Summer Camp: The Quest for Life

This summer, NAI's new team at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (also known as "The New York Center for Astrobiology") played a major role in hosting the 2009 ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp. The camp is a free, academic program of The Harris Foundation, named for Bernard A. Harris, MD, an accomplished NASA astronaut, physician and entrepreneur, and the first African American to walk in space.

The theme of this year's camp, held from June 14-26th, was The Quest for Life, and 50 middle school students participated. During the two exciting weeks, students went on several field trips to the Albany Pine Bush, New York State Museum, Herkimer Diamond Mine, and the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. After hearing about NASA's upcoming missions to the Moon, the students enjoyed watching together the LRO/LCROSS launch on NASA TV. Students also took several classes and completed many activities dealing with topics such as life, astronomy, space exploration, the cosmic calendar, the Drake Equation, and satellites and geocaching.

The main activity for the students was to propose a mission to search for life on either Mars, Europa, or Titan; there were eight proposals developed in all. The proposal judged to be the best outlined a mission to Europa. The students from that team will be interviewed at WAMC Northeast Public Radio studios in Albany, NY, through which they'll share their experience with the local community, inspiring others to participate next year.

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