ACES Outreach

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Outreach Plan

Media Outreach | Web-Based Outreach | Education Outreach


The overall goals of our outreach are to increase public awareness of the ACES project and the NASA Earth Science Enterprise (ESE) and inform the public of the purpose and benefits of ACES and the ESE. This outreach will create a positive public image of NASA and the ESE.

The U.S. public already has a heightened interest in meteorological and storm related research due to the many programs on the Discovery Channel, PBS Nova, and others dealing with severe storm and lightning research. In addition, many TV stations around the country regularly include real-time lightning strike graphics during their weather broadcasts, and often preempt regular programming during periods of local severe weather with special weather reports.

By capitalizing on the great interest in science, weather, and technology that already exists with the American public, we maintain it will be easy to get the public interested and excited about the ACES program. Our confidence that this will be the case is bolstered by the excellent response several recent NASA-sponsored programs have received including the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM); the Lightning Imaging Sensor (LIS), a sensor on the TRMM platform; the Optical Transient Detector (OTD), the predecessor to LIS; Lightning Imaging Sensor Data Application Demonstration (LISDAD), a demonstration of the value of total lightning measurements; and the Convective and Moisture Experiment (CAMEX), a large field program with recent focus on hurricanes. These highly visible missions have generated an enthusiastic and strong public interest resulting in good publicity for NASA and these programs.

We will adopt a threefold approach to generate an effective and broad outreach. Access to traditional news services with the aid of the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) public affairs office (PAO) will create immediate coverage in the form of good press. More in-depth treatments and information about the project will be made available through Web-based outreach. Finally, we intend to create an innovative education project designed to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers that will achieve long-term benefits to ESE and NASA.

Media Outreach

Public Affairs

We will utilize the MSFC PAO to coordinate, facilitate, and guide the promotion of the ACES program with the traditional news media. This office provides an immediate and effective outreach to the public. A wide audience is reached and broad public interest generated through the production of original news stories and timely press releases that convey the importance and significance of ACES research. These press releases and news stories will be coordinated to coincide with key project events. Examples include project selection, initiation of science flights, and scientific discoveries. Special events, such as hosting a media day at the deployment site, can be planned to showcase both the aircraft and highlight the planned science mission. We have ample evidence that this outreach will be successful.

Through our association with public affairs, the lightning team at MSFC regularly engages in media contacts. Our research and its relevance to NASA, ESE objectives, and the nation have regularly been profiled on Good Morning America, the Discovery Channel, the Discovery Science Channel, and PBS, as well as through radio and newspaper stories. Even real-time Web interviews have been conducted. The International Conference on Atmospheric Electricity (the foremost conference in the world in this field) was hosted by the MSFC lightning group in 1999. That conference generated a great deal of public interest and received wide coverage, including considerable coverage highlighting and benefiting NASA ESE. We will apply this same successful approach to ACES.

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Web-Based Outreach

Outreach through traditional media sources, while immediate and beneficial, has the major draw back that it is often short-lived. In addition, comprehensive treatment of key issues is often not provided. Web-based outreach provides the means to address both these shortcomings while providing an alternative and complementary method to inform the public and distribute information about this project and its results. In addition, it is possible to target specific groups of individuals (e.g., students, teachers, scientists, general public, news media, etc.) to better communicate the purpose, benefits, and results of ACES to the nation and these target groups.

The MSFC lightning team, NSSTC/Global Hydrology and Climate Center (GHCC) teams, and the NSSTC/ Global Hydrology Research Center (GHRC) have developed highly acclaimed and frequently accessed Web sites highlighting science programs, spacecraft, field campaigns, data products and data services. Example sites include, and

We also plan to make use of the Science @ NASA Web sites developed and sponsored by the Science Directorate at MSFC. In fact, the stated mission of Science @ NASA is to help the public understand how exciting NASA research is and to help NASA scientists fulfill their outreach responsibilities. The sites supported by the MSFC Science Directorate include:

Also, starting in January, 2001 the MSFC Education Programs Department has begun NASA explores, a new Internet-based lesson plan delivery service. NASA explores provides educational content based on real-not theoretical-research, development, and events. This program provides excellent synergy with the education outreach that we are proposing for ACES as discussed in the next section.

