In the countdown to the Nov. 1 launch of the shared NASA-funded Atmospheric Waves Experiment — AWE — space mission with Utah State University to the International Space Station, Space Dynamics Laboratory has launched an “awesome” website, AWEmission.org, packed with learning activities, news, images and mission information.
“The AWE website features a ‘Get Involved’ page to encourage people — especially youngsters — to learn about the mission and get excited about its countdown to launch,” says Brooke McKenna, supervisor of Innovation and Outreach with SDL’s Engineering and Operations Division. “Among the page’s highlights are mission challenges and activities geared to a range of ages, to help visitors to the site, including teachers and K-12 students, learn about the space mission.”
The SDL outreach and marketing teams have crafted a site chock full of resources to spark interest in the AWE mission, which seeks to understand how Earth’s weather affects space weather via small-scale atmospheric gravity waves.
“This is a historic mission, with every aspect of the project — from the design of the instrument, to its deployment in space and analysis of its data — handled by engineers and scientists from SDL and Utah State and their mission colleagues — right here in our community,” McKenna says.
The mission focuses on study of the atmospheric gravity waves in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. These waves can impact satellites, on which we’re dependent for so many activities of daily life.
“The scientific community once believed solar activity was the only factor affecting the upper atmosphere,” says USU Physics Professor Mike Taylor, principal investigator on the mission. “But there’s more at play. Recent studies show atmospheric gravity waves can affect communications between satellites as well, which impact navigational systems, including GPS, along with other functions we depend on each day.”
McKenna says she hopes the “Explore, Discover, Do” site will build aspiring researchers’ interest in space and STEM subjects in general.
“This isn’t just learning about science that’s already happened,” she says. “AWE is blazing a new trail and we get to watch new knowledge about space, as it unfolds.”
SDL and USU also offer upcoming, in-person outreach activities for Utah’s Cache Valley community. The AWE mission outreach team will host booths at USU’s Science Unwrapped public outreach events Oct. 6 and Nov. 3; both at 7 p.m. in the Eccles Science Learning Center on the Logan campus. A booth will also be offered at USU’s Saturday, Oct. 14 observance of the annular solar eclipse, from 8 a.m.-noon, outdoors on the university Quad.
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