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GOES-16 Extends Its Mission from Orbit to Classroom

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

As researchers and engineers work to get GOES-16's on-board systems online and calibrated following launch, school teachers from around the country are already taking their experiences from this historic event back to the classroom.

Goes-16 launch
GOES-16 launches from Cape Canaveral, Florida at the very last minute of the launch window, 6:42 p.m. Photo credit: NOAA Satellite and Information Service


After a successful mid-November launch, the GOES-R weather satellite — now GOES-16 — has reached its destination more than 22,000 miles from Earth. In approximately two months, the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES), a joint program between NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), will be in a lock-step rotation with the Earth and provide continuous weather coverage over the continental US.

As researchers and engineers now work to get the system online and calibrated, school teachers from around the country are already taking their experiences from the launch back to the classroom, through a multi-year program spearheaded by Margaret Mooney, director of education and public outreach at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS). That program culminated in a two-day workshop at the launch.

Mooney has been working with teachers through the GOES-R Education Proving Ground,  which began three years ago with six core educators, including Brian Witthun and Craig Phillips, eighth grade science teachers at Jack Young Middle School in Baraboo, Wisconsin. They were among 23 educators from across the United States to participate in the CIMSS program and witness the launch at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Before the launch, Witthun and Phillips taught sections about satellite meteorology and how it relates to numerous other scientific fields in their classrooms. During the planning and construction phases of the satellite’s development, the middle school teachers collaborated with staff at CIMSS and the NOAA GOES-R Education Proving Ground to create lesson plans and online tools for students to use for different units on weather, meteorology, and satellites. The online tools teach students about GOES-R and its ability to capture high resolution images, while other lessons focus on basic principles of satellite meteorology such as resolution and image coloring.

School teachers from around the country gathered at Kennedy Space Center in Florida to learn about GOES-16 and share ways to bring meteorological science into the classroom. Photo by: Margaret Mooney CIMSS EPO


“It has been exciting to be a part of the GOES-R mission from early on,” says Phillips. “We’ve had the fortune to learn about every aspect of the program and we are able to use it to build a successful lesson plan that will resonate with our students.”

GOES-16 is the next step in the evolution of geostationary weather satellites, with the first launching more than 40 years ago. Scientists at CIMSS have been involved with each generation of geostationary satellite since imagers were first placed on orbiting satellites in the 1960s.

Following its launch on November 19, 2016, the GOES-16 satellite is expected to send its first back its first images in early 2017. GOES-R is the first in a series of new geostationary satellites scheduled to be launched in the coming years through 2025.

Looking ahead, Mooney is encouraged by the excitement surrounding the launch of GOES-16 and its ability to reach beyond its meteorological mission.

“Through programs like GOES-R,” says Mooney. “We hope to get more young people engaged in STEM fields and inspire them toward scientific careers so that they can tackle challenges facing society.”

This article was written by Eric Verbeten and reprinted here courtesy of the Space and Science Engineering Center at the University of Wisconsin. To read the full version of the article, click here.