Space Science is a relatively new science
that focuses on understanding the planets, moons,
asteroids, comets and other objects and phenomena
within our solar system (although this should eventually
include extrasolar planets). Planetary Science
obviously falls within the space science rubric
and focuses on planets within the solar system, with
a special emphasis on the "geology" of Mars
and the other inner planets.
Space science is distinct from the other cosmos-related
sciences. Astronomy generally involves the observation
of celestial phenomena.
Astrophysics concentrates on understanding
the fundamental processes of celestial phenomena such
as the workings of stars and galaxies. Cosmology
looks at the birth, life and death of the universe as
Space science, in particular, concentrates
on the macro-sciences such as the geology,
meterology, chemistry, and, perhaps, biology
in our solar system.
Space science really came into its own
with the development of spacecraft that could go out
and directly investigate phenomena near the earth and
out in the solar system.
The ultimate amateur space science participation comes
via direct interaction with space probes exploring
our solar system and with rovers exploring them.
A few opportunities for this participation have already
occurred and more and more will happen as space exploration
continues, especially with the increasing number of
This section also includes many topics involving near-earth
and solar system based phenomena, e.g. meteor show observation,
aurora investigation, etc., that might be expected to
reside in the Astronomy
section. However, the sciences involved go under the
space science umbrella and also these topics match well
with the HobbySpace emphasis on our own solar
system and our interaction with it.
In addition to basic science research, we include here
efforts by amateur groups also to develop technology
for exploring and developing the solar system, .
The sky is
big enough for amateurs and independent space advocacy
organizations to make significant discoveries even in
this day of billion dollar research programs. Here are
some projects involving amateurs and non-governmental
participants that promise to make significant contributions
to science and to the technology needed to make scientific
Devon Island Mars Analog
Project Haughton crater on Devon
Island in the Canadian Arctic region has become
the focal point for those interesting in finding a close
analog on Earth to Mars. Numerous research groups land
on the isolated island each summer to carry out various
scientific and technological projects.
"Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) is a multidisciplinary
investigation to study the Haughton crater on Devon
Island, Northwest Territories, in the Canadian arctic.
The HMP typically takes place June through July, ...]
by studying the Haughton crater and it's surroundings,
we hope to learn more about Mars, the Earth's geologic
past, a cosmic phenomenon (impact cratering) that
has in the past catastrophically altered the course
of the Earth's evolution, and an extreme environment
in one of the most rarely visited corners of our planet.
While investigating Haughton, we will also learn
how to best explore Mars, by testing robotic and
human exploration technologies and strategies, and
by optimizing interactions between the two."
"..will support field operations during the
fall, winter, and spring. Together, the two stations
will act as laboratories supporting a year-round program
for learning how to live and work on Mars, offering
researchers the opportunity to conduct systematic
studies of the strategies, technologies, human factors
and hardware designs necessary to prepare for the
human exploration of Mars." - Mars Society
During the winter of 2002, the base is stationed in
the desert west of Hanksville, Utah. The landscape includes
"Jurassic sedimentary rocks that look as much like
Mars as one could desire, and whose varied geology provides
an excellent target for Mars exploration operations
research." - Robert Zubrin
Leonardo - Int. Space University project to carry
out studies at the MRDS on social and technological
challenges of a Mars base.
Rover Project - The Mars Society - Another
Mars Society project to develop "a small
pressurized vehicle that could accompany an initial
human Mars mission." It should, among other
requirements, "Contain complete living accommodations
for a crew of at least 2 for a week-long excursion."
This project seeks to send "a small population
of mice to low Earth orbit aboard a spinning spacecraft
creating 'artificial gravity' identical to that on the
Martian surface. The five-week mission will conduct
the first in-depth study of how mammals adapt to a reduced-gravity
NASA has focused exclusively on microgravity research
in space and has ignored the need for artificial gravity
to prevent the detremental effects of long term exposure
to weightlessness. This private project seeks to begin
the study of this technique that will be required for
missions to Mars and for hotels and other stations in
space where occupants will remain for long periods.
The project started as
with a team of students and advisors from the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology (Cambridge), the University
of Washington (Seattle), and the University of Queensland
(Brisbane). However, it closed in 2009. Later the MarsDrive
group took over the project.
spacecraft sailed through the tail of Comet Wild2
and captured a sample of the dust there in its aerogel
material. It will require a tremendous amount of effort
to locate and examine the minute dust particles captured
from the tail of To help with this, the project managers
"...seeking volunteers to help us to
search for these tiny samples of matter from the galaxy.
