NASA gives kids window on North Pole

Most of us will never get to visit the North Pole, but a new NASA World Wide Web site that is tracking an expedition to the polar region might be the next best thing to being there.

As part of the North Pole Project, scientists from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center are setting up camp at Resolute Bay, Canada, and on the ice at 90 degrees north latitude - the top of the world - where they are conducting experiments and testing tools. The trip is scheduled to last from April 19 to May 1 and can be tracked at coolspace.gsfc.nasa.gov/northpole/index.html.

What makes this trip truly interactive is the fact that NASA will be providing a live video feed, allowing site visitors to watch scientists as they carry out their projects, such as testing ozone levels, measuring ice thickness, and testing soil and water pH levels.

Students at schools in the continental United States, Europe and Australia will be able to participate in live Internet chat sessions with the scientists, allowing them to ask questions about the experiments and view data and images. The students also can e-mail questions to the scientists at Northpole1999@mailcity.com.

Users can find the schedule for live video streams by clicking on the Schedule of Events link. The schedule page also lists other events planned for each day. For example, on April 26, a team is scheduled to leave Resolute Bay for the North Pole and will begin ice drilling on April 27.

The North Pole Project is the 53rd project conducted under the Communications Over Obscure Locations Special Purpose Advanced Communications Equipment program, according to Michael Comberiate, COOLSpace project leader. For more information on this program, go to coolspace.gsfc.nasa.gov.

To view background on the North Pole trip, check out a series of video clips on the site. These are narrated by the NASA scientists, including Comberiate, and provide an overview of the tools and procedures they are using. In one clip, Comberiate explains how satellite technology, including Global Positioning System satellites, play an important role in the mission.

The team will rely on six satellites as they conduct their field work, including weather satellites operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

While at Resolute Bay, the team will download real-time images from NOAA's polar-orbiting satellites almost every hour. NOAA's National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service will interpret the data and post it on the Web at noaasis.noaa.gov/ARCTIC.

"We're trying to provide some interpretation from the weather reports that students can access and weather maps they can see from links on the Internet and satellite imagery," said Wayne Winston, meteorologist and direct readout coordinator at NESDIS. "Maybe this will generate some interest in [weather]. It's an application to a real-world problem rather than studying it in the abstract."

The National Ice Center, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Environment Canada also are cooperating with NASA on the polar expedition.

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