Status Report

NASA Education Opportunity: Tiles for Teachers

By SpaceRef Editor
December 4, 2010
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NASA is offering space shuttle tiles to schools. Perhaps you’d like to have one for your classroom? You’d better act quickly because a limited number are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

So, why are these tiles so “cool”?

Imagine that your school buses experience an extreme cold front followed by a heat wave, followed by another extreme cold front, followed by … Well, you get the point. What would be necessary to protect the students inside the buses when the temperature fluctuates from minus 200 F to plus 200 F every 90 minutes? How could you handle an occasional outside temperature of 1000 F? NASA scientists addressed this question over 50 years ago.

The space shuttle has made space exploration history over the past 30 years by regularly traveling through such extreme temperature fluctuations. Scientists and engineers collaborated to develop unique materials to withstand extreme temperatures. This led to the development of five space shuttles with their unique “skin” of shuttle tiles.

You or your students may have witnessed the more memorable launches. Perhaps you remember the first flight. Did you watch the flights that carried the Hubble Space Telescope into space or the flights to repair the telescope? Did you see any of the space shuttle dockings with the Russian Mir space station? Surely you witnessed one or several space shuttle launches to build or resupply the International Space Station? One hundred and thirty-three launches in 30 years have made space travel pretty routine. Have you gone outside at night and seen a space shuttle streak across the sky while attached to the space station? The space shuttles and their shuttle tiles have contributed immeasurably in making America a world leader in routine human spaceflight.

NASA is looking for ways to preserve this great history and inspire the next generation of space explorers, scientists and engineers. On Dec. 1, 2010, your school or university can sign up and request a space shuttle thermal protective tile. Remember, the tiles are available on a first-come, first-served, one-per-institution basis. Educators have an opportunity to share some technology and a piece of history with their students. Perhaps students will be inspired to hone their science, technology, engineering, or mathematics skills and seek careers in deep space exploration to Mars or beyond. Schools may request a tile at Click on the tile icon to log on to the request page. A login ID and password may be obtained by registering on the link provided. A Department of Education statistics tracking number (NCES for schools or IPEDS for universities) is needed to register; hyperlinks are available to the sites to find your institution’s tracking number. Because the tiles are government property, a transfer protocol is observed (signatures and routing are done electronically). Recipients will be responsible for a shipping and handling fee of $23.40, which is accommodated by the shipping company through a secure website.

Additional information on tiles is available at the website as well as recommendations for curriculum and science lab projects. While you are at the website, you also can view and request other artifacts that are offered periodically. Directions for requesting artifacts are available on the website home page or via the link:

For more information about the shuttle artifact donation program, read the feature article “Hands-on History” at

Questions about this program should be directed to Jerry Phillips at

SpaceRef staff editor.