A $912,000 NASA award will enable the Museum of Science, Boston to capture the excitement of the next generation’s moonshot — the human journey to Mars and back.
“NASA is closer to sending American astronauts to Mars than at any point in our history,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in 2015.
The agency is again calling on the Museum of Science to educate the public about a critical topic on the national agenda. The two-year grant supports From Project Mercury to Planet Mars: Introducing Engineering and Inspiring Youth through Humanity’s Greatest Adventure. The Museum will create two educational experiences that will bring to life the engineering skills and team spirit fueling this historic pioneering endeavor:
A dynamic immersive full-dome planetarium show engaging audiences in the vast engineering challenges, revolutionary technological solutions, and desolate beauty of a journey to the Red Planet;
A large-scale, hands-on challenge introducing visitors to the engineering design process by building, testing, and improving a solution to a unique Mars exploration problem.
“When President Kennedy announced the ambitious goal of sending an American safely to the Moon and back, he inspired an entire generation,” says Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA). “We can harness the imaginations of this generation by setting the bold goal of traveling to Mars and back. I’m proud that NASA chose the Museum of Science to be ‘educational mission control’ as we advance planetary exploration. The Museum’s From Project Mercury to Planet Mars: Introducing Engineering and Inspiring Youth through Humanity’s Greatest Adventure will launch the next generation of scientists and engineers.”
The Museum was one of nine informal education organizations chosen from 73 applications through a peer-reviewed process for NASA’s almost-$10 million Competitive Program for Science Museums, Planetariums and NASA Visitor Centers Plus Other Opportunities award.
“We are both honored and excited by NASA’s belief in us,” says Museum of Science president and director Ioannis Miaoulis. “We share a common purpose: to foster public understanding of space exploration, powered by STEM. The space race that once spurred engineers and scientists to land on the Moon also drove important societal benefits through technological innovation, and today Mars is inspiring a new generation. As space technology rapidly changes, we look forward to working with NASA on future phases of the Mars mission.”
Miaoulis received NASA’s Exceptional Public Service Medal in 2009 and has served on the NASA Advisory Council and NASA Education and Public Outreach Committee. He is also on the Board of the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space.
“A highly educated and well-prepared workforce has been and continues to be critical to the success of the agency’s mission,” said Donald James, associate administrator of NASA’s Office of Education in Washington. “Hands-on interactive educational activities engage students, educators, families, and the general public to increase Americans’ science and technology literacy.”
The Museum has worked with NASA and other museums and universities on many projects:
Its From Dream to Discovery: Inside NASA planetarium show, focusing on the remarkable engineering of the James Webb Space Telescope, the New Horizons Pluto mission, and Goddard Space Flight Center’s testing facilities.
Three out-of-school time (OST) curriculum units integrating planetary science with technology and engineering as well as researching engineering instruction in OST settings. Two other NASA-themed online units are free to afterschool programs.
Evaluating NASA’s Space and Earth Informal STEM Education collaboration to raise the capacity of museums and informal science educators to engage the public in heliophysics, earth science, planetary science, and astrophysics.
Developing the Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination exhibition, which leveraged the film saga’s popularity in a first-of-its-kind engineering exhibition reaching over 3 million people.
A Measuring Vegetation Health project where students used cameras, imaging software, satellite images, and visualization software to observe plant change.
The New England Space Science Initiative in Education fostering collaborations between space scientists and educators.
The most recent $912,000 award brings NASA support for the above Museum projects to more than $8 million.
The Museum has also sparked public interest in space exploration through its timeless exhibit on the Apollo command and lunar modules, free stargazing in Gilliland Observatory, visits from NASA astronauts, and live presentations about the Mars Rovers, International Space Station, and Space Shuttle. Its Charles Hayden Planetarium has attracted over 11 million visitors.
In 2015, the NASA Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity noted the Museum’s efforts in practicing and promoting universal design as part of the MissionSTEM project.