Live from Earth and Mars
Science, Technology, Education Partnerships

James E. Tillman
Research Professor 
Department of Atmospheric Sciences 
University of Washington


Mathematics, science and logical thought processes are the foundation of engineering, science and technology.

A thorough understanding of their fundamentals and interrelationships is essential if a nation is to improve, or even maintain its position intoday's globally competitive environment.

Without this understanding, there is little potential for both informed governments, capable of offering reasonable legislative choices, and educated electorates, capable of understanding the choices and making the wise decisions necessary to ensure a productive and secure future.

The purpose of these educational programs is to promote scientific literacy and collaboration among today's K-12 students - within the classroom and between classrooms worldwide. Scientific literacy and collaboration are necessary in order to create a safe, secure and prosperous human climate, whether on Earth or Mars.


LFEM - STEP Outreach Programs

LFEM - STEP are acronyms for the educational outreach programs Live from Earth and Mars (LFEM)  - Science, Technology, Education Partnerships (STEP)

   The LFEM - STEP program allows students to investigate meteorological phenomena occurring in their school environment, especially temperature, which are directly related to concepts such as Global Climate Change.   Participating students will  compare their hands-on temperature observations with each other, their (or nearby) School Research Weather Station (SRWS) observations, with observations from schools in other nations, and with our Martian atmospheric observations from past and future missions.   SRWS observations provide the diurnal, seasonal, annual and interannual context for school yard measurements.   Inter comparing their observations over different surfaces within their surroundings, also provides insights into the problems encountered making representative climate measurements.

LFEM - STEP is led by Research Professor James E. Tillman, who has pioneered Mars (and Earth) based engineering, science, mission operations, and public outreach spanning more than 30 years. Recently, these include major program contributions by exceptional staff and volunteers, such as our Pathfinder Live from Earth and Mars and our LFEM - STEP MetNet (MetLander) collaborators. Unique to LFEM - STEP is that collaborating students will participate in FMI's "MetNet" program (see below), where the prototype is his Martian Meteorology-Climate Landers. Students will help develop its operational and public outreach components as they did in 1982 during the original Viking "Live from Mars", now the permanent "Viking View of Mars" exhibit at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C. LFEM-STEP is and will continue to be privately funded; Students may be invited to participate in fund raising for LFEM-STEP MetNet activities, thereby enabling ownership in addition to participation.
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The Three Parts of LFEM - STEP

The LFEM - STEP outreach program consists of three, interlocking components that provide students with a unique and powerful science foundation that can be expanded without limit. These three parts of the LFEM - STEP outreach program are:

  1. "Temperature of Earth and Mars", TEM K-12 education module development
  2. School Research (quality) Weather Station installations, SRWS
  3. MetNet Mars Missions
For 2., we will provide extremely reliable, zero cost software for that will automatically deliver the data to our Live from Earth and Mars site for ingestion and presentation. In addition to the unattended delivery of the weather data, it is trivial to add the dissemination and exchange of any other digital information and products worldwide to multiple collaborating school sites. It runs, without attention, on zero cost Linux based systems. Program components 1. and 2. are being developed to enable self replication and world wide collaboration.

1. "Temperature of Earth and Mars"

The education module, Temperature of Earth and Mars" (TEM),, is the first component of the LFEM - STEP program. This module is composed of K-12 science experiments that expose students to  temperature - energy relationships, while using scientific research methods. The TEM module has been piloted in grades 4, 5, and 8, is undergoing continued development. It is a primary component of our MetNet Atmospheric Sciences Education/Public Outreach programs. During these future missions, students will compare their school observations directly with those from these missions (which they will help assemble for the TEM program) and with their or nearby School Research Weather Stations (below). The thermocouple temperature sensors we developed for the program are the same type of temperature sensors that were used in the Viking and Pathfinder Mars missions and will be used in the MetNet Mars missions. Their functionality will be expanded and improved in a collaborative program with the UW Electrical Engineering Department. The School Research Weather Stations described below provide an observational context for the TEM experiments.

