Project Themes

NASA SEES Program Logo with application deadlines for the program


Microgravity Research with the ZQube
Microgravity research deepens our understanding of scientific principles and advances the development of technologies with applications both in space and on earth. The microgravity environment offers an opportunity to investigate physical and biological phenomena without the influence of gravity. In this project, SEES interns will become familiar with microgravity basics, the research platforms in which it is studied, and get acquainted with the ZQube. Built by Twiggs Space Lab, the ZQube system is a modular, palm-sized laboratory designed specifically for increased student access to space research. Over the course of a week, student teams will collaborate with ZERO-G flight mentors to engineer and develop a compact, one-of-a-kind research payload to be tested in microgravity on board the ZERO-G parabolic aircraft. SEES interns will be at the forefront of innovation in microgravity education and research design, with their creativity driving the application of this technology.



Astronaut Photography: Observing Earth from Space
NASA monitors our dynamic Earth using a variety of assets, from Earth-orbiting satellites to astronaut photography taken by crew on the International Space Station. Awareness of the fragility and beauty of Earth is important for people all over the world. This project will have interns working with astronaut photography of Earth and NASA data to gain experience with research, analysis, and communication. The plan is to have interns work together on a project to observe change over time in astronaut photographs and use NASA datasets to support their observations. Be ready to do research, enhance your geography knowledge, learn about landforms and features on Earth, gain skills with communicating information effectively to others, and more!

Astronomy – Galaxy Classification
Our Earth is just a small part of the whole Universe. In addition to learning about the scale of the Universe the students and reviewing some important astronomy tools, the students will be working with real data. Options are astronomy research through Citizen Science projects such as Searching for Extreme Galaxies, or Seeking Pulsars based on their radio emission. With these projects students will be helping astronomers process the vast amount of available data and make conclusions about the frequency of different object types, star formation, and galaxies.

Planetary Geology – Psyche
The Planetary Geology strand will focus on looking at geologic processes on Earth and comparing them to known and possible activity on other planets. We will explore surface processes that are indicative of weathering and erosion and compare Earth’s surface to the surface of other celestial bodies to look for similarities. We will learn about internal processes of Earth that drive plate tectonics and are responsible for Earth’s volcanoes, earthquakes and mountains and look for evidence of these processes on other planets and celestial objects. Significance will be given to case study evidence from Mars regarding marsquakes.

Students in this strand will have the opportunity to explore asteroids and meteorites* and will in particular consider the groundbreaking results from the OSIRIS-REx mission as well as make predictions about what is yet to be discovered through the Psyche mission.

Remote Sensing – Explore the Use of Imaging Radar to Observe the Changing Earth
Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) is a remote sensing technique for mapping deformation from imaging radar satellites. This method utilizes two radar images taken from different times but similar flight path positions to form an interferogram. Tracking surface movement in this manner is crucial to earth science studies, because InSAR can cover large areas of the surface of the earth rather than individual points. Students will process data to investigate its usefulness for formations and events that cannot be accessed directly from the surface due to geological hazards or lack of resources.


Measuring Environmental Changes with Altimetry
Interns will examine altimetry products over a wide range of global surfaces (e.g. ice sheets, sea ice, vegetation, ocean) from the Earth observing laser altimeter onboard the Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat-2) and utilize additional Earth observing satellite datasets and observations to answer a novel scientific question. The analyses will include data visualization, parameter derivation, and validation using independent resources and complementary measurements to explore how the comprehensive observations can inform investigations associated with Earth’s dynamic processes most influencing our environment and climate.

Weighing Where the Water Goes
Interns will analyze data from GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) and GRACE-FO, twin satellites that are making detailed measurements of Earth’s gravity field changes and revolutionizing investigations about Earth’s water resources over land, ice, and oceans, as well as earthquakes and crustal deformations. These discoveries are having far-reaching benefits to society and the world’s population.


