Student Flight Mission Challenge -- Improving Earthquake Monitoring


The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is gaining a better understanding of earth science processes such as earthquakes through airborne science research platforms. Using a specially modified Gulfstream-III jet, NASA engineers and scientists are using radar to collect data on how quakes change the Earth’s surface, which may eventually help scientists forecast earthquakes. NASA hopes to collect baseline data in critical areas in order to improve our understanding of how quakes affect not only the immediate area of the quake, but also the state of stress in the surrounding faults. This will help them improve their forecast models of quake probability and magnitude.

NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center and Jet Propulsion Laboratory are in process of identifying several new areas to collect baseline data for earthquake studies. Educators, grades 6-12, are invited to engage students in the NASA Student Flight Mission Challenge. Through this challenge, students will have the opportunity to investigate, evaluate, design and present a solution to a real-world problem that will expand our understanding of earthquakes at the global level. Students will form small mission teams to create multimedia presentations that suggest a site for a new earthquake science investigation. The challenge will engage students as practitioners of science through exploration of the airborne science research process that NASA scientists and engineers use to study earth system science. Students will:

  • Investigate the science.
  • Select a site for earthquake monitoring.
  • Prepare a flight plan.
  • Develop a multimedia proposal for submittal to NASA.

The challenge can be implemented in a classroom, after-school or other formal and informal teaching environment. 


Free, self-directed online course

To obtain the curriculum materials and to learn the science and pedagogical content knowledge to prepare students for this challenge, enroll in the online course Earth System Science through NASA’s electronic Professional Development Network at The course is free, self-directed and technology and standards-based.


This activity is offered through the Aerospace, Education, Research and Operations Institute in Palmdale, Calif., in partnership with NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center and the Teaching From Space program at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The G-III aircraft is operated from the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale in collaboration with instrument investigators from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

For more information about the AREES activity, refer to the website at, or email Shaun Smith, AREES project manager, at [email protected]