10 Ways To Get Involved With NASA

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Image: Pascal Lee / Haughton-Mars ProjectImage: Pascal Lee / Haughton-Mars Project

Image: Pascal Lee / Haughton-Mars Project

A few weeks ago, NASA announced the members of the astronaut class of 2009. Like many kids growing up, I also wanted to be an astronaut. Part of my plan was to to enroll in Spacecamp and be accidentally launched into space. But someone made a movie about that and NASA instituted better safety protocols, which foiled my plan.

Alas, fate has taken me in a different direction in life. But for others like me, being a well-informed layman is often not enough. Here are 10 ways the general public can have a hands-on experience with different NASA programs:

For Grown-ups

Serve As An Ambassador – http://www2.jpl.nasa.gov/ambassador/

The Solar System Ambassador program is looking for dedicated volunteers to help spread the word about the many great programs and missions that NASA implements.

Be A Test Dummie – https://bedreststudy.jsc.nasa.gov/

How will long term spaceflight affect the human body? What better way to find out than to pay someone to lie in bed for 90 days at a stretch.

Voice Your Opinion – http://www.nasa.gov/offices/hsf/home/index.html

The Human Spaceflight program is now under a serious review. And they are asking for your feedback. Post a question, attend a meeting in your area, or share your opinion in on-line forums.

Travel To The Arctic – http://www.fmars2009.org/ and http://www.marsonearth.org/

Would you like to seclude yourself in the Arctic with other volunteer crew members, conducting experiments, and paving the way for future missions to Mars? Then the Mars Society’s FMARS program or the Mars Institute’s Haughton-Mars Project is for you.

Find Dust In The Aerogel – http://stardustathome.ssl.berkeley.edu/

Similar to the magnificent crowdsourced application Galaxy Zoo, the Stardust@Home team is looking for a few good eyeballs to help find the micron-sized grains of dust located in 1,000 square centimeters of aerogel.

For Junior Grown-ups

Become A Helping Hand – http://www.nasa.gov/about/visiting/

Many people visit the various NASA centers across the United States. Instead of just visiting, why not sign-up to be a volunteer for a day?

Junior Astronaut – http://www.spacecamp.com/

Need I say more?!

Design The Next Moonbuggy – http://moonbuggy.msfc.nasa.gov/

Intended for the high school and college kids, each year NASA hosts the Great Moonbuggy Race. Build a team and show NASA what you are made of.

Design A High-Powered Rocket – http://www.rocketcontest.org/

Are buggy’s not your thing? Then how about rocket design? The 2009 season is over, but teams are already gearing up for the 2010 competition.

Help Build Our New Overlords – http://www.usfirst.org/involved/content.aspx?id=168

Founded by one of my heroes, Dean Kamen, and sponsored in part by NASA, each year the FIRST robotics competition gets bigger and badder. Given a standard kit, a team must design a robot to accomplish a specific set of tasks. Check out some cool videos here.

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