Apply for the Airborne Astronomy Ambassador Program 2016


Unique opportunity: NASA Science Mission Directorate project
Immersive STEM Experience and Professional Development for High School Science Teachers

Seeking high school science teachers in the San Francisco Bay area and greater Los Angeles area  for participation in a research cycle of the NASA Science Mission Directorate Airborne Astronomy Ambassador (AAA) program.


SOFIA, an extensively modified Boeing 747SP carrying a 2.5 meter (100 inch) reflecting telescope, is the largest airborne observatory in the world, capable of making observations that are impossible for even the largest and highest ground-based telescopes. The aircraft includes a console dedicated for use by teachers in the program. SOFIA conducted an earlier version of the Airborne Astronomy Ambassador program in 2011-16, providing educator professional development and SOFIA flight experiences for more than 100 U.S. educators. Evaluation confirmed the program’s positive impact both on the teacher participants and on their students and communities.

NASA SMD Astronomy Airborne Ambassadors (AAA) program schedule
Cycle 5 professional development & educator flights: 2017
Cycle 6 professional development & educator flights: 2018

The SETI Institute’s NASA Airborne Astronomy Ambassador Program will implement a new strategic approach to more effectively engage learners in NASA science education programs and activities. 

The SETI Institute is responsible to NASA for conducting an education program that exploits the unique and inspirational attributes of the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), improves science teaching, and impacts student standards based classroom outcomes.   The Institute will work in partnership with teachers, high schools, and school districts during this 2-year research phase.

Eligible teachers MUST:

  • Be entering at least their 3rd year of teaching.  
  • Have at least one year of experience teaching high school level courses in Physical Science, Earth/Space Science, and/or Astronomy.
  • Be teaching in a district with an established AAA partnership (Memorandum of Understanding) or willing to commit to a partnership.
  • Have passion for bringing real-world phenomena into the classroom.
  • Complete the short application online (follow link at the bottom of the page)
    • (Phase 1 application deadline: October 14, 2016)
  • Have eligibility vetted and approved for participation by sponsoring district and school. (post-application)

Expected teacher participation / contributions / commitments:

  • Successful completion of professional development in connection with AAA participation, blended model: 8 in-person workshop hours, 1 hour or less per week; group meetings and/or webinars; self-paced online training.
  • Teacher participants will travel to SOFIA’s base in Palmdale, CA for the flight week. Please note, this means leaving the classroom, work site, and home for a week. During the week, the teachers will:
    • Fly on one or more overnight observing missions aboard SOFIA.
    • Participate in pre- and post-flight trainings and meetings associated with the flight and the corresponding scientific research program.
  • Implement a 2-week SOFIA-based classroom curricular component (NGSS aligned; materials will be provided).
  • Participate actively in the formative evaluation of this component of the SMD AAA program.
  • Accepted participants will be randomly placed in two groups:
    • Cycle 5: PD in spring 2017 & flight weeks in fall 2017
    • Cycle 6: PD in spring 2018 & flight week in fall 2018

SOFIA AAA program commitment to educators & teacher benefits:

  • Travel expenses, housing, and meals for required pre-flight meetings, flight participation, and required post-flight meetings will be paid by the AAA program.
  • Flight facilitator / AAA program staff escort will be present during flight week at the NASA facility in Palmdale, CA.
  • Flight week will include at least 1 overnight flight plus NASA facility tours.
  • Any online training course fees will be paid by the AAA program.
  • A certifying letter will be issued by the AAA program giving total professional development hours before, during, and after the SOFIA flight(s).
  • Access to SOFIA subject matter experts (SMEs, scientists, engineers, and other professionals) for student questions, real-world science guidance, and/or classroom presentations (virtual or in person) will be arranged by the AAA program.
  • Materials and supplies needed to implement lessons will be delivered to the school site by the AAA program.
  • Optional induction into an existing national AAA Public Engagement and Educator group for educational support and ongoing activities.

For more information on NASA’s SOFIA science and operations via the web and social media:

  • Facebook: SOFIA Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy
  • Twitter: @SOFIAtelescope
  • YouTube: SOFIA Telescope
  • Google+: SOFIA Telescope
  • Instagram: SOFIATelescope

If you have questions, please contact Coral Clark

Download the Administrative Support Letter
Please have your supervisor complete the letter.  Scan the signed letter for uploading into the application.

Click here to apply