Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory – Moon Knowledge Acquired by Middle School Students (GRAIL MoonKAM)
The Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission was NASA's first planetary mission to carry instruments that are fully dedicated to education and public outreach. These instruments, cameras attached to each of the two GRAIL spacecraft, were used in the MoonKAM program, in which middle school classrooms participated by choosing which features on the lunar surface the cameras would photograph. University of California – San Diego undergraduate students were also involved by designing and operating a mission operations center (MOC) which processed all the photo requests from the middle school students and sent them to the MoonKAM cameras. To date, this program has engaged over 200 undergraduate students in San Diego and over 100,000 middle school students worldwide!
More about GRAIL MoonKAM can be found at:
More about GRAIL can be found at:
Science Mission: The primary objectives of the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission are to help scientists determine the structure of the lunar interior, from crust to core, and to advance understanding of the Moon's thermal evolution. Launched in September 2011, the twin GRAIL spacecraft - Ebb and Flow - generated the highest-resolution gravity field map of any celestial body. The map will provide a better understanding of how Earth and other rocky planets in the solar system formed and evolved. After a successful extended mission, the probes intentionally were sent into the lunar surface in December 2012 because they did not have sufficient altitude or fuel to continue science operations. NASA named the area where the spacecraft crashed after Dr. Sally Ride, who passed away in July 2012. The location is now officially known as the Sally K. Ride Impact Site.
Education and Public Outreach Mission and Approach: The core of GRAIL MoonKAM is our unique program that directly engaged both middle school students nationwide and University of California, San Diego (UCSD) undergraduate students as participating scientists in the “MoonKAM Mission.”
The GRAIL MoonKAM mission began in March 2012 when the GRAIL satellites were inserted into orbit around the Moon and the MoonKAM cameras were activated. For several months during 2012, students from around the world selected target areas on the lunar surface and sent requests to the GRAIL MoonKAM Mission Operations Center (MOC). Photos of the target areas were sent back by the GRAIL satellites to the MOC and made available on the MoonKAM website.
The middle school students use their lunar images to study craters, highlands, and maria while learning about other lunar features and future landing sites. The dynamic MoonKAM experience will undoubtedly attract and retain many of participating middle school students in STEM disciplines in the same way that EarthKAM has (NASA’s E/PO Outcome 2).
Our comprehensive E/PO program supports the MoonKAM program with standards-based curricular materials and associated teacher guides for 5th–8th grade classrooms. Sally Ride Science (SRS) also provides GRAIL informal educational outreach by leveraging many of their existing events and partnerships such as the Sally Ride Science Festivals and after school outreach programs.
The GRAIL MoonKAM website, www.GRAILMoonKAM.com, provides general information about the GRAIL mission and the science data, supports formal and informal education for MoonKAM, and houses the searchable data base of MoonKAM images.
Our specific E/PO objectives are to:
- Engage more middle school students, particularly girls and underrepresented minorities, in science; encourage them to become scientifically literate citizens; and keep them in the technical pipeline so that more of them join the workforce in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)–related fields.
- Engage both middle school and college students in our signature E/PO and Student Collaboration program, E/PO MoonKAM (hereafter, known as “MoonKAM”).
- Engage educators, students, and the general public in solar system exploration and lunar science by building on the significance of the Moon across cultures and providing new views of our Moon taken by the dedicated GRAIL E/PO cameras.
The GRAIL E/PO team has significant experience in informal, K-12, and higher education, as well as scientific expertise. GRAIL scientists are involved in MoonKAM in many ways, including writing and reviewing GRAIL E/PO content, collaborating to create educational activities and resources, interpreting mission findings to share in educational resources and with the public, and interacting with the public through presentations and electronic media efforts.
Dr. Maria Zuber, the principal investigator of the GRAIL mission discusses lunar science with students as they prepared to select images.
Sally Ride Science and University of California – San Diego.
