Rockwell paintings of NASA activity. With the acquisition of the NASA art, the museum was in possession of one of the world's great collections of art exploring aerospace themes. Jim Dean would continue to build the NASM collection as the museum's first curator of art. Following his retirement in 1980, other curators would follow in his footsteps, continuing to strengthen the role of art at the NASM. Over three decades after its arrival, however, the NASA art accession of 2,091 works still constitutes almost half of the NASM art collection.

(1) Stevenson's portrait is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum (1981-627)

(2) James E. Webb to Hiden Cox, March 16, 1962, memorandum in the NASA art historical collection, Aeronautics Division, National air and Space Museum. Webb's preference for a group portrait of the astronauts was apparently not heeded. In the end, Stevenson painted an individual portrait of John Glenn, which is also in the NASM collection (1963-398).

(3) Shelby Thompson, memorandum for the record, July 6, 1962, NASA art historical collection, NASA, Aeronautics Division.

(4) John Walker draft of a talk, March 5, 1965, copy in NASA Art historical collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(5) James Dean, memorandum for the record, August 6, 1973, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(6) Director of Planning and Media Development to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(7) James Dean to the Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, copy in NASA Art history Collection, Aeronautics Division, NASM.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

July 26, 2007

Essential Science for Teachers

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Online courses designed to help K-6 teachers gain an understanding of some of the bedrock science concepts they need to teach today's standards-based curricula. The series of courses includes Life Science, Earth and Space Science, and Physical Science.

Earth from Space Activity Guide

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Ten-question activity guide that encourages readers to take a closer look at some of the satellite images featured in the Earth from Space exhibition. A complement to any ecology, geology, or environmental science curriculum.

Bicentennial Trilogy-Earth, Space, Mars

National Air and Space Museum
Impressions for 'Bicentennial Trilogy-Earth, Space, Mars'. Three very loose, rectangular sketches shown side-by-side; soft color forms that relate to space and planets; one is essentially blue, one very dark blue; one red and orange (preliminary sketches for painting).

In March 1962, James Webb, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, suggested that artists be enlisted to document the historic effort to send the first human beings to the moon. John Walker, director of the National Gallery of Art, was among those who applauded the idea, urging that artists be encouraged "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race."

Working together, James Dean, a young artist employed by the NASA Public Affairs office, and Dr. H. Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art, created a program that dispatched artists to NASA facilities with an invitation to paint whatever interested them. The result was an extraordinary collection of works of art proving, as one observer noted, "that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company." Transferred to the National Air and Space Museum in 1975, the NASA art collection remains one of the most important elements of what has become perhaps the world's finest collection of aerospace themed art.

The spring of 1962 was a busy time for the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On February 20, John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. For the first time since the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. was positioned to match and exceed Soviet achievements in space. NASA was an agency with a mission -- to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge of sending human beings to the moon and returning them safely to earth by the end of the decade. Within a year, three more Mercury astronauts would fly into orbit. Plans were falling into place for a follow-on series of two-man Gemini missions that would set the stage for the Apollo voyages to the moon.

In early March 1962, artist Bruce Stevenson brought his large portrait of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, to NASA headquarters.(1) James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA, assumed that the artist was interested in painting a similar portrait of all seven of the Mercury astronauts. Instead, Webb voiced his preference for a group portrait that would emphasize "…the team effort and the togetherness that has characterized the first group of astronauts to be trained by this nation." More important, the episode convinced the administrator that "…we should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the …historic events" of the American space program.(2)

In addition to portraits, Webb wanted to encourage artists to capture the excitement and deeper meaning of space flight. He imagined "a nighttime scene showing the great amount of activity involved in the preparation of and countdown for launching," as well as paintings that portrayed activities in space. "The important thing," he concluded, "is to develop a policy on how we intend to treat this matter now and in the next several years and then to get down to the specifics of how we intend to implement this policy…." The first step, he suggested, was to consult with experts in the field, including the director of the National Gallery of Art, and the members of the Fine Arts Commission, the arbiters of architectural and artistic taste who passed judgment on the appearance of official buildings and monuments in the nation's capital.