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Education Outreach

Lesson Plan Concept

We will create an innovative lesson plan package that will bring the ACES project into American classrooms. Lesson plans will be developed for teachers in the 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12 grade levels, based on actual ACES field activities. We envision that the lesson plans will result in a significant long-term impact and value to NASA and ESE by influencing and inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers for many years following the ACES program. The lesson plans will help students experience the fun and excitement of NASA research while learning important scientific concepts. From a science
standpoint, the lesson plans will focus on meteorology, weather, and weather forecasting. More importantly, the lessons will address the decision-making process that directs the conduct of the scientific research.

The students will be able to apply the decision making skills learned from the ACES lesson plan to their everyday life. Weather forecasting will be a key activity during the ACES field campaigns (this is true for all aircraft campaigns). The ALTUS aircraft will only be sent on missions on days that have a high probability for storm development within the observational domain at KSC to best utilize the limited number of flight hours available to the program.

Weather must also be considered at the base of operations, since storms and crosswinds can adversely impact the ability of ALTUS to safely takeoff or return. Yet weather is not the only consideration for making a Go-No Go decision. The number of flight hours and days remaining in the deployment must also be considered. For example, the ALTUS might be sent on a day with marginal storm prospects if only a few days remain in the campaign. On the other hand, the ALTUS might be held down on a day with a good probability of storms if the forecast for the following day is even better (or if instrument, crew rest, or other factors dictate a down day).

The lesson plans will be designed to teach meteorology and forecasting concepts. Moreover, the lesson plans will have students make Go-No Go decisions based on selected input data, helping them learn to digest data, deal with information gaps (or faulty information), and develop and improve their decision-making skills. Following instruction provided within the lesson package, students will be given the opportunity to make the same type of "real-time" Go-No Go decisions that were made in the field using the actual data employed during the campaign. This will convey a better appreciation for the research process and demonstrate that the "answers are not always found in the back of the book."

The majority of the materials needed to develop the lesson plans will be derived from the data, forecast information, and decisions made during the deployment phase. We will use actual forecast data, decisions, and results. During the deployment, we plan to videotape the preflight weather briefings and the post flight (if one occurred) debriefs. Following deployment, the videos, field notes, and acquired data (including aircraft video and sensor observations) will be gathered together to prepare the lesson plans. The lesson plans will be tailored to each age group. For example, the lower-grade version will have fewer variables and less ambiguity while the upper levels will have more variables, ambiguity, and missing/bad data. During each campaign, we should have as many as 30-days worth of forecasts and ancillary data to develop exercises in the decision-making process.

Lesson Plan Structure

The lesson plan package will be divided into two parts, with Part I focusing on meteorological fundamentals and Part II introducing specific applications and the flight decision exercises. Part I of the lesson plan package will begin with an introduction to the ACES program. We will describe, in age appropriate language, the importance and benefit of the ACES science demonstration and its relevance to broader NASA Earth science themes. We will also present details pertaining to the ALTUS aircraft system, the scientific instrumentation suite, and science measurements. Following the introduction, one or more self-contained lessons on fundamental meteorological and weather concepts will be presented.

Part II of the lesson plan package contains the really innovative part of this educational outreach. It will begin with a primer on how to forecast the probability of thunderstorm occurrence in the target area using the data sets that will be provided. Reference back to the Part I basic meteorology results will help the students understand the physical basis for the forecast. Next, following the forecast primer, the real fun begins. Students, working alone or in teams, will make forecasts using actual ACES data sets. They will have to decide either to fly or not fly the aircraft based on the current forecast, the forecast for the next day, and the conditions of the aircraft, crew, and instrumentation. Following their decision, they will learn what the experts in the field decided (and why), and what actually occurred (and why).

Data from each day available during the month long deployment will be offered in the flight decision exercises presented in Part II of the lesson plans. We intend to include all our "real-life" cases, including ones where WE missed the forecast. We will also include cases where we did forecast correctly, but were unable to capitalize on the good forecast due to instrument, aircraft, or other problems. This will allow the students to see all aspects of scientific research.


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