Engineer Your World – Exploring our Solar System
Interns will be challenged to learn more about the mysteries of the Solar System. After extensive research using the latest in NASA software and exploration trends, the team will narrow the project down from ten prospective locations to decide on their top two planetary bodies of interest. Their mission will help us understand more about the formation of the early solar system, our quest to find life off the Earth and will be guided by solid aerospace engineering practices. Students are tasked with sub-team design, construction of prototypes including electronics and sensors, testing and a final design based on the best researched and tested designs, as well as atmospheric and geographical research and site selection.

High Altitude Balloon – Airship Project
For this project, SEES interns will design an airship that improves on the gondola design and the mechanisms to control the airship. The project would involve coding the Arduino, electronics, RF communication, and physics of airship flight (moments, buoyancy, etc.). Students could also incorporate 3D printing and PCB design. Teams may develop this into an outreach activity to incorporate into the NASA ROADS challenge, write a short paper describing their design, and select journals to submit their research.

In-space Refueling: It’s All About the Bubbles
Students will help NASA develop concepts for refueling spacecraft in orbit or in deep space. In microgravity, liquid propellant clings to the surfaces of containment vessels leaving an “ullage” bubble floating somewhere in the tank. Without gravity, there is no buoyant force on the bubble, but we must move the bubble to the vent port of the tank prior to refueling the spacecraft. How can you move a bubble without using external forces like gravity? We will explore different approaches, including ultrasound and magnetic forces. We will use a combination of experiment, computer modeling, and literature review.


Aerospace Engineering – TASR
In this project, students will develop a small engineering payload to be deployed on a high-altitude balloon. Students will work with mentors to develop the payload, along with the supporting electronics and systems required to conduct a simple test with a given sensor. Students will develop the test hypothesis and experiment design, assist with assembly of the payload, and its deployment. Upon recovering the payload, students will analyze the data and generate results in support of (or in contradiction of) the test hypothesis. This includes generating a final write-up and/or presentation communicating the hypothesis, the test procedures, data analysis, and conclusions.

Human Research Analog Study
Students will investigate NASA’s use of human research by looking at previous findings such as the twin study, current research like the research analog program, and potential future research applications. While investigating advancements made through human research, students will hear from NASA human research subjects and learn about the impacts of this research in their everyday lives. The student research will culminate in designing all aspects of a human research study including the purpose, manner in which the research would be carried out, and the potential benefits from this study.

FUNdamentals of Position Estimation for Drones Swarming (FUNPEDS): Applying the Kalman Filter to Position Data from Sensors On-Board Drones
Kalman Filtering is the primary classical method employed to estimate the location and heading of moving objects since the days of Apollo to the current era of autonomous vehicles. In this project, interns will learn about aerial robotics, advanced analytical methods, and communications protocols.
Interns will build custom drones and install sensors that will allow for a variety of control methods and position estimation techniques to be applied. The hardware build will consist of PX4 Development X500 V2 kit assemble, with a Jetson Nano and a Pixhawk 6X flight controller using the Pixhawk FMUv6X Open Standard. Interns will then program with open-source software in Python to perform sensor fusion for the purpose of position estimation. The group will be split into sub teams and each team will receive a build kit and access to the necessary software. Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs) will provide the data for the Kalman Filter estimate. GPS receivers on-board the drones will provide the ‘truth’ data against which your estimate will be compared. Starting from a known location, teams will begin by employing one of the most straightforward estimation techniques, called dead reckoning. From there, one dimensional Weighted least squares (WLS) method will be applied towards the goal of implementing the N-dimensional Kalman Filter. Interns will gain experience in concepts such as calculus, linear algebra, and dynamics but these subjects are not prerequisite for this project–just a willingness to learn! A team challenge will be incorporated into the program.

Mars Rover Resource Utilization
Interns will design a rover mission to explore in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) on Mars. Key goals include Studying Mars Habitability, Seeking Signs of Past Microbial Life, Collecting and Caching Samples, and Preparing for Future Human Missions. Interns will select a landing site for a hypothetical rover mission, decide on an instrument payload for their rover, determine regions of interest for the rover to investigate, and plot a traverse for their rover using remote sensing data of their chosen landing site.

