ship missions, support other public outreach efforts. They provide information to museums and print and broadcast media and distribute popular materials such as posters, postcards, and stickers that serve an EPO function. STScI, CXC, and IPAC also administer programs that provide supplemental grants to enable scientists using their facilities to develop EPO resources. These grants enable university scientists and NASA astronomy science center staff to coordinate their outreach efforts to students and the public. In fact, the EPO groups at the science centers include active research scientists and routinely consult with other scientists at the centers and with guest investigators to develop press releases and scientific information for the public.
Finding: A close coupling between a science center’s research scientists and its EPO effort is a hallmark of a successful science center EPO program.
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has developed an EPO Web site (http://planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov/index.cfm) devoted to the quest for extrasolar planets, by ground-based observatories and by existing and proposed space missions such as Spitzer, Kepler, the Space Interferometry Mission, and the Terrestrial Planet Finder.
Several smaller missions have their own EPO Web sites, such as those for the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (http://map.gsfc.nasa.gov/) and the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (http://www.galex.caltech.edu/index.html). HEASARC has delegated responsibility to Sonoma State University to develop EPO programs for the Swift (http://swift.sonoma.edu/) and Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (http://www-glast.sonoma.edu/) missions.
Images and press releases provided by the science centers appear frequently on the front pages of major national newspapers and magazines and in almost every physical science textbook. The Web sites are among the most frequently visited scientific sites on the Web. For example, the Astronomy Picture of the Day (http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/astropix.html), supported jointly by NASA GSFC and the National Science Foundation (NSF), is one of the most popular Web sites in all of science, with more than 600,000 page visits per day.
These EPO programs have greatly increased the public’s appreciation and understanding of NASA’s efforts in space astronomy.
Finding: The public outreach efforts of the astronomy science centers have a major national impact.
During its data gathering, the committee learned that NASA Headquarter’s approval process for EPO products is adding time and expense to NASA astronomy science center public outreach efforts. The committee believes that the science centers have sufficient expertise and competence to vet their own education and public outreach products.
In its recent report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm, the Committee on Prospering in the Global Economy of the 21st Century listed four priority recommendations for ensuring American competitiveness, the first of which was to “increase America’s talent pool by vastly improving K-12 science and mathematics education.”1 Specific strategies to achieve this goal included funding summer institutes to