Five Million Kids Connect on Space Day

May 1, 1999

Andrea Gianopoulos
Astronomy Magazine

Diana Bahr
Challenger Center for Space Science Education

On Space Day, May 6, 1999, millions of children in thousands of schools across the United States will take an electronic field trip to the cosmos. They will celebrate the process of scientific discovery in “The Quest in the Question,” which includes a live satellite broadcast and a series of hands-on activities. These activities involve the study of gravity, the phases of the moon, and the properties and nature of light. Each is designed to promote a child’s inherent curiosity, while teaching basic scientific principles. “Participants not only learn the scientific method, but the creative and inquisitive process involved in scientific investigation,” says Kelly Ray, Challenger Center Project Lead, in the June issue of Astronomy magazine . The Quest in the Question “strives to teach children that science is something everyone is capable of doing,” she adds.

Founded on April 24, 1986, by the families of the Challenger 51-L crew, The Challenger Center for Space Science Education is an international organization dedicated to teaching science. Along with NASA, it is a primary educational partner for Lockheed Martin’s Embrace Space initiative, from which Space Day had its beginnings.

Embrace Space began as a corporate education project at Lockheed Martin in 1996. Space Day developed as a vehicle to convey Lockheed’s educational mission. The event “uses the enthusiasm associated with space to focus young people toward an interest in math, science, and technology,” says Hugh Burns, Space Day coordinator for Lockheed. The goal is to raise scientifically literate adults who will enter the workforce some 15 years in the future. “In our first year the electronic field trip reached 10 percent of the elementary schools in the country. Last year we reached 20 percent, or 4.5 million kids,” remarks Burns. This year 4 to 6 million children are expected to participate.

One of the more intriguing lessons teaches students about the process of scientific discovery through light and color. “Astronomers use light and the different wavelengths at which it radiates to depict the universe,” says Bonnie Gordon, editor of Astronomy. “The colors in astronomical images represent temperatures, wavelengths, or signal intensities of the stars and galaxies being studied.”

To help students better understand this relationship, the June issue of Astronomy presents a six-page feature by associate editor, Andrea Gianopoulos, that will be used in classrooms nationwide as part of The Quest in the Question. The article offers a series of colorful images and an activity related to how astronomers use filters to study space.

To learn more about the nature of light and color, Space Day ‘99, and The Quest in the Question electronic field trip see the June 1999 issue of Astronomy. You can register for the The Quest in the Question electronic field trip by email at or by calling Fairfax Network at 703-503-7492.

For further information visit the following websites:

Astronomy magazine :
Challenger Center for Space Science Education:
The Quest in the Question:
Space Day:

The Quest in the Question will be broadcast on May 6, 1999, from 1 to 2 p.m. EDT.

Editor’s Notes:

UCO/Lick Observatory provided the lunar photographs for this project’s “electronic lesson” about the Phases of the Moon.

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