Webb's memo of March 16, 1962 was the birth certificate of the NASA art program. Shelby Thompson, the director of the agency's Office of Educational Programs and Services, assigned James Dean, a young artist working as a special assistant in his office, to the project. On June 19, 1962 Thompson met with the Fine Arts Commission, requesting advice as to how "…NASA should develop a basis for use of paintings and sculptures to depict significant historical events and other activities in our program."(3)

David E. Finley, the chairman and former director of the National Gallery of Art, applauded the idea, and suggested that the agency should study the experience of the U.S. Air Force, which had amassed some 800 paintings since establishing an art program in 1954. He also introduced Thompson to Hereward Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

An imposing bear of a man standing over six feet tall, Lester Cooke was a graduate of Yale and Oxford, with a Princeton PhD. The son of a physics professor and a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was both fascinated by science and felt a personal connection to flight. On a professional level, Cooke had directed American participation in international art competitions and produced articles and illustrations for the National Geographic Magazine. He jumped at the chance to advise NASA on its art program.

While initially cautious with regard to the time the project might require of one of his chief curators, John Walker, director of the National Gallery, quickly became one of the most vocal supporters of the NASA art initiative. Certain that "the present space exploration effort by the United States will probably rank among the more important events in the history of mankind," Walker believed that "every possible method of documentation …be used." Artists should be expected "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race." He urged quick action so that "the full flavor of the achievement …not be lost," and hoped that "the past held captive" in any paintings resulting from the effort "will prove to future generations that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company."(4)

Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut to fly, was scheduled to ride an Atlas rocket into orbit on May 15, 1963. That event would provide the ideal occasion for a test run of the plan Cooke and Dean evolved to launch the art program. In mid-February, Cooke provided Thompson with a list of the artists who should be invited to travel to Cape Canaveral to record their impressions of the event. Andrew Wyeth, whom the curator identified as "the top artist in the U.S. today," headed the list. When the time came, however, Andrew Wyeth did not go to the Cape for the Cooper launch, but his son Jamie would participate in the program during the Gemini and Apollo years.

The list of invited artists also included Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth's brother-in-law, who had served as a wartime artist with the Army Air Force; George Weymouth, whom Wyeth regarded as "the best of his pupils"; and John McCoy, another Wyeth associate. Cooke regarded the next man on the list, Robert McCall, who had been running the Air Force art program, as "America's top aero-space illustrator. Paul Calle and Robert Shore had both painted for the Air Force program. Mitchell Jamieson, who had run a unit of the Navy art program during WW II, rounded out the program. Alfred Blaustein was the only artist to turn down the invitation.

The procedures that would remain in place for more than a decade were given a trial run in the spring of 1963. The artists received an $800 commission, which had to cover any expenses incurred while visiting a NASA facility where they could paint whatever interested them. In return, they would present their finished pieces, and all of their sketches, to the space agency. The experiment was a success, and what might have been a one-time effort to dispatch artists to witness and record the Gordon Cooper flight provided the basis for an on-going, if small-scale, program. By the end of 1970, Jim Dean and Lester Cooke had dispatched 38 artists to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and to other NASA facilities.

The art program became everything that Jim Webb had hoped it would be. NASA artists produced stunning works of art that documented the agency's step-by-step progress on the way to the moon. The early fruits of the program were presented in a lavishly illustrated book, Eyewitness to Space (New York: Abrams, 1971). Works from the collection illustrated NASA publications and were the basis for educational film strips aimed at school children. In 1965 and again in 1969 the National Gallery of Art mounted two major exhibitions of work from the NASA collection. The USIA sent a selection of NASA paintings overseas, while the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created two exhibitions of NASA art that toured the nation.

"Since we …began," Dean noted in a reflection on the tenth anniversary of the program, the art initiative had resulted in a long string of positive "press interviews and reports, congressional inquiries, columns in the Congressional Record, [and] White House reports." The NASA effort, he continued, had directly inspired other government art programs. "The Department of the Interior (at least two programs), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Army and even the Veterans Administration have, or are starting, art programs." While he could not take all of the credit, Dean insisted that "our success has encouraged other agencies to get involved and they have succeeded, too."(5)

For all of that, he noted, it was still necessary to "defend" the role of art in the space agency. Dean, with the assistance of Lester Cooke, had been a one-man show, handling the complex logistics of the program, receiving and cataloguing works of art, hanging them himself in museums or on office walls, and struggling to find adequate storage space. In January 1976, a NASA supervisor went so far as to comment that: "Mr. Dean is far too valuable in other areas to spend his time on the relatively menial …jobs he is often burdened with in connection with the art program."(6) Dean placed a much higher value on the art collection, and immediately recommended that NASA officials either devote additional resources to the program, or get out of the art business and turn the existing collection over the National Air and Space Museum, "where it can be properly cared for."(7)

In January 1974 a new building for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was taking shape right across the street from NASA headquarters. Discussions regarding areas of cooperation were already underway between NASA officials and museum director Michael Collins, who had flown to the moon as a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Before the end of the year, the space agency had transferred its art collection to the NASM. Mike Collins succeeded in luring Jim Dean to the museum, as well.

