Michigan aurora image by Shane Malone
Image: NASA | Courtesy of Shane Malone

NASA released a new interactive map called “NASA in the 50 States” to celebrate the Fourth of July. The space agency posted the entertaining and informative tool on its award-winning Space Place website.

Developers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) designed the map with third to sixth-grade students in mind. However, it contains lots of fun, fascinating facts about NASA’s connections to each of the 50 states that space enthusiasts of all ages can enjoy.

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, talked about how people all over the U.S. are connected to space exploration in a statement. “NASA touches the lives of people across the country every day, and we want to share how they play a part in America’s exploration of space.”

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How the Map Works

NASA’s interactive map of the United States resides on a picture of the Earth floating in outer space. Users can click on any state on the map to pull up space-related facts.

For instance, Michigan residents might be interested to know 12 astronauts were born in the Wolverine state, including Christina Hammock Koch, who is currently conducting scientific experiments aboard the International Space Station (ISS) as part of the Expedition 60 crew. Plus, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the University of Michigan collaborates on NASA’s CYGNSS mission, which “aims to improve extreme weather prediction.”

The map presents all sorts of interesting NASA-related facts for each of the 50 states. Moreover, each profile contains state-specific information. The state capital, current population, year of statehood, and the state’s Assigned NASA Center are displayed on a sidebar. NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio is Michigan’s designated space facility.

Furthermore, users can view a set of state-related NASA images. Clicking on an individual photo pulls up associated incidents, news, and stories on NASA’s website. For example, a Michigan resident captured and submitted a stunning shot of the Michigan Aurora in 2011.

A Fun Classroom Tool

Upon arriving at the “NASA in the 50 States” map, the site offers suggestions for some engaging and educational activities. Teachers, families, and individuals can participate in fact-finding missions by creating and looking up answers to a series of questions.

The space agency offers examples like, “Which state has the most NASA centers?” and “Which three states fall in the path of totality for both the 2017 and 2024 total solar eclipses?”

In a large group, each person could create a question and send participants to explore the map for answers. Teachers could award “prizes” for getting the most correct answers or the fastest response time.

NASA also invites people to send in any interesting space-related facts about their state they don’t see on the site via email at [email protected].

Connecting Communities to Space

Beyond its new map, NASA aims to connect and engage space enthusiasts in communities nationwide via a variety of online activities. For example, ISS crew members host live Q & A video chats with students. The public at large can also stay informed about space endeavors via a regular interactive Space to Ground video series.

The organization also physically connects with space fans in locations across the U.S. through different programs.

For instance, Night Sky Network hosts events and activities in partnership with JPL and participating amateur astronomy clubs. The government agency also teams with a group of volunteers in its Solar System Ambassadors program. Participants “share the latest science and discoveries of NASA’s missions through a variety of events that inspire their communities.”

Furthermore, NASA invites select social media followers to attend rocket launches and other happenings via its social media-based program, NASA Social. Chosen members can “learn and share information about NASA’s missions, people, and programs” at an array of in-person events.

With excitement building about the 50th Anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 Moon landing, NASA fans looking for some space-related summer fun can visit the newly restored Apollo Mission Operations Control Room 2 at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

They can also watch the livestream of SpaceX’s 18th commercial resupply mission launch. The impending spaceflight will take place on NASA’s landmark July 20 lunar landing anniversary date. If all goes as planned, the Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon spacecraft will blast off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida.

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