UAF Joins NASA in live interactions from Poker Flat

Release Date: 
Friday, February 21, 2003

Rocket scientists from the UAF Geophysical Institute will join veteran Astronaut and NASA Chief Scientist Shannon Lucid for a series of live interactions for students from Poker Flat Research Range on February 22 and March 1.

The education outreach effort will include a live video feed that will feature interviews with Geophysical Institute scientists and NASA experts talking about how rockets are used to study the aurora. The interactions coincide with Poker Flat’s second rocket launch window, which includes two missions designed to study the aurora using a total of six sounding rockets.

The interviews will be featured in a resulting documentary, “Live from the Aurora,” scheduled to air on AlaskaOne, NASA-TV, and other participating PBS stations around the nation at 9 a.m. (AST) Tuesday, March 18.

Geophysical Institute scientists also contributed to “Aurora: Living with a Star,” a documentary that provided an introduction to contemporary aurora science, which aired on AlaskaOne and other participating PBS stations around the nation on February 11. During that broadcast, Geophysical Institute scientists responded to questions about the aurora via real-time live email interaction with students around the nation signed up to participate in the program.

Lucid is one of the country’s first six women astronauts and has logged 223 days in space, an international record for the most flight hours in orbit by any non-Russian. She holds the U.S. singlemission space-flight endurance record on the Russian Space Station Mir, where in 1996 she performed numerous science experiments. In completing that mission, Lucid traveled 75.2 million miles in 188 days. She recently was awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor by U.S. President George Bush, becoming the first and only woman to have earned this prestigious award.

Lucid also will be participating in the statewide Science for Alaska free public lecture series, coordinated by the Geophysical Institute. She will join two other expert scientists to present their lecture, “The Sun-Earth Connection,” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, February 25, at the Chena River Convention Center in Fairbanks, and at 7:15 p.m. Monday, February 24, at UAA’s Wendy Williamson Auditorium in Anchorage.

The effort is not the first aurora-based education outreach project involving the Geophysical Institute. The Institute created and recently released an interactive, educational CD-ROM called Aurora Alive. Proceeds from sales of the CD-ROM are used to implement the associated Aurora Alive curriculum in Alaska village schools, where culturally relative science instruction is most needed.

Poker Flat Research Range, located 30 miles northeast of Fairbanks, is owned and operated by the UAF Geophysical Institute under contract to NASA. Since it was founded 35 years ago, more than 1,500 meteorological rockets and 250 major high-altitude sounding rocket experiments have been launched from Poker Flat to conduct atmospheric research on diverse subjects including the aurora, the ozone layer, solar protons and electric, magnetic and ultraviolet fields.

Shannon Lucid will be available for interview regarding her participation in the education outreach activities preceding her public lecture in Anchorage and Fairbanks: 
Anchorage: Wendy Williamson Auditorium; 6 - 6:30 p.m., February 24
Fairbanks: Chena River Convention Center; 6 - 6:30 p.m., February 25

Details about the live interactions and related broadcasts can be found online at
Details about the 2003 Science for Alaska free public lecture series can be found online at
Details about the Aurora Alive educational CD-ROM can be found online at

Vicki Daniels, Public Relations Specialist and Science for Alaska Free Public Lecture Series Coordinator, UAF Geophysical Institute: (907) 474-5823 or (907) 474-7558.