The museum already maintained a small art collection, including portraits of aerospace heroes, an assortment of 18th and 19th century prints illustrating the early history of the balloon, an eclectic assortment of works portraying aspects of the history of aviation and a few recent prizes, including several Norman Rockwell paintings of NASA activity. With the acquisition of the NASA art, the museum was in possession of one of the world's great collections of art exploring aerospace themes. Jim Dean would continue to build the NASM collection as the museum's first curator of art. Following his retirement in 1980, other curators would follow in his footsteps, continuing to strengthen the role of art at the NASM. Over three decades after its arrival, however, the NASA art accession of 2,091 works still constitutes almost half of the NASM art collection.

(1) Stevenson's portrait is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum (1981-627)

(2) James E. Webb to Hiden Cox, March 16, 1962, memorandum in the NASA art historical collection, Aeronautics Division, National air and Space Museum. Webb's preference for a group portrait of the astronauts was apparently not heeded. In the end, Stevenson painted an individual portrait of John Glenn, which is also in the NASM collection (1963-398).

(3) Shelby Thompson, memorandum for the record, July 6, 1962, NASA art historical collection, NASA, Aeronautics Division.

(4) John Walker draft of a talk, March 5, 1965, copy in NASA Art historical collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(5) James Dean, memorandum for the record, August 6, 1973, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(6) Director of Planning and Media Development to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(7) James Dean to the Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, copy in NASA Art history Collection, Aeronautics Division, NASM.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

July 26, 2007

Exploring Space Lecture: Seeking Planets Like Earth

National Air and Space Museum
Dave W. Latham is a senior astronomer at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, part of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His recent research has focused on studies of transiting planets, both from the ground and with NASA's Kepler Mission. He is chief mission scientist for the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, an Explorer Mission selected by NASA for a Phase A Concept Study. In this presentation, recorded at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC on June 5, 2012, Dr. Latham discusses how it is possible to determine the bulk density and observe the atmospheres of transitioning planets. He also poses the question: "can we find rocky worlds similar to the Earth, with the right temperature for water to be liquid on the surface?"

Aquation: The Freshwater Access Game

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Choice, strategy, balance, and . . . water equity? Parts of the planet are struggling to get enough water. Use each region's wealth to build pipes, desalinate water, and conduct research to bring water where it's needed most. Monsoons, dry spells, disease, and even cursed lawn sprinklers can help or hinder your progress. Manage your wealth and water carefully to solve the world's water crisis!

Reflections on Earth: Exploring Earth from Space Teaching Poster

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Teaching poster featuring a satellite image of the Washington, DC, area. Includes an activity with background information on satellite images and a lesson on using these images to study Earth.

Human Exploration: The Journey Continues. Part 5 - The Spaceflight Revolution? It's Here

National Air and Space Museum
In July 2012, student researcher delegations from across America came to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum to participate in the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program (SSEP) National Conference. Dr. Jeff Goldstein, the Center Director for the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) gave the keynote address to conference attendees in the Milestones of Flight gallery, in front of the Apollo 11 Columbia Module. Dr. Goldstein's talk is designed to inspire this next generation of America's scientists and engineers. Human Exploration: The Journey Continues is meant to demonstrate what humans, as a species of explorers, have achieved, illustrating a continuum of exploration that celebrates the past, embraces the present, and inspires the future. This video series is told in five chapters. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (http://airandspace.si.edu/) and the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (/http://ncesse.org) are partnering on two Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education programs meant to inspire and engage America's next generation of scientists and engineers: The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP), provides over 10,000 grade 5-12 students each year the ability to do authentic research, and propose microgravity experiments to fly to the International Space Station; Family Science Night at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum provides an after-hours school field trip designed for family learning to the most visited aviation and space Museum on Earth. Over 400 students, parents, and teachers attend each evening and are treated to a very personal view of exploration on the frontier, and the spellbinding, wondrously human stories behind the machines that changed the world. TO TEACHERS: You are invited to share these videos with your classes and have a discussion about the nature and history of human exploration, and the joys of learning. Additional curricular materials are available at: link forthcoming More on the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program: http://ncesse.org/programs/student-spaceflight-experiments-program/ YouTube Playlist from the 2012 SSEP Conference at the Museum: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL3E74837F1E5F1082 More on the Family Science Night Program: http://ncesse.org/programs/family-science-night/