Students checking out Thermocouple Electronic boxes, voltmeters, and sensors before use by the observation groups. The TE boxes are the small grey boxes, and the thermocouples are the wires protruding vertically from the yellow connectors plugged into the two right hand boxes. A 9 volt battery is taped to the top of the box with yellow or silver tape.

Temperature is often confused with heat loss or gain (energy exchange), e.g., "feeling cold or warm". As students progress, these experiments will help improve their understanding of the difference between temperature and energy, and the temperature-energy relationships. By comparing the local time and space temperature variations, students develop a feeling for the difficulty of obtaining accurate, representative temperature measurements, and of methods that improve such estimates. Statistical concepts such as averages and variability are introduced in primary schools, and explored in greater depth in secondary and high schools to help understand the characterization of global temperature, and its changes.   Since significant climate impacts imply trillions, not billions, of dollars, and major disruptions of society, these experiments directly lead to helping students develop an understanding of this major economic and social problem.

Mike Howard's 4th grade students at Lawton Elementary School, Seattle Washington, were challenged to observe fast thermocouple temperature sensors respond to changes in AIR temperature, and how the temperature measurements were affected by sunlight, or by simulated sunlight, provided by an overhead projector in the class room. This helps understand how sunlight affects atmospheric temperature measurement accuracy. They used 75, (small pink lines), and 500, (large black lines), micron diameter thermocouples to illustrate their different time constants and sensitivity to solar radiation. They had to read the results manually from a voltmeter, and write the information by hand on their data sheet every 5 seconds as their partner called it out, (as fast as they could do it reliably). We also logged it on a Campbell data logger every second. The smaller sensors are faster and respond less (have less error due to), to the light. With the exception of one high-yellow observation at the beginning of the light-on phase, the student measurements are almost indistinguishable from the data logger other than the logger makes 5 measurements for every student one. Good 4-5th grade students can make fast, accurate observations with these simple sensors and ask challenging questions, thereby demonstrating that students this age can perform sophisticated investigations!

The TEM module is dedicated to my former collaborator Aki Kurose. She also provided the inspiration to attempt its development for this grade level by her stimulation of her first graders to discover some of these principles.

2. School Research Weather Stations , (SRWS)

The second component of the LFEM - STEP outreach program is the collaborative installation of Research Quality Weather Stations at the schools, such as Coe, grades K-5, (currently off line while school is being rebuilt), and McClure, grades 6-8. Students explore the atmospheric conditions of their own school environment by using these fast and sensitive weather stations. Each station includes a thermocouple (temperature sensor), anemometer (wind gauge), humidity sensor, solar radiation monitor, precipitation gauge and a data logger (to electronically record the second-by-second measurements). These stations make observations not available from the National Weather Service, (such as solar radiation and rain as it occurs), operate continuously, and provide minute by minute averages of second-by-second measurements at our web site.

The on-site measurement of school atmospheric conditions provides a scientific springboard that piques student interest in complex concepts such as energy exchange (wind chill),  average versus extreme events (wind gusts versus average speed), etc. Some LFEM-STEP precursor components can be found at our three year, $900,000 Live From Earth and Mars program that featured a suite of Education Modules along with our presentation of temperatures Live From Mars during the Pathfinder Mission. At Coe Elementary (K-5) in Seattle, the on-site weather station has already revealed wind gusts higher than thought possible for the area (94 MPH). Inter-comparisons between LFEM - STEP schools in different cities worldwide allows students to interact and communicate with one another, and encourages cooperation beginning at a young age.

3. Mars Missions

International Mars Exploration Working Group

Due to his collaboration with the Finnish Meteorology Institute since the beginning of their Mars programs, Tillman was invited in 2000 to become a member of the Finnish Delegation to the International Mars Exploration Working Group, IMEWG by its Chairman, Prof. Risto Pellinen. IMEWG, coordinates the world's Mars exploration and includes "all Martian research organizations" such as the Canadian, European Space Agency (ESA), Finnish, French, ..., and US (NASA), Space Agencies. Among other contributions, his proposal for "Climate Landers" at the Viking 1 and 2 sites to reestablish the Martian climate record has been incorporated in the IMEWG,  "Mars Exploration Strategy", adopted in Helsinki, Nov. 10, 2000 which is now being implemented as the Finnish, Russian MetNet Mission . In addition to his engineering, science and technological contributions, he is introducing Education and Public Outreach activities into IMEWG.

