LiftOff Summer Institute

LiftOff Summer Institute

Due to federal mandates, vaccinations and masks may be required for those attending in person. We will update as more details become available.


Beginning in the summer of 1990, NASA’s Texas Space Grant Consortium initiated a weeklong professional development training for teachers. This aerospace workshop, called LiftOff, emphasizes science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning experiences by incorporating a space science theme supported by NASA missions. Teacher participants are provided with information and experiences through speakers, hands-on activities and field investigations that promote space science and enrichment activities for themselves and others.


From looking for potential asteroids or comets that might impact Earth, to protecting our home planet, NASA’s Planetary defense research is critical to our assessment of future impact hazards, for developing spacecraft missions that will assist us in protecting our home and increasing our understanding of the world around us.

In the next few years, NASA will increase our understanding of the structure of asteroids to help scientists and engineers create solutions to remove potential, future threats of impact. Planetary defense research is critical to our assessment of future impact hazards and helping us understand the leftover remnants of our solar system…Asteroids. These missions will help answer the questions:

  • Can humans deflect asteroids?
  • Could we stop an asteroid from hitting earth?
  • How likely is it that an asteroid could hit earth?
  • What are the components of an asteroid?

OSIRIS-Rex, returning with samples from Bennu, seeks answers to the questions that are central to the human experience: Where did we come from? What is our destiny? Asteroids, the leftover debris from the solar system formation process, can answer these questions and teach us about the history of the sun and planets.

The OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft traveled to Bennu, a carbonaceous asteroid whose regolith may record the earliest history of our solar system. Bennu may contain the molecular precursors to the origin of life and the Earth’s oceans. Bennu is also one of the most potentially hazardous asteroids, as it has a relatively high probability of impacting Earth in the 22nd century. OSIRIS-Rex will determine Bennu’s physical and chemical properties, which will be critical to know in the event of an impact mitigation mission. Asteroids like Bennu contain natural resources such as water, organics, and precious metals. In the future, these asteroids may one day fuel the exploration of the solar system by robotic and crewed spacecraft.

Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) is a NASA space mission aimed at testing a method of planetary defense against near-Earth objects (NEOs). An on-orbit demonstration of asteroid deflection is a key test that NASA and other agencies wish to perform before any actual need is present. The DART mission is NASA’s demonstration of kinetic impactor technology, impacting an asteroid to adjust its speed and path. DART will be the first-ever space mission to demonstrate asteroid deflection by kinetic impactor.

Lucy is the first space mission launched to study the Trojan asteroids. Trojans are small bodies that are remnants of our early solar system. They orbit the Sun in two loose groups: one group leading ahead of Jupiter in its orbit, the other trailing behind.

During its 12-year primary mission, Lucy will explore a record-breaking number of asteroids, flying by one main belt asteroid, and seven Trojans. No other space mission in history has been launched to as many different destinations in independent orbits around our Sun.


Join us for LiftOff 2023 and become Planetary Defenders!



  • Presentations by NASA scientists and engineers
  • Hands-on, inquiry based classroom activities aligned to educational standards
  • Career Exploration
  • Teacher Feature (sharing of classroom lessons and activities)
  • Opportunity to interact with researchers dedicated to space missions


  1. Currently employed as a 5-12 grade classroom educator
  2. Demonstrate willingness to share information with others
  3. Must be a U.S. citizen


  • Texas Participants: FREE – All expenses paid by TSGC upon selection
  • Out-of-State: $1,250 registration fee (includes lodging, meals, tours)
    • Participants or sponsoring Space Grants will be responsible for travel to Houston, Texas
  • Applications: Must be submitted online


Funded by Texas Space Grant Consortium (TSGC grant number 80NSSC20M0036). Program announcement is contingent upon receiving NASA funding.