Press Release

Students save Earth from asteroid in Space Foundation virtual lab

By SpaceRef Editor
October 5, 2006
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Students save Earth from asteroid in Space Foundation virtual lab

This week the Space Foundation debuted “Asteroid Challenge, Target: Earth,” a virtual lab and video science education program featuring the real asteroid Apophis. Third grade students from Manitou Springs Elementary School in Colorado were the first class nationwide to participate in this interactive science program and use scientific methods in a virtual lab to save our planet from destruction by Apophis, now on a path that could bring it dangerously close to colliding with Earth in 2036.

The release of the lab follows the Oct. 3 premiere of NOVA scienceNow on PBS, which also addressed near-Earth asteroids, including Apophis. Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is both the host of NOVA scienceNow and featured in “Asteroid Challenge, Target: Earth.” Tyson is a Space Foundation board member, astrophysicist, and director of the Hayden Planetarium in the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

“Scientists tell us the asteroid Apophis could pose a real threat to Earth,” said Space Foundation Senior Vice President of Education and Workforce Development Dr. Patricia Arnold. “‘Asteroid Challenge, Target: Earth’ engages the next generation of scientists, mathematicians, and engineers who will be responsible for developing and implementing an effective solution to this real life situation and problem. This virtual lab is an educational and fun program that has relevance to students while improving their science and math skills.”

Using the virtual lab, students study asteroid composition and orbital mechanics and conduct virtual experiments to determine the trajectory of Apophis and how to divert it away from Earth’s orbit, choosing from among such options as exploding it, attaching a solar sail to push it away, and using a gravitational tugboat method to pull it out of harm’s way. Manitou Springs Elementary School third grade teacher and Space Foundation Teacher Liaison Christi Marquardt led her class in the nationwide debut of this interactive science program Wednesday, Oct 4.

Created in collaboration with SpaceClass, the virtual lab uses the excitement of space to teach students essential concepts of science and math. “Asteroid Challenge, Target: Earth” is available online at

The Space Foundation has trained more than 40,000 teachers since 1986 through its Summer Institute graduate courses and national conferences. In addition, the Space Foundation fosters educational space endeavors by implementing its revolutionary Integrated Science Literacy Model; offering two distinct Master’s in Space Studies Degrees in conjunction with the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and Regis University; sponsoring a Teacher Liaison program; annually conducting the Space Career Fair; managing the onsite NASA Educational Resource Center; and offering a free online lesson bank for educators.

About the Space Foundation

Founded in 1983 and headquartered in Colorado Springs, the Space Foundation is a national nonprofit organization that vigorously advances civil, commercial, and national security space endeavors and inspires, enables, and propels tomorrow’s explorers. The Space Foundation has offices in Washington, D.C., and Cape Canaveral, Fla. Along with partnering organizations, the Space Foundation conducts Strategic Space and Defense, 10-12 Oct. 2006 in Omaha, Neb. The Space Foundation’s signature event, the National Space Symposium, is scheduled for April 9-12, 2007, at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo. For more information, visit

SpaceRef staff editor.