NASA Triad JPL Training

Laura and I were invited to attend a very special session of the NASA Triad project hosted by the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena in August of 2013. A mere 30 teachers were invited to attend this prestigious opportunity and Laura and I were the only teachers from California lucky enough to attend. We spent the first full day diving into the NextGen Science Standards and Common Core and how they will eventually shape science education. The larger purpose of the trip was to spend professional development time at JPL. We got the latest and greatest NASA-made lessons for the “Curiosity in Your Classroom” project along with the million dollar all-access tour of the Mars Yard. We were also very lucky to get four, one-hour presentations by actual Curiosity mission specialists who presented us with images and data that still hadn’t hit publication. Their firsthand accounts of the scientific compromises (political, scientific, and monetary) needed to go from concept to reality in eight years were amazing. The following photos describe the details. Any teacher who desires information about how to get NASA materials in their classroom can contact me at ryhollister at sbcglobal dot net. A huge thanks to NASA Triad program facilitators Ann Benbow, Colin Mably, Steve Semken, Ian MacGregor, Bob Bernoff and Ed Robeck. Their diligent work will help us spread the latest and greatest info to both teachers and students alike.
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1/10 scale models of the Ulysses and Genesis.  Both instruments were used to study to the sun. Full-scale models of Spirit (and twin Opportunity) and Sojourner rovers.  In 1997 Sojourner became the first unmanned rover to ever explore another planet (Mars). Spirit & Opportunity started their work in 2004 and Opportunity still continues to do good science as of this writing. Another view of Spirit and Sojourner models. 1/25 scale model of Magellan - 1989-94.  Used it's radar to penetrate the thick atmosphere of Venus and map the planets topography among many other things.
Mars Global Surveyor models. Laura stands in front of a full-scale Gallileo model. A cool Hubble model. IR and visible wavelength camera display.  I'm hot.
Voyager model. Voyager inscriptions for other galactic beings to find one day. JPL's most recent Earth observer is a Soil Moisture probe called SMAP.  It's goal is to map soil moisture and freeze/thaw from space.  This is going to be a very useful tool for climate scientists, soil scientists and farmers. The best NASA announcement ever?
 RJH9268 Our friend Henry from Arizona stands in front of a full scale model of Curiosity.  We ended up getting to see the (almost) real deal. Sig from Florida. Laura and Curiosity.
Zephyr is the only other thing I know that can make Laura smile that big. Jean from NY. Rurik from Minnesota, eh. Leslie from Florida (Don't worry JPL, she's not actually touching the rover).
Dan & Ed. This is what happens when someone other than me takes pictures.  Thanks dear. OK, that's a little better.  You've redeemed yourself, dear. Ian & Eric.
IMG 2696 Little did we know that WAY better photo opps were to come. Things were about to get very awesome for all involved.  Time to go to Mission Control!  RJH9300
If you watch the "Seven Minutes of Terror" video or the actual landing of Curiosity last year, this is where it all happened. Mohawk Guy, Bobak Ferdowsi, is a working stiff... (cardboard in this case).  He was the Mission Flight Director for Curiosity. One of my favorite shots from the trip... Mission Control's nerve center.  RJH9308
Ian and Laura look in awe at the vast amount of data streaming into misison control. Dan's main CPU was on overload. What was this guy doing?  Oh, nothing really.  Just uploading the day's instructions to Curiosity on Mars. This medallion is embedded in the Mission Control floor at JPL to signify that every orbiting spacecraft or rover signal in the universe passes through this room first.  Think about that... EVERY signal from a human-made device passes throught this room.
 RJH9316 Laura and me at the center of the Universe. Mohawk Guy double-checks Laura's work. We got to watch a director's cut of the "Seven Minutes of Terror" clip in the Mission Control Room where it happened!
IMG 2695  RJH9322 Our first awesome presenter of the day was Dr. Bethany Ehlmann, a remote sensing geologist.  She gave us the lowdown on Curiosity’s most recent geologic discoveries.  Her data was in the process of being published, so I can’t yet tell the world what she’s found. I could only a muster an iPhone shot. Perhaps the best thing to come out of this experience was getting to take home class sets of the Mars Image Analysis lesson.  Students actually engage in authentic research based on THEMIS images sent back from the Mars Odyssey Spacecraft.
