WASHINGTON, March 11, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- NASA unveiled an Exploration Design Challenge on Monday to give students from kindergarten through 12th grade the opportunity to play a unique role in the future of human spaceflight. The innovative educational opportunity was announced in a special event at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. (Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO) The challenge asks students in the U.S. and abroad to think and act like scientists to overcome one of the major hurdles for deep space long-duration exploration -- protecting astronauts and hardware from the dangers of space radiation. This education-focused effort was developed through a Space Act Agreement between NASA and Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda, Md., in collaboration with the National Institute of Aerospace in Hampton, Va. The goal is to help students see their role in America's future exploration endeavors. "America's next step in human space exploration is an ambitious one and will require new technologies, including ways to keep our astronauts safe from the effects of deep-space radiation," Bolden said. "That is the focus of this challenge, and we are excited students will be helping us solve that problem." The announcement took place in front of a full-size Orion replica at Johnson's Space Vehicle Mockup Facility. Orion is the spacecraft that will take astronauts to deep space destinations in the future. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, NASA Orion Program Manager Mark Geyer, Lockheed Martin CEO and President Marillyn Hewson, and NASA Associate Administrator for Education Leland Melvin were at the event. They were joined by local teacher Amber Pinchback, who offered an educator's perspective on the value of NASA missions and programs and how they benefit science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in the classroom. "Space exploration has inspired and fascinated young people for generations, and the Exploration Design Challenge is a unique way to capture and engage the imaginations of tomorrow's engineers and scientists," Hewson said.