What are they?
NASA Quest Challenges are Web-based, interactive explorations
designed to engage students in authentic scientific and engineering processes.
The solutions relate to issues encountered daily by NASA personnel.
The content of NASA Quest Challenges follows real NASA
tasks with the goal of involving young people in developing tomorrow's
solutions, while inspiring them towards careers in science and engineering.
As students work in teams to mirror NASA career roles, agency experts
are available to answer questions and to encourage a proper design process.
The interaction with scientists occurs via Q&A, chats, interactive
Webcasts, and posted feedback on the Web site.
Typically, each scholastic year offers one or two NASA
Quest Challenges each of which typically spans six to eight weeks. The
activities are designed around problem-based learning and crafted to
assist teachers with the incorporation of the content into their educational
A typical challenge begins with students receiving a question
relating to an actual NASA mission. Students work on preliminary solutions,
based on research, as NASA experts provide "real time" critiquing.
Final designs are developed after student obtain constructive feedback
and encouragement. Both student work and parallel projects at NASA are
featured in a live Webcast.
For information on technical requirements and instructions
on how to participate in Web events see our "How
Past NASA Quest Challenges:
- LIMA Quest Challenge -
The Landsat Image Mosaic of Antarctica (LIMA) is the first-ever true-color
high-resolution satellite view of the Antarctic continent enabling everyone
to see Antarctica as it appears in real life. This new view of Antarctica
will revolutionize Antarctica research. Students in this challenge become
the scientists who study the features on Antarctica, and they develop
a research proposal, arguing the value of studying a feature based on
this new view of Antarctica.
- Lunar Research Station Design Challenge --
In order to prepare for exploration on the Moon and Mars, NASA utilizes
sites on Earth to simulate living and working on extra-terrestrial
surfaces. Students, primarily in grades 5 – 8, will be challenged
to design and build a full- or scale-model of an Earth-based research
station that will support living adaptively and working efficiently
on the Moon.
- Living and Working on Mars,
Part 1: Here Today, Gone to Mars! -- Fall 2005
As NASA turns its attention to human travel to the Moon and Mars,
there are many hurdles that will need to be overcome. NASA Quest
challenges students, primarily in grades 5-8, to work with the help
of NASA scientists to design solutions to these obstacles. During
the months of October and November, our focus will be the use of
locations on Earth as analogs to study fieldwork on Mars. More information: http://quest.nasa.gov/challenges/marsanalog
- Design a Planet -- November 2005
In this live webcast, students will have the opportunity to interact with Virtual
Planet Laboratory scientists who are developing a program that can model
planets with signs of life. Students will also be introduced to a new simulation
on the Astro-Venture <http://astroventure.arc.nasa.gov> Website
that will challenge them to design a planet that would support human habitation.
More information: http://quest.nasa.gov/events/av/index.html
- Air Transportation Challenge – March – May
Students are invited to take a look into the future of aviation and
develop their own new design for the National Airspace System (NAS).
The challenge follows the
format of: Future Flight Design, Part 1, with live NASA expert participation.
PSA Challenge -- Microgravity Challenge
January – April
Classrooms are challenged to design a way to test the Personal
Satellite Assistant (PSA) on Earth to make sure that it will
work once it is in microgravity. During
this process, students explore the engineering design process,
including a peer review for refining their designs. NASA engineers
and scientists were on hand to help to guide the process.
Astro-Venture Challenge: Design a Martian - October - December
This challenge is for students to design a Martian—a life-form capable
of surviving on Mars! Working with other students, participants were encouraged
to research what makes a planet habitable for humans and to answer the questions:
Does Mars have the conditions necessary for human survival? What sort of creature
could survive on Mars?
PSA Challenge -- Robot Design Challenge
March – April
Scientists and Engineers at NASA were designing a robot to assist astronauts
with their routine chores on the International Space Station (ISS). These robots
will float (because of microgravity), propel themselves, and help out with all
kinds of tasks like checking the temperature and air composition to make sure
safe for the astronauts and making repairs to the ISS. Students were challenged
to design a robot for these purposes.
The following were the predecesors to the current challenge format,
and some files are no longer available:
The Great Mars Debate: 2001
Students were invited to join a select group of international
Mars Scientists, educators, and other students as they evaluated
potential landing sites for the 2003 Mars Rovers mission. This
event began with an open debate room in which students debated
their points of view on potential landing sites and the project
culminated with a live webcast featuring a panel of Mars scientists.
Design a Mars Airplane
In order to gather more and greater amounts of information about Mars, its geology,
geography, possible hydrology, and atmosphere, scientists wish to fly an autonomous
(robot-controlled) aircraft with a scientific instrument payload above the surface
of Mars for as long as aerodynamically possible. This aircraft must fit into
the spacecraft which will carry it to Mars. See
updated Challenge Winter 2006
Imagine students solving aeronautical puzzles through teamwork
and testing, brainstorming and sharing design models, and
building and problem solving with other students across
the country. This is the basis for Right Flying. Students
parallel the scientific and engineering process used by
Orville and Wilbur Wright as they determine the best glider
design which results in the longest and most stable flight.
- The Great Habitat Debate - December 1997 – February ’98
As students brainstorm the needs and requirements for caring
for animals in space, they will begin to understand microgravity
and its effects on animals and humans. Students are encouraged
to collaborate with classrooms around the world as they become
life scientists and engineers designing a space-worthy animal
habitat for our furry friends.
The Great Plant Debate - 1996
Classrooms around the world design plant-growing hardware for microgravity,
debate the strengths and weaknesses of various approaches, and then
compare with NASA designs.
- Live from the HST – 1996
included several challenges
including deciding which planets to observe during
three Hubble orbits and making observations. For the first time ever, K-12 classrooms
used this unique optical telescope by deciding what astronomical
bodies to study, watching while the satellite was prepared to capture
their data, and then interpreting the scientific significance of