Human Exploration: The Journey Continues. Part 1 - Dreams of Generations

National Air and Space Museum
In July 2012, student researcher delegations from across America came to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum to participate in the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program (SSEP) National Conference. Dr. Jeff Goldstein, the Center Director for the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) gave the keynote address to conference attendees in the Milestones of Flight gallery, in front of the Apollo 11 Columbia Module. Dr. Goldstein's talk is designed to inspire this next generation of America's scientists and engineers. Human Exploration: The Journey Continues is meant to demonstrate what humans, as a species of explorers, have achieved, illustrating a continuum of exploration that celebrates the past, embraces the present, and inspires the future. This video series is told in five chapters. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (http://airandspace.si.edu/) and the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (/http://ncesse.org) are partnering on two Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education programs meant to inspire and engage America's next generation of scientists and engineers: The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP), provides over 10,000 grade 5-12 students each year the ability to do authentic research, and propose microgravity experiments to fly to the International Space Station; Family Science Night at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum provides an after-hours school field trip designed for family learning to the most visited aviation and space Museum on Earth. Over 400 students, parents, and teachers attend each evening and are treated to a very personal view of exploration on the frontier, and the spellbinding, wondrously human stories behind the machines that changed the world. TO TEACHERS: You are invited to share these videos with your classes and have a discussion about the nature and history of human exploration, and the joys of learning. Additional curricular materials are available at: link forthcoming More on the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program: http://ncesse.org/programs/student-spaceflight-experiments-program/ YouTube Playlist from the 2012 SSEP Conference at the Museum: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL3E74837F1E5F1082 More on the Family Science Night Program: http://ncesse.org/programs/family-science-night/

Human Exploration: The Journey Continues. Part 2 - Dreams of Generations Realized

National Air and Space Museum
In July 2012, student researcher delegations from across America came to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum to participate in the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program (SSEP) National Conference. Dr. Jeff Goldstein, the Center Director for the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) gave the keynote address to conference attendees in the Milestones of Flight gallery, in front of the Apollo 11 Columbia Module. Dr. Goldstein's talk is designed to inspire this next generation of America's scientists and engineers. Human Exploration: The Journey Continues is meant to demonstrate what humans, as a species of explorers, have achieved, illustrating a continuum of exploration that celebrates the past, embraces the present, and inspires the future. This video series is told in five chapters. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (http://airandspace.si.edu/) and the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (/http://ncesse.org) are partnering on two Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education programs meant to inspire and engage America's next generation of scientists and engineers: The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP), provides over 10,000 grade 5-12 students each year the ability to do authentic research, and propose microgravity experiments to fly to the International Space Station; Family Science Night at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum provides an after-hours school field trip designed for family learning to the most visited aviation and space Museum on Earth. Over 400 students, parents, and teachers attend each evening and are treated to a very personal view of exploration on the frontier, and the spellbinding, wondrously human stories behind the machines that changed the world. TO TEACHERS: You are invited to share these videos with your classes and have a discussion about the nature and history of human exploration, and the joys of learning. Additional curricular materials are available at: link forthcoming More on the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program: http://ncesse.org/programs/student-spaceflight-experiments-program/ YouTube Playlist from the 2012 SSEP Conference at the Museum: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL3E74837F1E5F1082 More on the Family Science Night Program: http://ncesse.org/programs/family-science-night/

Human Exploration: The Journey Continues. Part 4 - There Are These Moments In Our Lives