Moon Exploration and Habitation
Interns will form a team that is responsible for the research support of a double-blind cross check for Regolith Simulants used in research with a possible design of a lunar laboratory that is capable of sustaining a long-term human presence on the Moon. Success in this endeavor will require many areas of expertise, and each intern will each take on one of a variety of engineering or science roles that will make up one cohesive design team. Through gaining knowledge of the most pressing and current scientific questions about the Moon, the team will choose the most appropriate landing site that will not only provide the best opportunity to conduct science, but also one that will provide the valuable in-situ resources that will be needed for sustained human habitation on the lunar surface. The design phase of the lunar habitat allows for a vast amount of creativity and provides a unique view of how the disciplines of science, engineering, biology, physics, and chemistry are all needed for the success of any mission involving humans.


Artemis ROADS is robotic challenge that gives novice teams of interns a chance to model their own NASA mission inspired by the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER). The VIPER will have to withstand a whole lot of rocking and rolling as they move across the rugged and soft lunar surface. Before the rover’s design was finalized at its Critical Design Review, the endurance of its wheels had to undergo rigorous testing in the lab. In this project, interns will “Reinvent the Rover Wheel.” Interns will work in teams to brainstorm ideas, create 3D designs, and test different wheel prototypes that will lead to a final design and build of a rover wheel that can maneuver the hardest lunar surface. Are you ready to think like a NASA engineer?


Air Quality Initiative Group – GLOBE Mission EARTH
Students will have the opportunity to conduct intensive research investigations into air quality and other related topics, dependent on their interests with the Air Quality Initiative (AQI) Group, hosted by the GLOBE Mission EARTH Team and the NASA Langley Research Center. Real-time aerosols data will be extracted from the PurpleAir aerosols monitoring website. Each student will also receive equipment so they may collect data from their immediate environment utilizing The GLOBE Program’s ( standardized sampling protocols. This data will then be shared on GLOBE’s Visualization System, a cloud-based Geographic Information System (GIS) of citizen science data. Students will be free to choose research project topics based on their particular interests, within the science of air quality.

Architecting AI for Human Space Travel
This study is looking at current and suspected problems in AI development and some options, including for deep space travel. The study rests on a premise that the structure of biological lifeforms, most older than the human animal- how these structures store data, problem solve, create complex structures could be very important in how the modern dominant culture creates AI. The study is looking at how can AI, complex structural systems, be created for a particular need in following the playbook of a biological life form. And how does this proven approach impact a biological life form using it. For example, in Tokyo –

Interns will have an opportunity to explore options in AI that are health promoting for Earth-based biological lifeforms. Over the course of the week, interns will have the chance to examine how artificial intelligence has been used for the past 300,000 years by the human animal and how it was/is used by Indigenous people in a slightly different form than the modern dominant culture AI but exact same principles and definition. To note- this study is being conducted by a member of a U.S. federally recognized tribe and is also using Indigenous Research Methods (IRMs).

Examined will be the differences in AI tool creation and what can be learned in how to create an AI tool that is health promoting for biological lifeforms. Also, will be examined, and interns will be asked to find, examples in biological structures on Earth or in the galactic ecosystem that could be helpful in educating humans in how to create complex AI structures that are health giving for all that interact with it while still meeting its objective. Woven in will be looking at current and suspected problems in current AI development, in general and those specific to space travel.

Artemis Geology Prototype Tools for NASA Return Missions
New tools will need to be designed to meet the demand of Artemis return missions. Tool design has been part of all NASA missions and play a vital role in the success of the mission. Tools designed to collect samples, store samples, and contain samples for research are important to the science community. Designing tools for emergencies can be stressful. Being proactive on designing tools that meet all the demands of a mission from start to end is critical to all NASA missions.

