Sally Ride EarthKAM Takes Flight

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Innovative Hands-On Science Program Sees New Growth as NASA Honors Sally Ride Science Founder

EarthKAM perfectly embodies Sally Ride’s legacy... kids get a chance to control a piece of the International Space Station, exciting the kind of passion that is essential to keeping kids engaged in STEM throughout their school years and beyond.

On July 10, 2013, the newly christened Sally Ride EarthKAM will be embarking on its first mission with its new name, as new groups of middle school students from across the world operate a camera aboard the International Space Station and capture custom images of the earth’s surface.

The Sally Ride EarthKAM is a NASA program administered by Sally Ride Science (SRS) and operated at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Sally Ride founded Sally Ride Science in 2001 to promote student engagement in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) and STEM careers.

Previously called the International Space Station (ISS) EarthKAM, and, prior to that, KidSat, the new name for the program was announced by NASA in May, at the National Tribute to Sally Ride at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. In renaming the program, NASA recognized her for her role in establishing EarthKAM in 1995 and in working tirelessly as its champion throughout her life. Recent missions have seen significant growth of the program, with hundreds of schools participating each time.

“EarthKAM perfectly embodies Sally Ride’s legacy,” says Dr. Karen Flammer, space physicist at UCSD, a co-founder of Sally Ride Science, and Director of EarthKAM. “With each EarthKAM mission, thousands of kids, everywhere from California to Romania, get a chance to control a piece of the ISS. This experience can instill a passion for science that goes beyond classroom work, exciting the kind of passion that is essential to keeping kids engaged in STEM throughout their school years and beyond.”

Since its inception, the Sally Ride EarthKAM program has produced a spectacular collection of more than 52,000 digital images of Earth. The image collection and accompanying learning guides and activities—all available for public access on the EarthKAM website—have supported class projects in Earth science, space science, geography, social studies, mathematics, communications, and even art.

During an EarthKAM mission, students at participating middle schools log in to the website and request images based on their classroom investigations. Their requests are processed at the Sally Ride EarthKAM Mission Operations Center (MOC), located at UCSD and modeled after NASA’s Mission Control Center at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX. A staff consisting of UCSD undergraduate students and Sally Ride EarthKAM advisors supports and maintains the MOC year round.

“We offer students the opportunity to acquire hands-on knowledge using the same kinds of tools and systems used by scientists and astronauts, and then the chance to apply that knowledge inside the classroom,” says Sheryle Bolton, CEO of SRS. “For example, one group of students recently used a series of EarthKAM images to provide scientific support for the consequences of coastal erosion. They got to interact with STEM professionals, which represents a primary objective of SRS—transforming STEM from a classroom concept into excitement about the possibilities of a STEM career. With each EarthKAM mission, we’re bringing STEM careers closer to hundreds of kids.”

For more information on the Sally Ride EarthKAM, or to sign up to be part of its next mission, visit the EarthKAM website at For more information on Sally Ride Science, visit

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Matt Casper
Sally Ride Science
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