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Photo Essay

Students explore space with satellite photography

Space station program funnels students into college internships
  • The California-Arizona border, showing green amid brown desert, taken by elementary students in Hempstead ISD in Texas.
  • A view of the Sacramento Valley in California from the International Space Station, taken by students in the U.S. and Turkey.
  • An image of Nagano, Japan, requested by students in the U.S., Poland and Australia.

In November, middle school students from around the globe had the chance to take photos of Earth from the International Space Station. Sally Ride EarthKAM is a program meant to spark student interest in STEM subjects through photographing the earth from space.

“Sally Ride EarthKAM is a perfect example of how igniting student interest in STEM in the classroom can lead to fulfilling and rewarding careers in STEM,” says Karen Flammer, director of Sally Ride EarthKAM and space physicist at University of California San Diego, where the EarthKAM Mission Operation Center is located.

Many students who participate in the EarthKAM program end up interning at the university’s lab, and some have gone on to work at NASA, Flammer says.

During a Sally Ride EarthKAM mission, students at participating middle schools log in to the EarthKAM website and request images based on their classroom work. Their requests are processed at the Sally Ride EarthKAM Mission Operations Center, and following the mission students can see the images online.

More than 500,000 students, representing thousands of schools in 78 countries, have participated in EarthKAM since the program began in 1995, and have taken more than 69,000 images of Earth. About 600 schools participated in November.

The program is part of Sally Ride Science, which was created by Ride, America’s first woman in space, to help educators in grades 3 through 8 create and sustain student interest in STEM topics and careers.

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