Students to Launch is a 3-year program that will allow approximately 2,300 youth and their adult mentors from informal science education programs to attend NASA space launches. These intense experiences will serve as the anchor for hands-on, informal science education programs for both youth participating in the launch and associated pre-launch activities and for youth who engage in pre-launch programming but do not travel to the launch. Further, social-media based outreach developed and promoted by youths who attend the launches and become “Space Ambassadors” has the potential to reach hundreds of thousands of science-interested youths nationally and internationally.

NASA launches can be described as  “significant life experiences”, in that they are powerful, emotionally-charged and – for most participants – unique in nature. Research on significant life experiences suggests the possibility of deep impacts on participants, with potentially lasting effects. However, research specifically investigating the nature and extent of experiences such as space launches as significant life experiences are limited. In this project, we will explore the potential impact of space launches as significant life experiences for participating youth while also determining the “ripple” effect of these in-person launch experiences on other youth - those who took part in programs (but were not selected to attend a launch) and those who are reached via social media during launch events.