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Add the Micro to Gravity!

Take the PSA Microgravity Challenge! NASA challenges you to simulate microgravity on Earth.

Susan Helms works in microgravitySee Schedule of Events

Engineers at NASA need to test things on Earth that are meant to work in space. On Earth, we feel the effects of Earth's gravity everywhere we go, but on the International Space Station (ISS), astronauts don't feel the effects of Earth's gravity. That's because the ISS and everything on board are falling around Earth, so things float. We call this "mircogravity." How can you test the Personal Satellite Assistant (PSA) on Earth to see if it will move properly in microgravity?

Learn more about microgravity >>

There are already several ways that microgravity-like environments are being created at NASA, but each microgravity environment has flaws. Engineers have to find the best environment for testing specific things. You will learn about some of these existing environments during the challenge.

PSARight now, NASA engineers are designing the PSA - the astronauts' robot helper on the ISS. Some of you participated in the Robot Design Challenge last year. This time your challenge is to design a way to test the PSA on Earth to make sure that it will work once it is on the ISS where there is microgravity.

Learn more about the PSA >>

Here is your challenge!

  • Use a tennis ball for the PSA, with an approximate diameter of 6.5 cm and mass between 55 and 60 grams. The tennis ball can be new or used and of any color.
  • The PSA must be suspended by some device and stay in the suspended position without being held by a person.
  • You must be able to move the PSA (manually or mechanically) 3 inches up or down to a new position and have it remain in that new position. Your PSA cannot roll.
  • You must be able to push or pull the PSA and have it keep moving (after you have finished pushing or pulling it) for 3 seconds.

During this challenge, teachers and students are encouraged to share ideas, findings, and questions with classrooms around the world and then submit preliminary designs for feedback from our NASA experts. There will also be a chat room where students across the world will be able to share their ideas and receive feedback from their peers. Preliminary designs should include details on how the environment will be created and why. Final designs will include a prototype that illustrates the environment.

Information for Teachers >>
Information for Students >>

What You Need to Do:
Beginning Now Register for the challenge
Week of
9 February
Classrooms do background studies
View webcast archives on microgravity
February 20 Registration through end of week
16 February -
5 March
Begin classroom designs
Open Forum for questions
Week of
23 February
National Engineers Week

Chat with engineer Mike Ciannilli

5 March

Due date for Preliminary Designs
Posting instructions
See Designs as they come in and put your comments in the
Peer Review Forum
Engineer evaluations are included on the individual design pages.

15 March -
9 April
Final prototypes due Friday, April 9 to be included in final Webcast: See submitted designs!
April 20, 2004
2 identical webcasts
8-9AM Pacific
11-12 AM Eastern
1500-1600 GMT
View the Archive of this Webcast
Read the Transcript

9:30 AM Pacific
12:30 PM Eastern
1630-1730 GMT

View the Archive of this Webcast
Read the Transcript

Meet the webcast expert: Dan AndrewsRead Dan Andrews' bio


View Standards >>



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