Part of learning how to explore space is to learn how to work well as a team and to do so in a mission format. It is also important to have hands on experience with the hardware, science, software, and operations of the systems that are used to conduct this exploration. Yet while it is important to have the classroom and laboratory experience, it is of equal importance to have experience in the field. Armed with classroom and laboratory training, Space College students need to be challenged so as to use this background in real remote, strange, difficult, potentially hazardous, frustrating, cramped, isolated, and hectic locations and situations. Students need to identify problems and develop solutions with inadequate resources, take orders, follow orders, all while maintaining team cohesion, accomplishing mission tasks, and learning. "Being there" is the only way to truly do this. In Star Trek jargon this is called an "Away Team".
Field experience will be provided to students in a variety of ways. Existing NASA projects with a field component will be encouraged to take on Space College students and utilize their skills in the field and after the field season. Non-NASA research relevant to space exploration (geological, polar, oceanic etc.) will also be utilized. Clearly all projects are not the same and some may not be able to provide a full range of field experiences. As such, some larger projects will be utilized to specifically accommodate research projects with a planned student component. Possible projects include Desert Rats, Atacama Desert, Pavilion Lake, NEEMO, Haughton Mars Project (Devon Island). Space College would focus and coordinate its initial field experiences i.e. "Away Teams" at NASA Ames Research Center. If this proves to be a valid model, relationships with other NASA centers - and other space agencies - will be considered.
As the need arises and the student body grows, field research projects will be established by Space College with the specific purpose of providing students with field research experience. Projects that are utilized or created for this field experience can vary from multiyear activities to short term "away missions". Such away missions could be mounted using private or NASA aircraft operating out of Moffett Airfield which would be deployed on sorties to locations within a few hundred miles. Students would prepare for and deploy themselves and resources on these away teams in a fashion befitting a sortie on another world. The value of a non-profit partner with Space College would be that pilots and plane owners could donate their time and hardware and get a tax deduction. This concept could be expanded to include ships, motor vehicles, etc. so long as the end result is a field research experience that provides the full range of learning experiences required by Space College.
As Space College progresses a "Manual" will be developed that captures lessons learned, observations made, guidelines developed for all aspects of Space College operations. Of special interest will be procedures to be used on field trips, expeditions, Away Missions, etc. While strict adherence to "regulations" is not desirable, a set series of procedures to guide participants or for them to refer to is desired. These manuals will be living documents subject to constant community revision and improvement. Included in these manuals will be a full range of embedded media and databases and appendices. Mission summaries, final reports,and other materials will also be included.
A GIS (Geographic Information System) system that contains detailed attributes of all Away Mission locations, field research stations, analog sites, and other places where Space College participants have conducted research or engaged in operations will be developed so as to create a network or catalog of sites. This Network will be used to instruct prospective participants, allow analysis of previous research, plan future research, and most importantly to allow active locations to exchange information and collaborate with an eye on how such activities might be done in space or on another world.
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