This year, D.C.-area students and educators will be given the chance to find out what it's like to live in space. No, Oprah isn't taking her viewers on an Ultimate Space Adventure.
NASA is inviting U.S. education organizations, such as local school districts, museums, and science centers, to apply for the the opportunity to speak to astronauts aboard the International Space Station via downlink.
Members of Expeditions 29 and 30 are set to participate in these 20-minute question-and-answer sessions from September to March 2012. Participants will be able to observe the crew live in space, but only the crew will have audio-connectivity.
NASA and the National Science Foundation's Teaching from Space (TFS) program will be hosting the event. TFS was established in 2007, with the goal of promoting STEM -- science, technology, engineering, and mathematics -- education. STEM education is an area over which lawmakers have raised concern in recent years, most notably President Obama in his 2011 State of the Union Address. It is the strength of STEM education that determines whether this generation capitalizes on its supposed "Sputnik moment," according to President Obama.
"Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space...after investing in better research and education, we didn't just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs. This is our generation's Sputnik moment," he said in January.
The Q&A sessions will come on the heels of the NASA Space Shuttle program's last active year before retirement, which means students interested in space and aeronautics will also be able to visit Space shuttle Discovery at its new home in the National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport.
Prospective video conference participants can email TFS for more information on how to apply. Applications are due April 29.