Magazine article Technology and Children

Picture the Beauty of Technology

Magazine article Technology and Children

Picture the Beauty of Technology

Article excerpt

Editor's Note: Dividing information into disciplines often gives us a distorted and less than satisfying understanding of the world. We may have an understanding of one of the "laws of nature" or be able to recite how a technology works. But we may not have actually integrated this knowledge with our experience. This space-related activity integrates science and technology with art. It gives students, parents, and teachers the opportunity to use a technological concept as a theme for a work of art.

This contest is sponsored by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), California Institute of Technology, under contract to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It describes some of the advanced technologies to be flown and tested in space for the first time on the Earth Observing-1 mission, managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. You can learn about this mission at http:// This and other missions are also featured on The Space Place, JPL's fun Web site for children at http://spaceplace.jpl.

Put Yourself in Orbit

Imagine you are a spacecraft orbiting Earth, more than 700 kilometers (420 miles) up. You look down and see the beautiful blues and browns and greens of the surface. What's more, you carry several instruments that let you see the world as humans have never seen it before.

You can see all the usual colors, but it is much easier to see tiny differences among colors-for example, among different shades of green. You can also see light in long (infrared) wavelengths that are invisible to humans. Why, you can even look at a forest and tell the lodgepole pines from the cedars, the grand firs from the sitka spruce!

You also carry an instrument that lets you see through Earth's atmosphere as if it weren't even there.

The energy to power your instruments comes from your super-lightweight solar arrays that convert the sun's rays to electricity. And for making small corrections to your orbit, you have a high-tech, pulsed plasma thruster with only two moving parts. By releasing very tiny pulses of gas, the thruster lets you maintain a very exact orbit-very important, since you are formation flying with the Landsat 7 satellite.

The spacecraft you are imagining yourself to be is called Earth Observing-1, or EO-1. EO-1 will be launched in January 2000.

What a View! What a ride! You see things from up there that no one can see from Earth, or even from a jet airplane. You are recording images of almost the entire Earth's surface and sending them back to mission control at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The images will be analyzed and compared with the images the Landsat 7 is taking to see how well your new technologies work. For this is the first time they have ever flown in space.

Let the World See Through Your Eyes

If you find it inspiring to think about space and space exploration, and to imagine seeing our whole beautiful planet at once in exquisite detail, why not use that inspiration to create a work of art?

The New Millennium Inspirations Program challenges you to do just that! Create an original work of art that shows the spirit of exploration and also expresses something about one or more of EO-1's new technologies (which we'll tell you more about in a minute). It can be a drawing, painting, sculpture, collage, or anything you want, as long as you can show it to us on no larger than an 8-1/2 x 11 inch piece of paper. For example, if you do a big collage or a 3-D sculpture, you can send us a photograph of it.

* Start by reading and learning about EO-1's technologies in the explanations that follow. We also give you hints about ways to artistically interpret some part of each technology. How does Earth look using this technology? How does space or life on Earth look? Is the technology used to sense color, light, shape, or image? You may take off from one of our hints, or better yet, create a personal artwork of your own interpretation. …

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