NASA releases new moon pics decided by students’ requests

More than 45 years after the first “Earthrise” picture, fourth-graders got to pick their own shot of our home planet peeking over the moon’s horizon, courtesy of NASA’s GRAIL mission.

The new views of Earth from the moon are included in GRAIL’s first batch of student-selected images, snapped by the Ebb spacecraft’s MoonKAM camera from March 15 to 18 and released today. Ebb and its twin, Flow, are orbiting the moon to study the lunar gravity field — and students get to choose what the small cameras on the washing-machine-sized orbiters take pictures of…

The first targets were selected by fourth-grade students from Emily Dickinson Elementary School in Bozeman, Mont. They earned that honor as a reward for coming up with the names for the spacecraft, Ebb and Flow, during a nationwide competition last year…

More than 2,700 schools in 52 countries are in the pool for target selection. Suggestions for picture-taking are funneled through the GRAIL MoonKam Mission Operations Center, at the University of California in San Diego. The MoonKAM program is led by Sally Ride, who became NASA’s first woman astronaut in 1983 and is now president and CEO of an educational company called Sally Ride Science.

“What might seem like just a cool activity for these kids may very well have an profound impact on their futures,” Ride said in today’s news release. “The students really are excited about MoonKam, and that translates into an excitement about science and engineering…”

Some experts believe seeing Earth from this perspective gives viewers more of an appreciation for its beauty and fragility, leading to a spiritual phenomenon known as the “Overview Effect…”

Simplistic, I think. Schoolkids – if they haven’t already been conditioned by the excuses their parents offer for doing nothing – are likely to understand the good sense of environmental activism. Their families may work hard at getting them to not make waves, don’t do anything that makes you stand out from the herd. Sooner or later, the most curious will act up. Sooner or later, those who learn to care about life and living on their own – will consider dissent from stolid obedience – as worthwhile.

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