Volunteers are critical to the success of this project.
Please help us find the first samples of contemporary
Stardust ever collected."
This is a wonderful example of how students, amateur
scientists, and members of the general public can participate
directly in an important space science activity via
the power of the Internet. Go to the Stardust@Home
site to find out more about this project and how you
CSA is a "is a collaboration of scientists, software
developers and educators who collectively develop, manage
and utilise internet-based citizen science projects
in order to further science itself, and the public understanding
of both science and of the scientific process. These
projects use the time, abilities and energies of a distributed
community of citizen scientists who are our collaborators”.
- this is the portal where citizen scientists,
i.e. members of the general public, can find how they
can part in projects such as:
Four - "help to find and mark ‘fans’
and ‘blotches’ on the Martian surface. Scientists
believe that these features indicate wind direction
and speed. By tracking ‘fans’ and ‘blotches’ over
the course of several Martian years to see how
they form, evolve, disappear and reform, we can
help planetary scientists better understand Mars’
climate. We also hope to find out if these features
form in the same spot each year and also learn
how they change."
StormWatch:"Help spot explosions
on the Sun and track them across space to Earth.
Your work will give astronauts an early warning
if dangerous solar radiation is headed their way."
Weather: "Help scientists recover
worldwide weather observations made by Royal Navy
ships around the time of World War I. These transcriptions
will contribute to climate model projections and
improve a database of weather extremes."
Zoo - Count craters in high resolution
images of the Moon
The goal of the systemic research collaboration is
to improve our statistical understanding of the galactic
planetary census. This will be accomplished through
a large-scale simulation in which the public is invited
At the core of the systemic simulation, we have generated
a realistic catalog that contains 100,000 stars, and
we have created planetary systems in orbit around
some of these stars. As the collaboration unfolds,
the systemic catalog of stars will be “observed” using
a realistic model of the radial velocity technique,
and a radial velocity data set for each star will
be made available. Participants will use the systemic
console (or their own software if they choose) to
discover and characterize planets within the data
NASA program to involve students in various
space observation activities
- Star Count - this program seeks to answer
the question " Do people everywhere see the
same number of stars in the night sky? Why or
why not?". Smog, cloudiness, light pollution,
etc. can affect the number of stars seen at a
"Students team with scientists to conduct
cutting edge research leading to discovery. GAVRT
excites K–12 students while accomplishing educational
and scientific objectives."
Citizen Science Portal - this program allowed
the public to participate in NASA's LCROSS
(Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite)
project by observing the plume that would appear
when the spacecraft hit the lunar pole. However,
it turned out that the plume was hidden behind
a crater ridge and could not be seen directly.
Student Imaging Project
This project seeks to involve students in operating
a camera on the Mars Odyssey spacecraft. It is a collaboration
of NASA and the Arizona State University team that operates
Mars Odyssey Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS)
Students in grades 5 through 12, and also college
undergraduates, "will actually get to choose which
site on Mars they would like to image."
Student teams send in proposals and the winners will
either come to ASU to carry out the observation project
or do it via the internet depending on the particular
mission" plan chosen.
Microphone on Mars
Polar Lander Inspired by an idea of the late Carl Sagan's,
the Planetary Society
funded (~$50k) the development and placement of a
microphone on the Mars Polar Lander, which was supposed
to land on Mars in Dec. 1999. The 50gram device was
built by the University of California at Berkeley
Space Science Laboratory. Unfortunately, the lander
failed to land succesfully.
- in March 2009, six volunteers from Europe and Russia
began a 105 day long stay in a mockup of a spacecraft
of the type that might go to Mars. They will carry
out a simulated mission involving similar tasks as
would be required on an actual Mars voyage.
"Mentoring and inquirY using NASA Data
for Atmospheric and earth science for Teachers
and Amateurs (MY NASA DATA) is a project to enable
K-12 teachers and students, as well as citizen
scientists, to explore the large volumes of data
that NASA collects about the Earth from space.
Students use scientific inquiry and math skills
as they access and display microsets of the Earth
Relay Flight Test The Mars Relay on board the Mars
Surveyor was to be used as an orbiting transponder
for future Mars landers to communicate with Earth.
In one of the first deep space communication efforts
by Ham radio operators (besides the monitoring of
Apollo mission radio from the moon) amateurs participated
in 1996 with helping to test the relay while the probe
was on its way to Mars.
