How to come up with an idea for Mission Space Lab

How to come up with an idea for Mission Space Lab

The European Astro Pi Challenge is an ESA Education project run in collaboration with the Raspberry Pi Foundation In Mission Space Lab your first challenge is to design and program an experiment to be run on an Astro Pi located inside the Columbus module on the
International Space Station In this video we are going to give you an overview of how to come up with a great idea as well as some details of the Astro Pi that can help you to do that Let’s get started To begin, let’s see where our 2 Astro Pis called Ed and Izzy are located inside the ISS Ed, which runs experiments for ‘Life in Space’ is situated about here the Columbus Module of the ISS Izzy, which runs the ‘Life on Earth’ experiments is placed in a window looking down at Earth and has an Infra-red camera More about that in a moment So how do you get started coming up with a
great idea? It can seem like a daunting task but don’t worry, you’ve got this The trick is to break the project down into pieces and start small For example, when someone wants to build a house they will break the project down into steps maybe first deciding what type of house to build and then drawing up plans for what it should look like and how to build it before finally, gathering the materials and doing the building work You can start defining your experiment idea
using the same kind of strategy First of all every scientific investigation has a purpose! You need to define what sorts of questions
your experiment will try to answer Do you want to explore life in space or learn about life back on Earth? Start by familiarizing yourself with the different
sensors in the Astro Pi computers and write down what they could help you find out Next, think big! Don’t worry about whether the ideas are good or even realistic at this stage! Just write down as many ideas as you can and then start to refine your ideas by discounting those that don’t fulfil our
recommendations in this video Once you’ve decided on your idea come up with three possible ways of finding
out the answers to your questions in an experiment using the Astro Pi sensors
available to you Now I’m going to go over a few common mistakes that teams make when designing their experiment The first is about the type of camera Izzy has You might remember I said it’s an “infra-red” camera? On the electromagnetic spectrum, “infrared”
is usually divided into bands near, short, mid, long and very long A thermal imaging camera typically operates in the long infrared band converting infrared into the typical ‘heat image’ that you might be thinking of The infrared camera on Izzy, however, cannot do that. Izzy’s infrared camera detects visible light
and near infra-red light which is the part of the electromagnetic spectrum
close to visible light We use a filter that blocks the red & green light but lets the blue and near infra-red light
through Since the camera detects some visible light when you get your photos back from the ISS you can analyse plant life using the Normalized differential vegetation
index or NDVI Here is an example of an analysed photo The other thing to know about Izzy’s camera is that is doesn’t take good pictures at night these pictures are completely black! So, experiments that try to capture light pollution or any other night time activity unfortunately won’t work Unlike Izzy Ed has a visible camera But it’s important to remember that you can
only use Ed’s visible camera as a ‘light sensor’ meaning you can’t store pictures or record
any video that you capture This is to make sure we respect the privacy
of the astronauts on board. Now, we also recommend that you don’t try
to capture specific locations on Earth during the three hours when your code will be running We won’t be able to tell you what the ISS
is passing over in advance so photographing specific ground locations
is extremely unlikely Remember as well that the ISS flies over locations between 51.6
degrees north and south of the equator as this video shows. This means it never flies over many parts of Canada or parts of Northern Europe, so watch out! For all experiments we have these additional
recommendations real time communication with the Astro Pis
is not possible as we don’t have a radio communication module to be able to give instructions from Earth to the Astro Pi computers on the ISS Also, as tempting as it may be, your idea shouldn’t be a game but a scientific experiment! Finally, your experiment can’t rely on astronaut interaction We can’t be sure when an astronaut will
be around the Astro Pi computers and they have their own busy working schedule! Here’s a reminder of our recommendations. We may not be able to accept experiment ideas that don’t follow our recommendations Best of luck coming up with ideas and have fun!


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