GRAIL mission E/PO depends on partners for many aspects of its program:
- Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL):
JPL was the primary partner that MoonKAM worked with for development, testing, integration, and operation of the MoonKAM Cameras onboard each of the GRAIL spacecraft. MoonKAM partnered with teams within JPL to develop interactive content for the education and public outreach. GRAIL and MoonKAM modules were developed for “Eyes on the Solar System”, an interactive 3D web-based application that allows users to explore NASA mission data. A GRAIL iPhone app was also developed with JPL that provides news and updates from the mission. JPL continues to support MoonKAM by providing content as the findings from the GRAIL gravity measurements are released. In addition, JPL has provided media support for the MoonKAM program along with featuring the program during the last three JPL Open House events.
- Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company (LMSS):
LMSS was another partner we worked with in conjunction with JPL for the development, testing, integration, and operation of the MoonKAM Cameras. LMSS primarily handled all spacecraft operations, which included sending commands to the MoonKAM Cameras. LMSS also conducted outreach on the behalf of MoonKAM to local education groups in their area.
- Ecliptic Enterprises Corporation:
Ecliptic Enterprises is the manufacturer of the camera system used by MoonKAM, which are called “RocketCams.” Updates to the camera system hardware were also made by Ecliptic to support MoonKAM operations. Ecliptic also provided testing and troubleshooting support during the pre-mission and mission phases.
The GRAIL MoonKAM program will undergo both formative and summative evaluation to measure program success, to document whether the E/PO objectives have been met, and to provide information that will be useful to NASA and the GRAIL program staff.
SRS is well positioned to oversee this assessment by leveraging evaluation and assessment tools already developed and in place for its other programs. Currently, all participants attending SRS Festival workshops and Educator Institutes complete pre and post assessment surveys developed by an independent research group. SRS is also working closely with external evaluators from UT Austin, Dr. Chandra Muller and Dr. Catherine Riegle-Crumb, on assessment of the SRS Academies. Drs. Muller and Riegle-Crumb are leading experts on STEM education evaluation methodologies and have developed and field-tested pre and post surveys for teachers trained by Sally Ride Science. These surveys assess prior and post knowledge and attitudes about STEM, usefulness of content presented and follow-up on how resources were used and implemented.
The surveys discussed above have been used to assess the impact of MoonKAM and MoonKAM training on teachers and the impact of MoonKAM on students. The surveys have been adapted to evaluate all GRAIL E/PO workshops, Educator Institutes, the MoonKAM content and the MoonKAM experience.
An initial assessment of MoonKAM Educator Institute participants has been imbedded in the on-line registration process. This pre-assessment provides a baseline understanding of the participants’ interest and understanding of STEM content, lunar science, and attitudes towards STEM. Formative evaluation is carried out throughout the Institutes and workshops. At the end of each workshop and Institute, participants complete surveys on appropriateness of content, rating of professional development experience and usefulness of content presented. Approximately six-weeks after each professional development event, participants are contacted with a follow-up survey assessing how MoonKAM materials have been incorporated into their classrooms. . SRS will capture data on all schools registered for MoonKAM through the MoonKAM website, which will give metrics on the number of teachers, students, grade levels and demographics. SRS will adapt surveys developed for their Academies to assess the impact MoonKAM has on teachers and students who participate in the program. We will also track the UCSD undergraduate students who participate in MoonKAM using pre and post surveys as well as monitor the impact MoonKAM has on their post-graduation career choices.
Finally, the SRS technical staff has significant experience in web metrics and analysis and will track usage of the MoonKAM website in regards to content access, MoonKAM image downloads and site usability.
Effectiveness and Impact:
Our primary audience is middle school students worldwide and university undergraduate students at UCSD. To date, we have engaged over 100,000 middle school students and over 200 undergraduate students.
Audiences served by GRAIL MoonKAM include:
- Middle school educators and students (grades 6-8)
- Higher Education educators and students
- Afterschool educators and students
- Informal educators and audiences
- Underserved and/or underrepresented audiences
Thousands of images were taken with the MoonKAM cameras.
Awards and Special Recognition:
Members of the MoonKAM Team received two NASA Group Achievement Awards:
- NASA Group Achievement Award: GRAIL MoonKAM Flight Hardware Team. For outstanding performance in providing the MoonKAM, an exceptional Education and Public Outreach resource onboard the GRAIL spacecraft, to NASA at an affordable cost.
- NASA Group Achievement Award: GRAIL Mission Operations System Design Team. For exceptional achievement in developing the highly successful mission operations system used by GRAIL to reach the lunar orbit phases.