National Air and Space Museum
In July 2012, student researcher delegations from across America came to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum to participate in the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program (SSEP) National Conference. Dr. Jeff Goldstein, the Center Director for the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) gave the keynote address to conference attendees in the Milestones of Flight gallery, in front of the Apollo 11 Columbia Module. Dr. Goldstein's talk is designed to inspire this next generation of America's scientists and engineers. Human Exploration: The Journey Continues is meant to demonstrate what humans, as a species of explorers, have achieved, illustrating a continuum of exploration that celebrates the past, embraces the present, and inspires the future. This video series is told in five chapters. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (http://airandspace.si.edu/) and the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (/http://ncesse.org) are partnering on two Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education programs meant to inspire and engage America's next generation of scientists and engineers: The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP), provides over 10,000 grade 5-12 students each year the ability to do authentic research, and propose microgravity experiments to fly to the International Space Station; Family Science Night at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum provides an after-hours school field trip designed for family learning to the most visited aviation and space Museum on Earth. Over 400 students, parents, and teachers attend each evening and are treated to a very personal view of exploration on the frontier, and the spellbinding, wondrously human stories behind the machines that changed the world. TO TEACHERS: You are invited to share these videos with your classes and have a discussion about the nature and history of human exploration, and the joys of learning. Additional curricular materials are available at: link forthcoming More on the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program: http://ncesse.org/programs/student-spaceflight-experiments-program/ YouTube Playlist from the 2012 SSEP Conference at the Museum: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL3E74837F1E5F1082 More on the Family Science Night Program: http://ncesse.org/programs/family-science-night/

Human Exploration: The Journey Continues. Part 3 - Milestones of Flight

National Air and Space Museum
In July 2012, student researcher delegations from across America came to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum to participate in the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program (SSEP) National Conference. Dr. Jeff Goldstein, the Center Director for the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) gave the keynote address to conference attendees in the Milestones of Flight gallery, in front of the Apollo 11 Columbia Module. Dr. Goldstein's talk is designed to inspire this next generation of America's scientists and engineers. Human Exploration: The Journey Continues is meant to demonstrate what humans, as a species of explorers, have achieved, illustrating a continuum of exploration that celebrates the past, embraces the present, and inspires the future. This video series is told in five chapters. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (http://airandspace.si.edu/) and the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (/http://ncesse.org) are partnering on two Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education programs meant to inspire and engage America's next generation of scientists and engineers: The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP), provides over 10,000 grade 5-12 students each year the ability to do authentic research, and propose microgravity experiments to fly to the International Space Station; Family Science Night at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum provides an after-hours school field trip designed for family learning to the most visited aviation and space Museum on Earth. Over 400 students, parents, and teachers attend each evening and are treated to a very personal view of exploration on the frontier, and the spellbinding, wondrously human stories behind the machines that changed the world. TO TEACHERS: You are invited to share these videos with your classes and have a discussion about the nature and history of human exploration, and the joys of learning. Additional curricular materials are available at: link forthcoming More on the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program: http://ncesse.org/programs/student-spaceflight-experiments-program/ YouTube Playlist from the 2012 SSEP Conference at the Museum: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL3E74837F1E5F1082 More on the Family Science Night Program: http://ncesse.org/programs/family-science-night/

Watch Earth's Atmosphere Brilliantly Light Up From Space

Smithsonian Magazine

If you were to gaze down at our planet from, say, a space station orbiting the Earth, you might catch a glimpse of a brilliant red glow hovering just above the upper limits of the atmosphere. While this colorful display as seen in a video captured aboard the International Space Station may look similar to an aurora, it’s actually a phenomenon called “airglow” that marks the very edges of our atmosphere.

Airglow was first discovered in 1868 by the Swedish physicist Anders Ångström. Ångström was fascinated with the aurora borealis, but he realized that while aurorae occur in brief, brilliant spurts, the Earth’s upper atmosphere is constantly glowing. Most often occurring about 60 miles above the Earth’s surface, airglow happens when particles in the upper atmosphere interact with sunlight and solar radiation, Jason Samenow writes for the Washington Post. As these particles are excited, they produce photons, creating a layer of light at the very edge of the atmosphere.

Unlike an aurora, which is caused by electrons interacting with the Earth’s magnetic field closer to the North and South Poles, airglow is usually created by a chemical reaction. There are technically three different phases to airglow depending on the time of day, Marshall Shepherd writes for Forbes. First, there’s “dayglow,” which is caused by sunlight illuminating the atmosphere. While this is the brightest kind of airglow, it is still faint enough to be drowned out by the sun and can only be detected through thermal imaging. Then, there’s “twilightglow,” which occurs in a narrow band as the Earth’s face rotates away from the sun. Finally, there’s the “nightglow,” when solar radiation causes oxygen and nitrogen particles in the upper atmosphere to break down in a process called “chemiluminescence,” which produces a faint glow.

