Contact Victor Williamson with your questions about simulator based experiential education programs for your school.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Pennsylvania Starship Simulators in the News (Dream Flight Adventures). Space In the News. The Imaginarium

Dream Flight Adventures' Mission simulator offers Penn Hills students lessons in teamwork, independence

Over the past few weeks Jamie Martines, a reporter at the Tribune-Review, paid several of our simulators in the Pittsburgh area a visit.  Check out the great article she wrote about us!

Fifteen crew members were at their stations aboard the IKS Dreamcatcher.
Their mission: Locate and disarm the sunlight inhibitor device, a weapon designed by enemy forces to destroy the sun and ultimately, Earth.
“Captain, do I have your permission to light the turbo boosters?” asked Mission Control.
Capt. Rohan Amin stood on the bridge in his glow-in-the-dark Nike Pittsburgh shirt, gazing into space. He ordered takeoff, and his crew jumped into action. First and second officers buzzed around, working with engineers to maintain the craft. The doctor distributed medicine. Hackers and cybersecurity officers kept the ship safe from virtual intruders.
Within an hour, the crew visited all seven continents, met with astronomers and historians and discussed global history.
They also saved the world. All in a day’s work for Amin and his fourth-grade classmates at Penn Hills Elementary School.
The students were participating in the school’s flight simulator program. It’s an interactive learning experience designed to give students a chance to apply what they’re learning in the classroom to the real world, and this particular mission matches the content they’ve been studying in their social studies class.
The program also is intended to help the students develop teamwork, communication and problem-solving skills.

Young students learn best when they’re immersed in real-life situations, said David Carbonara, assistant professor of instructional technology at the School of Education at Duquesne University. This type of experience makes learning more meaningful and helps keep students engaged. And with the teacher physically behind a wall, observing the students using a video camera, students learn to work with each other instead of relying on the teacher as the source of all the information. Having a title such as “Captain” or “Doctor” gives a student even more ownership over the learning experience.
“It helps to engage them more as a team,” said Jamie Harris, teacher at Penn Hills. In her role as flight director, she runs all of the school’s simulator missions. “They’re looking at this as the role you are assuming, and this is a role you need to do.”

As flight director, [Harris] has the ability to change the difficulty of the mission to match the students’ learning needs. That flexibility makes the program accessible for every student in the school, not just the high achievers. It also allows her to challenge students who could use an extra push, or give others a chance to shine. But that doesn’t mean the missions are a break from work.

Space in the News
by Mark Daymont

SpaceX Falcon Returns to Flight

Falcon 9 rocket on the pad at Vandenberg AFB. Credit: SpaceX.

Last September in 2016, a Falcon rocket exploded during a pad engine test, prompting a cancellation of SpaceX flights until the cause could be determined. Engineers eventually discovered the fault was in a construction error in the second stage liquid oxygen tank. With the corrections having been completed, a new rocket was prepared for the launch of a series of communications satellites.

Blast off from California. Perfect launch. 
Credit: SpaceX.

Shortly before 10 am (Pacific time)SpaceX launched the Falcon 9 rocket carrying 10 Iridium satellites from its pad at the Vandenberg Air Force Base on the California coast. The first stage separated on time and the second stage carried the swarm of satellites into their planned orbits.

Touchdown! Falcon first stage lands on a barge in the Pacific. Credit: SpaceX.

As usual, SpaceX continues its mission to perfect landings of the rocket first stage, so it can be used again later. This time the rocket stage landed in the Pacific Ocean, on the landing barge named "Just Read The Instructions." This was the first successful landing in the Pacific. Four have landed in the Atlantic on board the landing barge "Of Course I Love You." Another successful landing took place in Texas on land.
You can read more details about this mission at 

ISS Spacewalkers Replace Batteries

Astronaut Shane Kimbrough exits the station through the Quest airlock. His suit had the red stripe, allowing flight controllers to easily identify which astronaut was visible on camera.

On Friday January 13, American EVA 38 took place to complete the battery change-out that was the focus of last week's spacewalk. Expedition 50 commander Shane Kimbrough led the EVA, making his fourth spacewalk, while he was joined by ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, who was making his first spacewalk. 

Kimbrough takes a great selfie, focusing on his reflective helmet which shows the Earth in the background. It's also a great view of the helmet assembly, with its extra lighting, cameras for astronaut POV, and solar protection covering on visor.
 The mission of this EVA was to complete the switchout of the older Nickel-Hydrogen truss batteries with the newer Lithium-Iron batteries. This power changeout has been underway for a long time, as astronauts have used several spacewalks and several robotic arm procedures to replace cables, switch power routings, and finally relocate old batteries to storage and install new batteries on the Truss.

Just hanging out, over 180 miles above the Earth. Easy Peasy. Picture from Thomas Pesquet's camera.
The station's Truss battery sections are in 4 parts, due to how the truss components were launched and assembled. The oldest Truss is designated P6. It's oldest batteries were changed out to newer lithium-hydrogen batteries (new then) by shuttle astronauts back in 2009 and 2010. But now the batteries will need to be replaced so that the station can continue its work-life towards 2024, so new batteries are required, and the new lithium-ion batteries are the new technology. It's planned to take up to 4 years to replace all the Ni-H2 batteries. These spacewalks replaced the oldest Ni-H2 batteries on Truss S-4.

Inside part of the S-4 Truss segment.
The battery change-out was completed a couple of hours ahead of schedule, so the astronauts used the rest of the EVA time to accomplish some tasks which would have been done on the next scheduled spacewalk. The total time of the spacewalk was just under two hours.

Back inside. Peggy Whitson assisted the astronauts in removing themselves from the EVA suits.
You can read all the details of this complex mission at

The Imaginarium

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