"LIVE FROM THE STRATOSPHERE" P R O J E CT U P D A T E #10 PART 1: Schedule for updates-lfs PART 2: Science in the Stratosphere video program PART 3: Connecting with other teachers PART 4: Intro to Electronic Field trips: a tutorial for teachers PART 5: Astronomy for the jet set; a tutorial for students PART 6: Web registration discontinued PART 7: Junior Reports now working PART 8: Dr. John Davies compares the KAO to ground-based observing PART 9: When things really didn't work out _______________________________________________________________________ Until now, the schedule for these updates-lfs has been somewhat erratic. Most teachers will be better served by a regular schedule, so for the next few weeks, you can count on an update being sent every Tuesday and Friday. At a minimum, these messages will contain one story about the people or events of the Kuiper Airborne Observatory (KAO). In addition, new Live From the Stratosphere project information will be distributed here. _______________________________________________________________________ The first Live From the Stratosphere (LFS) video product was released this past week when it aired over PBS and NASA TV. This 30-minute tape was stuffed with information which will help teachers prepare for teaching the material to their students. If you missed this program, you will be best served if you can catch it. NASA TV plans to rebroadcast the show the week of September 25 according to the following schedule (all times Eastern): Sept 25 Mon Sept 26 Tues Sept 27 Wed Sept 28 Thurs 13:00-13:32 01:00-01:32 01:28-02:00 01:02-01:34 16:00-16:32 13:28-14:00 13:02-13:34 19:00-19:32 16:28-17:00 16:02-16:34 22:00-22:32 19:28-20:00 19:02-19:34 22:28-23:00 22:02-22:34 NASA TV can be found on C-band on the Spacenet 2 satellite, 69 degrees West, transponder 5, channel 9, frequency 3880.0 Mhz, Horizontal polarization, audio on 6.2 and 6.8. NASA TV is also rebroadcast on many cable TV or community access stations. This program is also available on videotape from NASA CORE for a price of $14.50 (Ohio residents add 5.75% tax) which includes domestic shipping. NASA CORE accepts Visa, Mastercard, school purchase orders or checks. Contact them directly to place an order or obtain additional information. NASA CORE, Lorain County JVS, 15181 Route 58 South Oberlin, OH 44074 Phone: (216) 774-1051 x293/294; FAX: (216) 774-2144 FAX Many teachers have reported frustration at their inability to receive last week's broadcast as it aired. Based on our previous experiences, this is not uncommon. The Live From the Stratosphere team distributes the broadcasts nationally through satellite, but every teacher needs to make local arrangements for receiving these broadcasts. If you plan on viewing the television programs live or on tape, you must begin planning how you will do this. See the previous update (LFS #9) for hints or join the discuss-lfs list (see below) to brainstorm with other teachers on potential solutions. _______________________________________________________________________ An international community of teachers who are excited about using Live From the Stratosphere is developing. The exact number is hard to ascertain, but one indicator is the approximately 1,100 people who are presently subscribed to the updates-lfs list. You will be provided with several mechanisms to connect with these people during the LFS project. Details will be shared over the next several updates-lfs messages Presently there are two ways to meet others teachers. One is through a maillist called discuss-lfs. This list will provide a forum for teachers to discuss a wide variety of issues, concerns, teaching strategies, useful resources, project collaboration opportunities, and suggestions. To join this discussion, send an email message to In the message body, write these words: subscribe discuss-lfs Also, a capability on the Web exists for semi-real-time chatting. The facility is a bit more clunky then an AOL-style chat room, but nonetheless it allows folks to communicate back and forth. I think all of the Web Chatters are in the process of learning how to effectively communicate with this tool. You are cordially invited to join this experiment if you have Web access. Please go to http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/webchat/chat.html The next scheduled Web Chat meeting is for Tuesday, September 26 at 4:30pm Pacific time. Also, feel free to drop in at any time and see if you can stir up some action on your own. _______________________________________________________________________ A new resource is available for teachers who are undertaking their first electronic field trip. The document was written by middle school teacher Scott Coletti who has taken his classes on the previous two Passport to Knowledge adventures. Scott has captured the lessons he's learned in turning these trips into meaningful educational experiences. Although the document is still a draft, it is still quite valuable in its rough form. If you are a bit unsure of how to get started with Live From the Stratosphere, please peruse Scott's document. It is available on the LFS Gopher (quest.arc.nasa.gov under Guides and Resources) or on the LFS Web under "Guides and things." _______________________________________________________________________ A new Web resource is available for students. It is a short section which describes why telescopes are put in airplanes, including the history and future of the technology. It has kid-friendly (cute) graphics and small (quick downloading) pictures. Visit this resource on the LFS Web under the "Kids' stuff" area _______________________________________________________________________ Registration for the Web pages has been discontinued. Although the data we gathered was useful, it wasn't worth the price. Feedback from you indicated that the registration was a hassle and it was prone to failure. So we bagged it and now folks can get to the Web without registering. Thanks to the teachers who endured the problems and whose constructive criticism helped us to better meet your needs. _______________________________________________________________________ The junior-lfs had been experiencing some implementation