MetNet station with drogue

MetNet (formerly MetLander), with drogue at
Come Together Washington

Finnish Meteorology Institute, (FMI) -- Live From Earth and Mars - Science, Technology, Education Program (LFEM-STEP) Collaborative development of the Martian MetNet, Meteorology Network, Program. (selected components)

The MetNet mission, led by Ari-Matti Harri of the Geophysics Division of the Finnish Meteorology Institute,  is the third major component of the LFEM - STEP program.   The MetNet (MetLander) mission was formally announced at the June 22-23, 2003 IMEWG Meeting at Cocoa Beach, Florida by FMI delegate Ari-Matti Harri and will deploy a network of Meteorology Stations on Mars with components such as:

Agreed Ari-Matti Harri Head, METNET Mission Finnish Meteorology Institute , Geophysics Division;
James E. Tillman, Research Professor, Dept. Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, 25 July, 2003

In the MetNet collaborative environment, students will -

LFEM - STEP Implementation

Implementation of LFEM - STEP at the elementary and middle schools presumes there is access to certain equipment in quantity sufficient to support the number of students involved. To make the program cost effective and self-replicating, LFEM - STEP will be supported by teams of students, faculty, and volunteers from other levels in the educational system and from the community. Students from high school, college, and graduate school levels may be involved in such teams. This display-able White Paper defines potential activities to which these teams may commit, and how team participation may support educational goals of the programs from which the students are drawn. The term work packages is used to define subdivisions of the overall support needed to implement LFEM - STEP. (Printable White Paper .) 


"Goals" provides a comprehensive list of the primary program components.

Development of the "Temperature of Earth and Mars" and School Research Weather Station program were supported by Jeremy and Linda Jaech. Jeremy one of the founders of Aldus, and founder, President, and CEO of Visio, worked for Jim Tillman at his Viking Computer Facility where he helped develop its resources that led to its pioneering role in doubling the life of Viking Lander 1 on Mars.

To discuss LFEM - STEP participation/support, please contact Jim Tillman at the below address.


These web resources describe Mars based science, public service and educational outreach activities of Jim Tillman and colleagues over the past 30 years, and for the next 10 years. They cover engineering, mission planning and operations, and science aspects of past Mars missions. Examples include helping develop the Viking lander meteorology experiment, uniquely  both in an engineering role as well as a science team member. In the former he developed the Viking Computer Facility to test the Meteorology Instrument and later to process meteorology data for the last half of the mission, including processing all downlinked spacecraft engineering data for the Mission Operations Staff at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This was a first for a non-governmental organization, and enabled the doubling of the lifetime of Viking Lander 1.

During the past 15 years, Prof. Risto Pellinen, Director of the Geophysics Division of the Finnish Meteorology Institute, Ari-Matti Harri, and Tillman have collaborated on many Mars mission, and science and technology areas. Among these were the development of the NetLander mission, as an Invited Co-Investigator member of the Finnish Atmospheric Sciences, (ATMIS), team, and now in their MetNet program. Professors. Adam Bruckner, Chair Aeronautics/Astronautics, Howard Chizeck, Chair of Electrical Engineering, and Dr. Donald Sandstrom are jointly developing components of LFEM - STEP along with a growing group of excellent volunteers.

Recent Activity

The Viking Lander Flight Capsule # 3 , the "Flight Spare" Mars lander, is now a permanent exhibit in the University of Washington's Electrical Engineering Department courtesy of Professor Howard Chizeck, Chair. This exhibit is described in their 2003 Electrical Engineering Kaleidoscope, EEK.

The latest version of this page found at:

James E. Tillman
Research Professor Emeritus
Department of Atmospheric Sciences
Box 351640
University of Washington
Seattle, WA, 98195-1640
(206) 324-5839 (home)
Significant contributions by Dr. Donald Sandstrom, Annika Wallendahl are gratefully acknowledged
Revised 11 May, 2008