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NASA Aerospace Scholars (NCAS)

NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS)

Students participating in the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) activity can expect to advance their capabilities in STEM, helping to prepare them for better representation and service in STEM fields. NCAS has three missions designed to challenge and build student knowledge and skills by focusing on NASA’s mission goals, collaboration, and career pathways.

NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars

Mission 1: Discover

Mission 1: Discover is a 5-week, self-paced online course. This orientation to NASA sets a baseline for all students wishing to pursue subsequent NCAS missions. Students will gain a broad knowledge of what NASA has in its current plan and how they can play a role. STEM based activities embedded in the online course include live and recorded subject matter expert lectures, interactive multimedia on NASA content, interactions with fellow aerospace scholars, knowledge assessments including a final project, and guidance and support from trained professional educators.


  • U.S. Citizenship
  • High school graduate or equivalent
  • At least 18 years of age
  • Currently attend a U.S. community college
  • Concurrent enrollment or completion of 9+ hours of STEM coursework
  • Able to commit to a 5-week online session
  • Internet access
  • Have not previously participated in NCAS

Mission 2: Explore

Mission 2: Explore allows students to participate in one of two educational simulation experiences.

  • Exploration simulation is a gamified mission to the Moon or Mars where students develop a design solution that integrates multiple systems. This simulation highlights the acts of prioritizing and making trade-offs to remain within limits.
  • Career simulation situates students to take on fictitious roles as NASA employees to gain exposure to workplace structure and culture. Simultaneously, this simulation highlights the personal responsibilities and team dynamics needed to accomplish a huge goal such as a lunar surface exploration mission.


  • Must have successfully completed NCAS Mission 1: Discover

Mission 3: Innovate

Mission 3: Innovate is an engineering design challenge. Participating students will be hosted onsite for a week at an NCAS partner institution or a NASA field center. STEM based activities for all students will include both an engineering design challenge as well as facility tours, live subject matter expert presentations, a resume workshop, a networking event, a job shadowing opportunity, and a 4-year college campus visit. However, the type of engineering design challenge differs depending on the host location.

Students affiliated with an NCAS partner institution will participate in a robotics competition. During the 4-day engagement, students collaborate with team members as a fictitious aerospace company vying for a NASA rover contract. Working in assigned roles, students utilize STEM-industry mentors to guide the rover design.

Students unaffiliated with an NCAS partner institution will participate with a NASA mission directorate in a collaborative capstone problem based on current challenges faced by NASA. Thus, this engagement begins with online activities two weeks prior to the actual onsite event to brief students on the emerging and relevant details of the problem. Leading up to and during the 4-day onsite event, students develop possible solutions to the capstone problem and report them to a panel of NASA guests.


  • Must have successfully completed NCAS Mission 1: Discover and NCAS Mission 2: Explore

NASA Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) Timeframe

NCAS has two consecutive schedules to engage community college students and institutions year-round.

  • Schedule A: August through February
  • Schedule B: February through August

How to Apply

To complete the NCAS application, visit the NASA STEM Gateway.

You will need to provide:

  • Contact information.
  • Community college transcripts (official or unofficial) or screenshots including:
    • Your name.
    • Your school’s name.
    • 9 hours of STEM courses, either completed or in-progress.
    • Proof of current enrollment.
  • Contact information of College Professor who will provide a recommendation on your behalf.
  • 300-word (max) explanation of why you want to participate in NCAS.

If you experience any technical difficulties with the application, please email to

NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS)”

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