problems. These have now been corrected. Due to the problems, we will postpone the first postings to this list until the week of October 1. Apologies to those who were inconvenienced. This was a good lesson for the LFS crew in how services previously tested can sometimes go kablooey without apparent reason. Yikes! As mentioned in the previous update, during past projects, we have received comments that some of the updates are too long or that some vocabulary/concepts are too difficult for the average middle schooler. So for this project, in addition to the regular Field Journals, we will be offering an easier-to-read version geared towards an average 5th/6th grader's interests and vocabulary. These messages will be distilled from the regular messages. I am still looking for a few volunteers who would be willing to produce these reports. These folks should have a clear understanding of 5th/6th grade reading skills. Volunteers would be expected to write no more than one report per week. If you are interested, please send a note to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you. If you are interested in receiving these so-called Junior Reports, please send an email to . Leave the subject blank, and in the message body, write these words: subscribe junior-lfs _______________________________________________________________________ Please do not reproduce this article without permission of the author. Contact Dr. John Davies, Joint Astronomy Center, University of Hawaii, Hilo, Hawaii.
Higher Education. As PPARC begins to expand its programme for the Public Understanding of Science, your Hawaii editor recently had a chance to experience public outreach NASA style when he was invited to fly on the Kuiper Airborne Observatory with a group of American science teachers. For those readers who are not astronomers, the Kuiper Airborne Observatory is a Lockheed Starlifter military cargo jet which is equipped with a 1 metre infrared telescope. The telescope looks out of a hole in the side of the aircraft while astronomers, sitting inside the pressurized cabin, make their observations. The aircraft can fly at over 40,000ft, taking it above 99.5% of the water in the Earth's atmosphere and this means infrared observations impossible even from the top of 14,000ft Mauna Kea can be made. The size of the Starlifter makes it possible to carry a couple of "passengers" on each flight so NASA has a programme called FOSTER (Flight Opportunities for Science Teacher Enrichment) in which pairs of school teachers fly on the aircraft to "observe" the scientists in action. For reasons too complicated to bother you with, I was asked to come along and observe the observers observing the observers. In return I offered to host one of the teacher teams for a visit to Mauna Kea so they could compare ground and aircraft based observing. So on July 19th Donna Smith and Jed Laderman, science teachers from California, met me at the Joint Astronomy Centre, signed the medical waivers and headed up Mauna Kea. During the drive up I told them about PPARC and why we were here in Hawaii and they explained about the intensive 7 day workshop on astronomy and science education which they had attended as part of the FOSTER programme. Unfortunately the remains of Tropical Storm Barbara hit Hawaii that night and caused very heavy rain over the whole island and when we got to the summit of Mauna Kea no stars were visible in the murk. While this was a disappointment, and very bad for the astronomers hoping to observe that night, it did mean everyone had more time to talk so we had quite long visits to both UKIRT and JCMT. I showed our Donna and Jed around UKIRT and Derek Ward-Thompson from ROE did a great job in explaining to them how the JCMT worked and what he was hoping to do when the rain stopped. Things were improving a bit as we headed down and we stopped at the mid-level rest facility for a while where Donna and Jed did some binocular astronomy before we carried on back to sea level. The next day the three of us flew to Hickham Air Force Base, which adjoins Honolulu Airport, on the nearby island of Oahu. We met the organiser of the FOSTER programme, Edna DeVore, and talked about our flight on the following evening. We spent most of the afternoon climbing over the aircraft, looking at the telescope (which involved climbing into an enclosed, metal clad, blacked out box about the size of a large double wardrobe while the summer Sun beat down on the outside) and chatting to scientists and members of the flight crew. Everyone was busy, but they all found time to talk to the teachers about the aircraft and its mission. On the day of the flight we returned to Hickham for our safety briefing (a bit more comprehensive than the old "in the unlikely event of a cabin de pressurization" routine) and for fitting with oxygen masks just in case the seals failed and all the air decided to depart the cabin suddenly via the telescope aperture. We also acquired an extra teacher, 55 year old Darla Casey from Oregon, who had so enjoyed herself the night before she pleaded for another ride. The principal investigator, Mark Morris, gave us a talk on the science he planned to do then it was time for a quick dinner, 7pm briefing, flight suits on and prepare for take-off. Now at this point you can forget any illusions about this being just like any other plane. Its a long green tube with a ramp at the back and pipes and wires running along the roof. There are four tiny windows, designed not for sightseeing but for checking for fire outside in the event of a crash. Control consoles and panels with computers and so on fill much of the available space except at the back where a couple of seat rows are bolted to the metal floor. Carry-on bags don't go in overhead bins, you tie them to the floor with bits of rope! There is no sound proofing so everyone wears earphones to suppress the noise of the engines and wind. If you can imagine the inside of a world war two submarine being depth-charged, you're not far out. After take-off, itself a mystery since it was dark and it wasn't possible to see out, the seatbelt sign went off and the six scientists started running about hooking up batteries and oscilloscopes to