Interns will design or modify a prototype tool that could be used to open a new container carrying Lunar samples back on Artemis. Teams will be given blueprints for the new container that will serve as an outline to develop their prototype tool that can be used for tough secure mounts (like what happened with O-REx) and collector trays. Interns must consider collection techniques, container function/type, and possible foreign material contamination.

Astronomy – Age and Distance to an Open Cluster
Students will determine the age and distance to an open cluster of stars. Open clusters are groups of stars that are thought to have formed (approximately) at the same time and are the same distance from Earth. The group of stars is roughly the same chemical composition as well. Students will use astronomy software to analyze the data collected and calculate the member stars’ magnitudes. Stars will be classified by spectral type and age can be determined. From this information, the approximate distance of the cluster can also be determined.

Earth System Explorers
The Earth System Explorers virtual internship is recruiting highly motivated interns interested in working with NASA satellite data products and the digital tools that scientists use to monitor and document our changing landscape and climate. The virtual format of the Earth System Explorers enables interns to conduct their internship from their homes. Like the other SEES teams, the project will engage participants in 120-150 hours of research, working closely with NASA scientist mentors. The internship runs for 8 weeks, beginning the first week in June and ending the last week in July. We estimate a minimum of 15 hours/week to be spent in various research/virtual experiences. If accepted, you must participate in synchronous four-hour sessions each Wednesday, in addition to 8-10 hours working with your team members on your project. The work includes conducting local field research and data analysis using NASA’s GLOBE Observer data collection mobile app and utilizing various online tools such as the GLOBE Advanced Data Access Tool, Collect Earth Online, Colab, Jupyter notebooks, AppEARS, NASA Worldview, and Google Earth Engine. You will have the opportunity to create data products and research outcomes resulting from the Earth System Explorers team. You will contribute to a team project as well as a co-authored peer-reviewed research paper. Because our anticipated outcome is a professional and peer-reviewed research product, we can only accept students who are able to commit fully to attending synchronous Wednesday cohort meetings weekly. Still trying to decide about going virtual? Check out the SEES Intern blogs from 2023 here:

Exoplanet Transits – Detecting Planets Around Other Stars
An exoplanet, or extra-solar planet, is just what it sounds like—a planet orbiting a star other than our Sun. Why search for them? The ultimate goal is to find a world similar to earth with the possibility that it might contain life. Also, studying worlds around other stars gives us clues to the formation of our own solar system.

There are two primary methods by which these exoplanets are initially discovered—the transit method, where an exoplanet actually crosses that face of its parent start, as seen from the earth, causing the star’s brightness to drop slightly, and the radial velocity method, where the orbiting exoplanet tugs on its parent star, causing it to “wobble” a little as the exoplanet orbits it. There are additional methods of exoplanet detection, but these two are the most common, with the transit method being the way that most exoplanets are currently detected. Large planets orbiting close to their parent stars are the easiest to detect and will be the focus of this study. Two NASA spacecraft, TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite)—still active and Kepler—no longer functioning, are responsible for many of the candidate exoplanet detections, but follow-up work is not their primary mission—that is the job of ground-based instruments.

For the project, students will observe one or more stars that have an orbiting exoplanet or an exoplanet candidate, using hundreds of images, taken over the course of one or more nights. The images may be taken at one of several wavelengths of light. The students will then use photometry software and attempt to detect the presence of the exoplanet. If it appears that there was a successful detection, then more powerful software will be brought into use and an attempt made to determine the actual size and mid-transit times of the exoplanet. Accurate mid-transit times are vitally important for scheduling follow-up observations using large ground-based telescopes. Positive detections produced by this project will be submitted to the NASA Exoplanet Archive, the primary repository of exoplanet data, so it can be used by other researchers.