While airglow creates a beautiful display from the vantage point of the ISS, it’s much harder to see from the ground. According to NASA’s Earth Observatory, airglow is about one billion times fainter than sunlight. However, it is such a persistent phenomenon that it actually contributes more light to the night sky than starlight, Shepherd writes.

Even though airglow happens all the time, it isn’t always uniform. Satellites studying the atmosphere often observe ripples and waves in the airglow caused as the glowing layer is shifted by weather patterns. In fact, these disturbances are sometimes used to study long-term changes in the upper atmosphere, Shepherd writes.

Some of these changes in the boundary between the atmosphere and outer space were only discovered in the last decade and scientists still aren’t sure exactly what causes them. By studying the reactions that create the airglow, scientists hope to learn more about the forces that shape the very edges of our planet’s atmosphere.

Earth Today

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Real time views of Earth from space showing its atmosphere, oceans, landmasses, and population.

Student Spaceflight Experiments Program Day 1 - Intro

National Air and Space Museum
The first Student Spaceflight Experiment Program (SSEP) National Conference was held at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum on July 6 and 7, 2011. This student science symposium allowed student teams from all over the country to share their designs and preliminary results for experiments conducted during STS-134, Space Shuttle Endeavour's final mission. This video includes an introduction by Dr. Jeff Goldstein, the Center Director of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, and organizer of this conference.

SSEP 2012 - Conclusion

National Air and Space Museum
The second annual Student Spaceflight Experiment Program (SSEP) National Conference was held at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum on July 2 and 3, 2012. This student science symposium allowed student teams from all over the country to share their designs and results for experiments conducted on the International Space Station. This video includes the closing presentation of the SSEP 2012 conference with Jeff Goldstein, Center Director, SSEP National Program Director, National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE)

SSEP 2012 - Harri VanHala

National Air and Space Museum
The second annual Student Spaceflight Experiment Program (SSEP) National Conference was held at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum on July 2 and 3, 2012. This student science symposium allowed student teams from all over the country to share their designs and results for experiments conducted on the International Space Station. This video includes the presentation: "Navigating SSEP Experiments from Selection to Flight" by Dr. Harri Vanhala, Deputy Director, National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE).

SSEP 2012 - Jeff Goldstein

National Air and Space Museum
The second annual Student Spaceflight Experiment Program (SSEP) National Conference was held at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum on July 2 and 3, 2012. This student science symposium allowed student teams from all over the country to share their designs and results for experiments conducted on the International Space Station. This video includes the presentation: "Milestones of Flight" by Jeff Goldstein, Center Director, SSEP National Program Director, National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE)

SSEP Day 1 - Tim Livengood

National Air and Space Museum
The first Student Spaceflight Experiment Program (SSEP) National Conference was held at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum on July 6 and 7, 2011. This student science symposium allowed student teams from all over the country to share their designs and preliminary results for experiments conducted during STS-134, Space Shuttle Endeavour's final mission. This video includes a presentation by Dr. Timothy Livengood, Senior Research Scientist at the National Center for Earth and Space Science: "The Acciental Observatory."

Spaceflight: The Development of Science, Surveillance, and Commerce in Space

Smithsonian Libraries
To commemorate the centennial of the Proceedings of the IEEE, several authors from diverse areas of expertise examine space exploration from its beginnings in the middle of the last century and look onward to half a century in the future. Beginning by examining the reasons why the two 20th century superpowers believed that space exploration was an important investment, the chronological review of early developments includes discussions on science, commerce, and national security; the evolution of space-related technologies; progress and advancements in launch vehicles, spacecraft, and spacecraft payloads; and improvements in space communications and tracking. With the subjects of robotic solar system exploration and crewed missions to space discussed in some detail, the great advances of the last 60 years establish a foundation for addressing the challenges of future human flight beyond Earth's vicinity #x02014;challenges that are technical, political, social, and economic in nature. The authors take a pragmatic view in making forecasts for the future of spaceflight: they limit their conjecture, for the most part, to the next 50 years. While it is very difficult to make realistic predictions for longer periods, the authors are confident that space exploration continues to grasp the public's imagination and desire to know more about the universe, and that it continues to build on many of the same questions that inspired the space program in the mid-20th century.
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