their instruments. After about 30 minutes we reached 39,000 ft and the telescope team (three plus a mission director) opened the "dome". Stars appeared on the TV monitors but within a few minutes it was clear something was wrong because I could see the stress level rising amongst the science team as they struggled to reduce the noise in the instrument detector system. Mark Morris paced up and down and I could imagine him thinking about how fast his observing time was slipping away while the instrument team switched over electronics to try and fix whatever was producing the noise. Edna, our teacher coordinator, wisely shuffled us out of the way while all this was going on but finally things started to work, the data started to come in and the mood lightened noticeably. The actual observing was very like ground based astronomy. The science team operated the instrument and took the data while a telescope team pointed and stabilised the telescope using TV cameras. The only big differences were that the observatory shuddered from time to time and we all had to communicate by intercom. Once things calmed down our teachers came up front and each had a go at guiding the telescope while I rushed about taking notes and pictures while shouting "OK everyone, another flash coming up" since the crew don't like bright flashes without warning, apparently it makes then worry about explosions! After that, the only technical snag was that the coffee was cold, some-one had missed "coffee machine on" during the take-off checklist. The back of the aircraft was the teachers domain. They had hung springs, scales, balloons and gyroscopes from the ceiling and video taped them every time the aircraft turned or bounced in turbulence. From time to time we compared notes on our experiences using a private intercom channel and it was obvious that the teachers were fast learners and that they were really interested in seeing science done for real. Later Donna and Jed, wearing their blue NASA flight suits, video-taped a lesson while standing next to some of the computer banks. It was just like "Star Trek", their students will love it. About seven hours into the flight it was time to pack-up. The astronomers wanted another 90 seconds of observing but the flight plan wouldn't permit it. The mission director said "No, cage (lock) the telescope and close the dome" and down we went. The same scenes were now played out in reverse, remove the batteries and oscilloscopes from the telescope and store them, tie down the carry-on bags again. I headed up to the cockpit to watch the landing and strapped in behind the pilot as we began our descent to Honolulu in the pre-dawn darkness. Flaps out, wheels down, cleared for landing and all the usual stuff then we were rolling along the runway and taxiing back to our parking slot at Hickham. The engines stopped and the doors opened. Within a few minutes almost everyone had vanished to their beds for some well deserved rest but the teachers and I were the last to leave. Of course we didn't have to get up and do it all again the next day. Unfortunately. John Davies, JAC Hawaii _______________________________________________________________________ [Editor's note: The passages below continues a series of journals from last year] Kuiper Airborne Observatory Flight Log Juan Rivera - Airborne Telescope Operator Friday, May 13, 1994 Tonight was to be a research flight. But during the preflight check of the aircraft, the flight engineer found gravel and rocks in all four of our engines!! It turns out that earlier in the day an aircraft parked in front of us goosed his throttles as he was taxing away and peppered us with debris. If the flight engineer had not noticed the gravel they probably would have badly damaged all four engines at start up. It's a very lucky thing that he caught that. And it's an example of why we do very thorough checks of everything prior to a flight. There is much less margin for errors and problems in aircraft than other forms of transportation. You can't just pull over if you have trouble. So now the engines will have to be x-rayed to see if more debris is inside where we can't see it. Depending what they find, we could be out of business I'm afraid. I'm not an engine mechanic but I think we might have to swap out all four engines if worst comes to worst. I'm told that it will cost us $500,000 if we have to swap out the engines. In that case, the replacement engines would probably be shipped from Travis Air Force Base in California. Since our schedule is planned out for months in advance, there is very little room to slip it when something like this happens. The new experimenters could end up losing flights. Right now, the folks of the flight crew are over at Flight Operations filing an FOD report. FOD stands for "Foreign Object Damage". If loose debris is left laying around where aircraft operate, this sort of thing happens, and it's very expensive. The folks that were in the plane at the time said the plane was getting really blasted with rocks which they could hear bouncing off the skin. I'm sure the flight crew will have a few choice words for the Flight Operations people. It's not necessary to use a lot of power to get the plane moving, especially when there is another one behind you. Those guys knew better. Well enough said about that. I had a great time this afternoon. Michael, a computer programmer on the project with me, and I went snorkeling. We found a great little beach where only about five people were taking a scuba class. We were swimming along in some pretty shallow water and it didn't look all that good - only about 3 feet deep - when we came across an area where the bottom dropped off to a depth of about 30 feet. There were great big living coral growths the size of small cars with quite a few fish here and there. Michael grabbed my fin to get my attention and pointed down under one of these big coral growths, and there was a big sea turtle about two feet long! He slowly swam away and we followed him for about ten minutes. I didn't want to get too close although I would have loved to swim up and touch him. He looked slightly injured and was favoring his left flipper, but appeared pretty healthy to me.