NASA is with you when you fly! Celebrate Aeronautics with NASA

Did you know that NASA wasn’t always called NASA? That’s right! NASA used to be NACA, or the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. NACA was formed in 1915, followed by the establishment of what is now NASA Langley Research Center in 1917–or what I like to call the mothership of NASA, since it was the first NASA center. If you’re thinking that those dates are pretty close to the Wright brother’s first flight, you’re right! The government wanted to learn more about this “flight business” and established NACA with its first center, NASA Langley Research Center, just a short drive north in Hampton, VA.

Today, we are celebrating 100 years of NASA and all we have learned about traveling through our atmosphere and the atmospheres of other planets. The history of aeronautics is rich. Without NASA’s technological advancements in aeronautics and space exploration, modern flight as we know it would not exist. Learn more about what NASA is doing today with “The Faces of NASA (Aeronautics)video series to learn more about the importance of wind tunnels and the future of flight.

You don’t have to teach physical sciences to integrate aeronautics into your classroom. Here are ways you can join the celebration of 100 years of NASA exploration:

When Computers Wore Skirts” is an exciting combination of math and history. It details a time when super computers were actual people–and women, to boot. Katherine Johnson is celebrated as one of these “computers” and for her contributions to the space race. Read more about when women were computers or watch this video about Katherine Johnson.

Tuskegee Airmen in the Troposphere: Conquering Contrails” is a special webcast where science and history collide. It details how the First Air War led to the observation and study of contrails. Join Capt. Howard Baugh Jr, a Tuskegee Airman. and Dr. Lin Chambers as they review what contrails are, why it’s important to study them, and their effects on the atmosphere. The webcast studies these contrails through the personal experiences of Tuskegee Airmen in the early days of aviation. Learn more about contrails by visiting the Contrail Education Project and calculate role of airplanes in radiation with the My NASA Data activity.

Prototype, called Greased Lightning or GL-10, is a concept of a battery-powered plane that has 10 engines. It can take off like a helicopter and fly efficiently like an aircraft.

Could This Become the First Mars Airplane?” is a recent news release on how science and engineering work together in exploration. This is a great opportunity to compare and contrast Earth’s atmosphere with the atmospheres of different planets. The design and testing reflects how thin the Martian atmosphere is compared to Earth’s. This is another great opportunity to show how modeling and simulation is so important when testing designs to land and explore other bodies in our solar system.

Did you know that pilots are considered occupational radiation workers? Flying high above Earth with little atmosphere to protect them, they can absorb significant doses of cosmic rays and solar radiation. “The Effects of Space Weather on Aviation” is a news release and short video that compares radiation exposure to getting X-rays due to flight lengths and paths. Great activities for students to calculate their daily radiation exposure and its effects on DNA can be found in the Space Faring Educator Guide.

Here are some other great activities and resources to highlight 100 years of aeronautics:

  • Eye 2 Eye: Focus on Next Generation Air Transport is a module that allows teachers to explore resources and videos relating to NASA research and technology development for the Next Generation Air Transportation. It includes activities such as Museum in a Box and SmartSkies.
  • Aeronautics for Pre-K is a new collection of six STEM learning modules based on children’s books. Each module focuses on a single children’s story book, followed by a thematic STEM lesson on topics associated with gliders, balloons, parachutes, kites, helicopters, and airplanes.
  • NASA Rockets 2 Racecars STEM Education Curriculum is a series of professional development virtual sessions. It gives hands-on opportunities for teachers to get their hands dirty with activities that teach physical sciences and the forces of flight through the science of racing. Sign up for the next Rockets 2 Racecars professional development series at NASA EPDC events calendar.

Colón Robles, Marilé
NASA Educator Professional Development Specialist
NASA Langley Research Center