Hobbies - Rovers Our page on future hobbies describes upcoming
projects to allow control of rovers on Mars and other
This organization of "amateur and professional
meteor scientists and observers" was "founded
in 1911, with a common goal of studying meteors: - bright
fireballs, the annual meteor showers, and the random
sporadic meteors that appear every night."
Sponsors a number of projects that amateurs can participate
in such as:
Meteor Spectroscopy Project - learn and use "spectroscopy,
either by photographic or intensified video techniques,
for possible inclusion in profession fireball studies.
& Geminid Meteor Echoes During the Leonid and Geminid meteor showers,
amateur radio enthusiasts picked up reflections off
the meteor trails of the U.S. NAVSPASUR radar
beam. This beam is normally used to detect satellites
and other spacecraft in earth orbit. Reflections from
these crafts are also heard by amateurs but they are
short "beeps", whereas the meteor trail reflections
lasted for up to 10minutes.
This page includes links to some sound files
for the echoes.
Intro: The NASA All-sky Fireball Network is
a network of cameras set up by the NASA
Meteoroid Environment Office (MEO) with the goal
of observing meteors brighter than the planet Venus,
which are called fireballs. The collected data will
be used by the MEO in constructing models of the meteoroid
environment, which are important to spacecraft designers.
Network: The network currently consists of
3 cameras placed in locations in north Alabama, northwest
Georgia, and southern Tennessee. The network is growing
all the time, with plans to place a total of 15 cameras
in schools, science centers, and planetaria in the
United States, predominately east of the Mississippi
River, where there are few such systems.
Cooke plans on expanding the network considerably
in the future. The first step is upgrading to 15 cameras
across the eastern half of the US. NASA is actively
soliciting schools, planetariums, and science centers
to host the devices. If you’re a principal or curator
interested in the project contact Cooke to learn more
Haun's Aurora Alarm
Mark A. Haun built his own automatic Aurora detector
for a student project at Walla
Walla College, College Place, Washington. It has
"successfully detected about a dozen displays of
the northern lights visible in the Pacific Northwest
during the past three years. "
The system is based on one described by Jesse Knight
and Telescope magazine in the article "Monitoring
the Aurora Electronically, June 1982.
A sensitive light detector is combined with a narrowband
optical filter to detect light that is characteristic
of the Northern Lights. Microprocessor controls provide
for software selection of alarm threshold conditions
Star Trails Society
NASA initiative from science@NASA
to involve amateurs in real scientific research. Opportunities
for amateurs to contribute to projects in astronomy,
astrobiology and other natural sciences will be announced
several times a month. See, for example, the
South Pole Adventure.
Student Involvement Program
This NASA program involves science competitions among
student teams in grades 3-12. Includes microgravity
experiments on NASA rockets.
"...directly involved in the mission performing
hands-on activities such as processing of satellite
data on computers at the principle schools, building
a mockup of the satellite, and working with the
NASA/Honeywell Flight Operations Team in controlling
and monitoring the satellite.."
Space Crystals Projects Understanding the structures of the many proteins
and other important biological molecules is among
the most crucial challenges in biochemistry. Creating
crystals of these molecules allows x-ray systems
to determine their detailed components and arrangements
However, for many of these large, complex molecules,
it is difficult to grow crystals of sufficient size
or quality to carry out x-ray scans. So on many
shuttle flights and on the Mir station there have
been tests to determine if better crystals could
be grown in microgravity than on the ground.
In fact, there are several proteins for which the
largest crystals ever made were created in space.
However, the brevity of the shuttle flights and
the high launch costs have kept the studies from
really determining the extent to which microgravity
could benefit protein studies.
Now that the ISS is available, it is hoped that
extensive, long term studies can be made.
A number of projects are intended to allow students
to become involved in protein experiments. One such
project was NASA's Student Access to Space
program, which appears to be defunct as of 2008.
Dr. Alexander McPherson at the University of California
at Irvine carried out a number of space biology
projects for NASA. He realized that very many substances
would need to be tested in space (up to 10,000 samples
at a time) and that preparing the crystallization
samples was simple enough that students could easily
do it. The goal of the project was to involve students
in science and space.
in Space III
site at the Johnson Space Center offers an elaborate
set of courses for students with a number of projects
including this section on how various mechanical toys
behave in a weightless environment.
The astronauts on the Space Station carried out experiments
with the toys to illustrate physics in microgravity.