12th Symposium on Education


Educational Outreach of the Aqua Spacecraft Mission

Claire L. Parkinson, NASA/GSFC, Greenbelt, MD; and S. M. Graham, S. Dacey, and K. Bender

Aqua (http://aqua.nasa.gov), a major satellite of the Earth Observing System (EOS), was launched on May 4, 2002, to study the Earth's water cycle and other aspects of the Earth/atmosphere system. Aqua carries six Earth-observing instruments and will collect global data on water in the atmosphere, on the land, and in the surface layer of the oceans, including water in the solid and vapor forms as well as in the liquid form. In addition, Aqua data will be used to determine atmospheric and surface temperatures and global vegetation. Particular goals of the Aqua mission include improved weather forecasts and improved understandings of climate and climate change.

The Aqua mission has involved considerable educational outreach, including printed products, presentations, and computer-based activities. The printed products include a 41-page Aqua brochure, brochures for each of five Aqua instrument and science teams, an Aqua lithograph, NASA Fact Sheets on Aqua, the water cycle, and weather forecasting, and an Aqua science writers' guide. Presentations describing the Aqua mission and its science have been given at schools, conferences, and to groups of teachers.

One of the many highlights of Aqua outreach has been a series of webcasts (http://aqua.nasa.gov/outreach/webcast.html) produced by the Goddard Special Project Initiatives (SPI) Office. These webcasts are live, interactive programs with a solid education content base that are broadcast via the Internet to a variety of formal and informal education audiences, the subject matter of which focuses on the connection between Aqua science and engineering and high school Earth science curriculum.

Topics explored and exciting places visited included Aqua engineering from the cleanroom at TRW in Redondo Beach, California; Earth science subjects including clouds and the Earth’s radiation budget, advanced weather forecasting, phytoplankton and ocean color, and precipitation and the water cycle, addressed from 9,000 feet above sea level on the Mauna Kea volcano and from the Snug Harbor Marine Optical Buoy (MOBY) facility, both in Hawaii; and a discussion and demonstration of the physics involved in the launch and deployment of a satellite, broadcast from the launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Lompoc, California.

In addition, many Aqua scientists have been filmed answering questions for a coordinated "Cool Science" web site. Cool Science (http://aqua.nasa.gov/outreach/coolscience.html) is a dynamic and interactive website that showcases the scientists and engineers as well as the science and imagery that define the Aqua mission. In line with the National Academy of Sciences Science Content Standards for grades 9-12, nine science areas each contain ten tiered questions that are designed to provide background information on the topic and then advance the user to higher-level thinking and analysis within the science area. In addition, the SPI Office has developed an interactive searchable database of multimedia materials focused on the science behind NASA flight projects, including those in the EOS program. Finally, the webcasts, web site, and talks have all benefited from sophisticated computer animations created to show various aspects of the Aqua mission, including launch, solar array and instrument deployments, orbit, instrument data collection, and simulated and real data.

extended abstract  Extended Abstract (592K)

Supplementary URL: http://aqua.nasa.gov

Session 4, Special Session on Water and the Water Cycle: Part II
Monday, 10 February 2003, 4:00 PM-5:30 PM

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