Our cohort goes through the process of the Mars Image Analysis Project. Yup, there's lots of measuring for scale and other math involved in trying to figure out what happened on this planet.   This project can then lead into the MSIP - Mars Student Imaging Project where students actually write a research proposal to NASA and, if accepted, get their very own Mars image taken for them and sent only to them to do their research. Scenes from the "Mystery Planet" lab where students have to infer what a planet may be like based on samples returned to Earth.  Great stuff for many grade levels. Here was how our grouping looked after fifteen or twenty minutes.
Day Two started on a very high note - a trip to the Mars Yard!!! Here's the best shot I could get of Curiosity's exact twin (other than the nuclear power).  The science team tests every new procedure on this rover first to ensure the rover can complete the comands. This was awesome.  We missed it rolling out of the garage by 30 min.  RJH9343 Here's the scarecrow. From NASA's website: Information collected about Scarecrow's performance in driving up various slopes on windward and downwind portions of dunes will be used by the rover team in decisions about driving on dunes near Mount Sharp inside Gale Crater.
 RJH9350 Here's the scarecrow being pulled-out of the garage by the scientist at right.  She was using a tablet and app to drive it. Laura holding the original Curiosity wheel. I got to hold it too.  The "JPL" on the tread was deemed too flashy. Soo...
JPL put these wheels on instead.  The holes in the wheel help controllers figure out how far Curiosity has traveled.  The holes also spell "JPL" in morse code! And out comes the scarecrow at a blistering pace. And out comes the scarecrow at a blistering pace. Laura was digging the scarecrow.
 RJH9363 Group shot!  RJH9365 Simulated Mars terrain.
Laura stands on the pumice and scoria that litter the Mars Yard. Rolling on dubs. Ian and Laura knick-knack-paddywhack over the Mars Yard. Here's a sign you don't see everyday.
Dr. Deborah Bass, part of the Mars 2020 Rover Science Definition Team.  She's helping to decide what instruments get put on the next rover, which will be a doppleganger of Curiosity in terms of landing style and rover chasis.  She drove home the point that NASA is designating the 2020 Rover to search for biosignatures and to create a cache of rock samples to bring back to Earth. Working on the "Is it Alive" lesson. It's a pretty great inquiry lab.  RJH9378 So which sample is alive?
How "Is It Alive" might look in the classroom setting with student responses. One of my favorite activities was the Mission to the Red Planet Simulation.  Groups had to determine what kind of science they would like to do on Mars, then choose between tools, power systems, launch vehicles, communications, etc all within financial and weight constraints.  Lots of negotiations needed! My favorite part of the entire trip?  Getting to meet Dr. Justin Maki.  He's the mission imaging specialist and has designed every camera for every Mars rover and oversees all of the images from Curiosity.  He likes to tell people he's a landscape photographer. Xtreme-O-Philes. This activity/lesson has lots of potential but needs some work.  The gist is to match known extremeophile environments on Earth with similar areas on Mars to have students hypothesize about where to search for possible signs of life.
 RJH9385  RJH9387 Zephyr loved his new flight suit.  Gotta love the NASA gift shop.  RJH9393
 RJH9394  RJH9400 Zephyr is getting great at push-ups. On our way home, Laura and I decided to stop at La Conchita.  The community has experienced two devastating landslides in 1995 and 2005.  The latter killed ten people.
This is quite the welcome sign.   Luckily, the area was dry and slope failure was less likely to happen while we visited. I was shocked to see that very little of the 200,000 cubic meters of the 2005 landslide had not been removed. The bright green area on the slope was the area that failed and slid in a rapid flow.  Googling "La Conchita Slide Video" will turn up an interesting clip.  RJH9416
This overgrown and damaged house is succumbing to nature.  RJH9421 I can only assume that the structure on top of the roof was a patio cover. So sad.
And this is why people are still compelled to live in La Conchita: The ocean is across the street.  In this case, US HWY 101. Zephyr's first beach experience at El Capitan State Beach. Zephyr's first beach experience at El Capitan State Beach. Zephyr's first beach experience at El Capitan State Beach.
Zephyr's first beach experience at El Capitan State Beach. Zephyr's first beach experience at El Capitan State Beach. Oil rigs off the coast. The Channel Islands.
Zephyr touches wet sand!  RJH9447 That's cold! This is a chill kid!
Z's already looking for the beach babes.  RJH9456 Here comes the water! Soo close!
Ahh! Sandy feet.  RJH9470  RJH9471
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