How Do Proton Temperatures Differ at Earth and Mars During a Solar Eruption?
The Sun is a giant, conducting ball of charged particles. These charged particles are expelled from the Sun when pieces of the Sun’s outer layer (the corona) erupt, in events known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs). As the charged particles travel away from the Sun, they affect the planets they encounter. Mars is about 50% further from the Sun than Earth, and the ways in which solar particles affect each planet are different. Because the distance between the Sun and Mars is far, the charged particles can look different by the time they arrive at Mars. One thing we can measure is the temperature of these particles.

Students will use data from NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission, the iNtegrated Space Weather Analysis System (iSWA) database, and the Database Of Notifications, Knowledge, Information (DONKI) database. MAVEN has been studying the evolution of the Martian atmosphere since 2014 and it has uncovered some of the physics of the Sun-Mars interaction. iSWA is a NASA space weather collaboration that combines models, and data from various spacecraft to determine the space weather conditions at Earth and beyond. DONKI is another NASA database, and it provides information on measured coronal mass ejections and their impacts on Earth and Mars.

Orbital Debris Oversight: Fostering Space Domain Awareness Through ITU Compliance
Interns will be involved in building a simplified model or simulation tool to assess compliance with geosynchronous (GEO) satellite orbital allocations from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). The project would provide a hands-on understanding of satellite operations and spectrum allocation while highlighting the importance of regulatory compliance in space activities. Interns will design and construct a physical model representing the geostationary belt, assigning specific orbital positions and frequency bands to simulated satellites.

By monitoring and analyzing the movement and operation of these simulated satellites, interns can explore how compliance with ITU regulations ensures the efficient and harmonious use of space resources. This project offers a practical and engaging way for interns to delve into the realm of satellite technology and space governance, fostering both technical skills and an appreciation for the complexities of international regulations in the aerospace industry. In addition to constructing the physical model, interns would be able to enhance their project by incorporating data analysis techniques and delve into the intricacies of geosynchronous orbital elements, such as inclination, eccentricity, and argument of perigee, to better understand their impact on satellite orbits and compliance with ITU regulations.

Solar Eclipse Impacts on Weather, A Citizen Science Approach, NESEC and GLOBE Mission EARTH
Solar eclipses have an immediate impact on the weather as the shadow from the Moon traverses the Earth. During the August 21, 2017 and October 13, 2023 solar eclipses, citizen scientists including students took air temperature, surface temperature and cloud observations through the GLOBE Program. And, citizen scientists and students will collect more data during the upcoming April 8, 2024 total solar eclipse. Observations taken by citizen scientists offer a unique insights into weather changes specifically since there are so many of them on the days of the events. Analysis of data from 2017 showed that temperature dropped significantly, and clouds dissipated as the Moon’s shadow covered the Earth. Be part of the exciting and unique area of research.

Urban Heat Island Study – GLOBE Mission EARTH
Did you know that July 2023 was the Earth’s hottest month on record? In the Northern Hemisphere, the land surface temperature (LST) in July was the hottest ever recorded, at 1.8 degrees C (35.2 degrees F) above average! Increases in LST can have negative impacts on wildlife, our land and water resources, and on human health and economic activity. In particular, urban areas are prone to increased LST, due to their extensive use of impermeable surfaces such as asphalt and concrete, and their lack of vegetation. The tendency for these areas to be hotter than their surrounding rural areas is known as the “Urban Heat Island Effect”.

You can study this phenomenon and add to NASA scientists’ knowledge of the topic, from your own backyard! By joining the Urban Heat Island Effect (UHIE) Study Group, you will receive instrumentation to collect data from your immediate environment on Surface Temperature, Air Temperature and Clouds. You will then share this data with the group (and the world) by uploading it to The GLOBE Program’s Visualization System, a cloud-based Geographic Information System (GIS) of citizen science data. The GLOBE Program has a long history of engaging students and citizen scientists in the study of LST in their areas, and you will become part of this worldwide community!

Updated: 02/26/2024

The SEES High School Summer Intern Program is funded through NASA Cooperative Agreement Notice NNH15ZDA004C and is a part of NASA’s Science Activation program. For more information, go to: