NASA’s Aqua satellite was launched on May 4, 2002, with six instruments designed to collect data about the Earth’s atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and cryosphere. Since the late 1990s, the Aqua mission has involved considerable education and public outreach (EPO) activities, including printed products, formal education, an engineering competition, a video competition, webcasts, and high-profile multimedia efforts. The printed products include Aqua and instrument brochures, an Aqua lithograph, Aqua trading cards, NASA Fact Sheets on Aqua, the water cycle, and weather forecasting, and an Aqua science writers' guide.

Formal education efforts have included the Students’ Cloud Observations On-Line (S’COOL) Project, the MY NASA DATA Project, the Earth System Science Education Alliance, and, in partnership with university professors, undergraduate student research modules. Each of these projects incorporates Aqua data into its inquiry-based framework. Additionally, high school and undergraduate students have participated in summer internship programs.

A completed formal education activity was the Aqua Engineering Competition, which was a high school program sponsored by the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Morgan State University, and the Baltimore Museum of Industry. The competition began with the posting of a Round 1 Aqua-related engineering problem in December 2002 and concluded in April 2003 with a final round of competition among the five finalist teams. A separate successful outreach competition was conducted in 2012 and 2013, when the Aura, Aqua, and Terra missions collaborated on the NASA REEL Science Communication Contest. The contest engaged high school students to produce a 2-minute video communicating NASA Earth Science to younger students. Participants were able to choose one of three science topics: ozone in the stratosphere (for the Aura mission), ship tracks and the environment (for the Terra mission), and the water of the water planet (for the Aqua mission). Winners had their videos posted on a special NASA website and will have the opportunity to work with NASA scientists and communication experts in July 2013 to produce an Earth Science feature video.

The Aqua EPO efforts have also included a wide range of multimedia products. Prior to launch, the Aqua team worked closely with the Special Projects Initiative (SPI) Office to produce a series of live webcasts on Aqua science and the Cool Science website, which displays short video clips of Aqua scientists and engineers explaining the many aspects of the Aqua mission. These video clips, the Aqua website, and numerous presentations have benefited from dynamic visualizations showing the Aqua launch, instrument deployments, instrument sensing, and the Aqua orbit. In 2008 the Aqua team worked with the ViewSpace production team from the Space Telescope Science Institute to create an 18-minute ViewSpace feature showcasing the science and applications of the Aqua mission. Then in 2010, 2011 and 2012, Aqua and other NASA Earth-observing missions collaborated on the “Know Your Earth” (KYE) project. During January and July 2010 and 2011, KYE ran 2-minute segments highlighting questions that promoted global climate literacy on lobby LCD screens in movie theaters throughout the U.S. In April 2013, KYE promoted a social media campaign featuring 22 NASA scientists. Each scientist had a dedicated web page that featured select research and mission highlights.

Among the ongoing Aqua EPO efforts is the incorporation of Aqua data sets onto the Dynamic Planet, a large digital video globe that projects a wide variety of spherical data sets. Aqua also has a highly successful collaboration with EarthSky communications on the production of an Aqua/EarthSky radio show and podcast series. To date, eleven productions have been completed and distributed via the EarthSky network. In addition, a series of five video podcasts (i.e., vodcasts) have been produced by NASA Goddard TV in conjunction with Aqua personnel, highlighting various aspects of the Aqua mission. A final, sixth vodcast is planned in 2013. We are also hoping that the REEL Video Competition will continue in future years.

Lead Organizations

Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC)




  • S'COOL
  • Aura mission
  • Terra mission
  • Earth System Science Education Alliance (ESSEA)
  • EarthSky


Effectiveness and Impact

An evaluation study of Dynamic Planet was completed in August 2012.