Educational partnerships offer NASA an avenue for collaboration and participation far beyond natural boundaries. Mission X: Train Like an Astronaut is an international outreach challenge aligning agencies worldwide to address the critical world health issue of childhood obesity by offering students the opportunity to ‘train like an astronaut.’ Each of the space agencies committed to take their particular expertise to address this global issue by engaging kids in a vision for space exploration.
The foundation of Mission X is 18 physical and science activities, developed in tandem between NASA educators and subject matter experts, that focus on the core physical and mental skills that equip astronauts for spaceflight. Teams of students learn principles of healthy eating, exercise and compete for points by finishing training modules. Students also practice scientific reasoning and teamwork while participating in hands-on training that targets strength, endurance, coordination, balance and spatial awareness. Mission X challenges students to be more physically active; increases awareness of the importance of lifelong health and conditioning; teaches students how fitness plays a vital role in human performance for exploration; and inspires and motivates students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The Mission X partners prioritized international collaboration as well as global participation. The pilot project, stretching across 10 countries and 15 agencies, was one of the largest non-technical collaborations across the space program. Mission X also offered a widely interactive website (built on open source software) where team members, teachers, and the public could share stories, photos, and videos regarding their training in 8 languages. The unique platform makes the multilingual curriculum widely available and offers the public a clear window into the students’ experience and lessons learned.
At the conclusion of Mission X, many of the teams logged in from 4 different countries for a live downlink from the International Space Station with astronauts Cady Coleman and Paolo Nespoli. The crewmembers demonstrated many of the skills the students had learned, answered questions, and made space real to kids whose imaginations were full of everything that could be possible. The project team’s commitment to work together to engage more than 4000 students in physical and mental training for exploration showed the agencies – and the students – what was possible.
To follow the progress of Mission X and respond to the students, check out www.trainlikeanastronaut.org or follow @walktothemoon on Twitter.