In July of this year, NASA shared the deepest images of the universe. Humans have always longed to know more about the universe. The Maya, for example, turned to astronomy to guide their lives. The Apollo program begins in 1960 and ends with the first trip to the moon. This historical moment was unprecedented in engineering, resulting from the discovery or creation of new materials, methods, better technical and production systems, and even the discovery of new laws of nature. Space technology has affected the world in areas previously unimagined, starting with satellite television, cell phone signals, and geo-positioning systems (GPS).
Ethan R. Siegel, an American theoretical astrophysicist and science writer, wrote an article about Forbes describing why it is important to explore space. He explained that space technology, especially ground-based satellites, can rapidly survey and survey vast areas of land, improving land use for farmers, livestock and fisheries. Satellite monitoring records the state and condition of crops, soil, effects of drought, rain and other factors. “It has been estimated that even a modest system of ground-based satellites equipped with ground-based resources and sensors programmed to improve agriculture could increase annual harvests by the equivalent of many billions of dollars worldwide,” Siegel wrote.
NASA, along with various private companies, is developing Artemis program that plans to establish human life on the moon and “lay the groundwork for private companies to usher in a lunar economy and eventually send humans to Mars starting in 2033.” Many of the new generations find it hard to believe that it was only 53 years ago that humans landed on the moon for the first time. Now you don’t need to be an astronaut to go into space, as SpaceX demonstrated last September when American Jared Isaacman (the founder and CEO of Draken International), a pilot, philanthropist and commercial astronaut, funded a private trip into orbit The Earth. Medical assistant Hayley Arsenault, data engineer Chris Sembroski, and geology and science communication specialist Sian Proctor joined him.
Space education allows students to dream big
Even if a student doesn’t dream of exploring space as an astronaut, education about space and its discoveries is critical because it emphasizes STEAM subjects and motivates students to dream beyond their current knowledge and experience. It is essential to teach students that space exploration is not limited to industry; academic institutions also play a vital role. At Georgia Tech, for example, teams are built Moonlight, a small satellite that will orbit the Moon and search for lunar ice.
Sandy Magnus, a former NASA astronaut and professor at Georgia Tech, explains that the new challenges and technologies facing NASA require multidisciplinary expertise. The challenges go beyond avionics, thermal or materials issues; much interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research is needed. At Georgia Tech, students participate in flight design and prototype construction. They participate in design competitions where they analyze and build various aerospace systems and compete against teams from other universities.
Such activities do not only occur at the university level. For example, in K-12 tools like Mimio MyBot and ShareSpace Giant map of Mars allow students to build and program rovers that simulate what scientists and engineers do to explore Mars. There are even activities that focus on maneuvering the challenging Martian terrain, which requires an understanding of the topography of Mars. Additionally, STEAM kits are available that include teacher guides, lessons, activities, and even curriculum where students learn how the sun affects the temperature of different planets, which affects the viability of growing living things on earth. NASA has also created specialized materials for teachers and students.
A paper published in the 6th International Conference on Space Science and Communication (IconSpace), called Using space science as a tool to promote STEM education to high school students in Malaysia discusses how teaching space science brings together two key concepts of STEAM education: 1) it combines many separate disciplines (chemistry, biology, physics, and mathematics), assuming that their shared synergies foster advances in understanding the natural world that lead to innovation , and 2) connects the logic and multidisciplinary conceptual frameworks of the various STEAM fields, thereby treating education holistically. The article highlights “astrobiology” as “a relatively new multidisciplinary field of science that raises specific questions about the origin of life, the search for extraterrestrial life, and the future of life; it integrates physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, computer science, great information and artificial intelligence.”
According to the authors, STEAM topics are often stigmatized as challenging to learn. Still, space science rises thanks to science fiction and the genre’s curiosity and imagination. Precisely because space science is intertwined with imagination, in 2019 Jeff Bezos created Club for the future through its space transportation company Blue Origin. It invites students, teachers and parents, who make up the millions of people who live and work in the industry, to draw or write their vision and send it to the club via email or traditional mail. Once received, they are packaged and launched into space with the flight crew. When the spacecraft return to earth, the written visions are sealed to show that they have been de-orbited and returned to their owners. The idea behind it is to inspire new generations to pursue STEAM careers to make their vision of the world in space a reality and to demonstrate to students that space is achievable. The program also offers a variety of resources for incorporating space themes into the classroom and working on collaborative activities.
The International Space Station (ISS) has created a community of students, teachers and organizations called Space Station Explorers, which offers tutorials on replicating specific experiments on the ISS. The goal is that with this “taste” of an astronaut’s life, people will be motivated to discover more about space and study something related to it. Space science positions go beyond astronauts; these include atmospheric scientists, aerospace engineers, avionics technicians, and data analysts. As Sandy Magnus mentioned, space science is a field that requires multidisciplinary disciplines.
Unlike 50 years ago, space exploration is more accessible, so motivating students to “look up” is vital. Technology and space science are used every day to improve living conditions on Earth, such as ride-sharing apps or routing apps that help people avoid traffic jams, determine where they are when driving, show the way to the destination etc. In construction, some companies are using high-quality satellite imagery combined with space technology to bid on certain jobs without visiting the site. Even insurance companies use this technology to assess the risk of buildings remotely. Also, dating apps show potential partners in the area. If space exploration has shown anything, it’s that the sky is no longer the limit.