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  • School challenge: Launch mission to Mars

    Thursday, October 30, 2003

    By Anna Guido
    Enquirer contributor
    Copyright 1995-2003. The Cincinnati Enquirer, a Gannett Co. Inc. newspaper. Used with permission.

    MILFORD - Sixth-graders at Meadowview Elementary School are launching a Global Surveyor to Mars this week.

    It's intense work and a chaotic experience, at best. As a mission manager, much responsibility falls on the shoulders of Shelbi, 11.

    "We make sure everybody's got their job done. If somebody doesn't do their job, then we have to go back and start all over," Shelbi said.

    Visitors could swear they are in a real mission control center as students labor over computers, each doing separate jobs as propulsion systems engineers, altitude control engineers, deep space network specialists and dozens of other positions necessary for a successful launch.


    Steve Heck, a retired Air Force command pilot turned teacher, guides Mark, 12, in signing on to the rocket launch program at Meadowview Elementary on Tuesday.
    (Ernest Coleman photo)

    Science and social studies teacher Steve Heck, a candidate for the NASA Educator Astronaut Program, walks his student ground crew through the steps needed to "log in."

    "Once they all get green lights, they can start the script," Heck said.

    The 16-page script guides students through the computer steps they must take to proceed on the Web interactive program. Students take these steps while reading their parts aloud.

    "If they can get through this (launch) simulation, what a great experience it will be," Heck said.

    About 80 students in Heck's science classes this week will run the simulated NASA mission, an education program created by Space Explorers Inc. in De Pere, Wis.

    Meadowview's $1,600 NASA launch program was funded with matching grants from Space Explorers Inc. and the Ohio Space Grant Consortium Initiative.

    Meadowview is one of three Greater Cincinnati schools and 20 in Ohio using this program to teach middle and high school students about space. Seven Hills and New Miami Junior-Senior High are the other local schools.

    During Tuesday's launch, Heck kept a telephone conversation going with Brian Dannemiller, a mission coordinator for Space Explorers.

    "Basically, if they run into any problems (leading up to the launch), I'm here to help out," Dannemiller said.

    The Internet-based program gives students hands-on applications for their studies in math, science and technology. Students prepared for this week's launch by studying Global Surveyor missions, the solar system and Mars.

    They'll continue their studies by performing some of the same experiments performed on the International Space Station.

    After the launch, students must get the Global Surveyor to leave Earth's orbit and enter Mars' orbit.

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