SpaceX's unmanned Dragon capsule is grappled by the robotic arm on the International Space Station in a picture taken from the station. From National Geographic Daily News, photo-credit: NASA. Click for Zoom

While schools are in recess for summer break across the nation, the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education is gearing up for a sweeping array of SSEP activities this Fall –

  • Two SSEP payloads – the Antares payload of 11 Mission 2 to ISS experiments, and Aquarius II, a re-flight of all Mission 1 to ISS experiments (more on this soon) – will be transported to ISS aboard the first operational flight of the SpaceX Dragon currently projected for launch in late September 2012. We will be communicating with NASA to assess the launch viewing opportunities for SSEP student delegations.
  • The Center is currently working hard to find funding for a record-setting 24 communities that have put forward approved Implementation Plans for Mission 3 to ISS, with the microgravity experiment design phase engaging 9,000 students and beginning September 17, 2012. Eight of these communities – 1/3 of the program participation for Mission 3 – are returning for their second, third, and even fourth SSEP flight. It is now clear that the SSEP community network is not only growing, but is sustainable, with communities embedding the SSEP experience at the curricular level, and engaging SSEP systemically across schools and school districts. Now, just a little over 2 years since the start of SSEP program operations, the initiative is rapidly expanding, and its scaleable nature allows for annual support of 100+ engaged communities, with 40,000-50,000 students fully immersed in real microgravity science and proposal writing. SSEP is beginning to realize its vision as a U.S. National keystone STEM education program meant to demonstrate what science education ought to be in the 21st century.
  • The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum is completing the post production work on the raw video footage of student team presentations at the 2012 SSEP National Conference, July 2-3, 2012. The conference was a stunning success, and you’ll see that the videos, to be posted on YouTube, are an amazing tribute to America’s next generation of scientists and engineers, and will reaffirm our deeply held belief that if you allow grade 5-14 students the ability to do real science, just stand back and be amazed.
  • The Center and the National Air and Space Museum are now working with the Teaching From Space office at NASA Johnson Space Center to plan a live downlink with the International Space Station in possibly November 2012. We expect at least 20 and possibly as many as 40 SSEP communities to be part of the live event, with at least 300 attendees at each site connected via the Smithsonian’s video conferencing bridge via the World Wide Web. As many as 12,000 attendees may be participating.

Against this remarkable backdrop of activities, we would like to help you get back into the spirit of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program, and what we are all doing together. Below is a video of our home world from your International Space Station. My advice – find a quiet contemplative space, get your family together, turn up the sound, and allow what we have accomplished as a species of explorers to wash over you.  Only the words of a poet could do this film justice. But let me offer up three appropriate Tweets from my Twitter stream to get you in the mood –

If humans were meant to fly …
we would discover the physics of lift, fly like the birds … and look down in awe.

If humans were meant to leave our world …
we would master the laws of gravity and motion, and build ships to the stars.

There were ants that said “we’d never fly” yet some persisted,
and now … the ant hill looks so small from where they soar.


ISS at Night by Knate Myers

Credit: the Crews of the International Space Station

Music by John Murphy – Sunshine (Adagio In D Minor)

Image Courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory,
NASA Johnson Space Center, The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth

View from the ISS at Night from Knate Myers on Vimeo.



SSEP is undertaken by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in partnership with NanoRacks LLC. This on-orbit research opportunity is enabled through NanoRacks LLC, which is working in partnership with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory.

SSEP is the first pre-college STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education program that is both a U.S. national initiative and implemented as an on-orbit commercial space venture.

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