NASA will conduct its annual Desert RATS activity in northern Arizona later this summer. Challenger Center will be participating once again as it did last year.

Desert RATS (Desert Research and Technology Studies) is an agency-wide activity whereby NASA “takes equipment and personnel into the field to simulate future planetary exploration missions,” said Joe Kosmo, Desert RATS manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “We want the public to be a part of this.”

This year NASA is offering the public a chance to help pick the location where Desert RATS will conduct its activities. From July 27 through August 8 you can cast your vote at

This website features interactive panoramic images of lava, rocks and desert for the public to choose as the most interesting destination to explore. The location that receives the most votes will be announced August 16.

In 2009, Challenger Center, in partnership with Green Trail Energy, Inc., brought a large solar and wind power system to Desert RATS. Formally known as the GSW-7000, this device is a self-contained portable trailer that is capable of generating up to 4.4 kilowatts of power from the sun and 2.4 kilowatts of power from wind energy.

As was the case last year, the GSW-7000 will be used to power education and public outreach activities that the Challenger Center will conduct at Desert RATS under its educational Space Act Agreement with NASA. Last year, the GSW-7000 was used on a trial basis to recharge batteries on several of NASA’s robotic vehicles. That activity will continue this year as well.

Upgrades are currently under way to add a second set of solar panels to the GSW-7000 so as to add several more kilowatts of generating capacity. In addition, advanced communications systems will also be added so as to allow the unit to serve as a totally self-contained communications node.

Specific dates for Challenger Center activities at Desert RATS are still being finalized. It is expected that these activities will be in full operation between September 8 – 15. Further information will be announced when it becomes available.

Meanwhile, you can get an idea as to what will be going on at Desert RATS by looking at stories, videos, and images from the 2009 Challenger Center activities at

Image: Challenger Center for Space Science Education partnered with Green Trail Energy to bring its portable solar/wind generator (right side, tower) to the 2009 NASA Desert RATS exercise in Arizona. Both NASA’s Chariot and Tri-Athelete rovers were recharged by the Power Droid. Desert RATS base camp is to the center and left. To the extreme left you can see the Lunar Electric Rover – its communications gear appears twice again (partially) due to panorama processing. You can view and zoom in on the full GigaPan panorama at

About Challenger Center

Using space exploration as a theme and simulations as a vehicle, the Challenger Center for Space Science Education and its international network of 47 Challenger Learning Centers create positive educational experiences that raise students’ expectations of success, fosters a long-term interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and inspires students to pursue studies and careers in these areas. Challenger Center’s network of Challenger Learning Centers across the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and South Korea reach more than 300,000 students each year through simulated space missions and educational programs, and engage over 40,000 educators through missions, teacher workshops and other programs. To learn more about Challenger Center for Space Science Education, visit

About Green Trail Energy

Greentrail Energy was founded to address the market for mobile alternative energy systems coupled with mobile communications tower systems. Our customers are the military in far off deployments, the government or private companies during a disaster, or anyone who simply needs a lot of power and communications on a mobile platform. Our fully automated systems are designed to be rapidly deployable, either via towing via a 1 ton class pickup truck, or deployed from a 40′ container. For more information visit

Contact information:

Dennis Wingo
Green Trail Energy, Inc.

Carol Pfau
Administrative Assistant
Challenger Center for Space Science Education
300 N. Lee Street, Suite 301, Alexandria, VA 22314