May 8, 2002 - NASA's Student Involvement Program

How would you go about finding water on Mars? How does El Nino affect great white sharks? NASA has the questions, and some really bright kids have the answers.

The man standing in front of the gleaming rocket engine says, "it expands to fill the nozzle, and the nozzle is the capture for all the thrust." Keith Brock of NASA is explaining how the main engine of the space shuttle works. High school kids from all over the country have come to the 5th floor of a NASA test stand for a very rare behind-the-scenes look at just what it is they do at the Stennis Space Center. Since the early '60s every NASA rocket sent into space has been tested there. From the Saturn V rocket which took Neil Armstrong to the Moon to the engine which will power next month's shuttle mission.

Brock tells the students, "the whole thing is a very complex design. It's a thoroughbred, compared to just a horse." The high schoolers get to meet these technicians because NASA asked, "what should we do with the next shuttle mission?" Of all the students in the country, these guys came up with the best answers. Chris Pyle of Mission, Kansas, says he came up with "a 5-minute video on electro-magnetism and space launches." Sarah Wissman, also from Kansas says, "I studied the effect of elevated temperature on the chlorophyll in different coral reefs." These are students who are just "taking up space", in the very best meaning of the phrase.

For more information on NASA's Student Involvement Program, follow this link: