In an effort to preserve the Space Shuttle Program's history and technology, NASA announced that it is offering space shuttle heat shield tiles and dehydrated astronaut food to eligible schools and universities.

NASA said such a move is aimed at inspiring the next generation of space explorers, scientists and engineers.

The U.S. space shuttle flew its last mission in July.

The lightweight tiles served a very special purpose. They protected the shuttles from extreme temperatures when the orbiters re-entered the Earth's atmosphere, NASA said. Additionally, the food, which was precooked or processed so that refrigeration is unnecessary, is ready to eat or could be prepared simply by adding water or by heating.

The space agency said schools interested in having a part of the program's history can register for a login ID and request a tile or food at:

The eligible institutions use National Center for Education Statistics or Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System numbers that are assigned by the U.S. Department of Education to apply for the artifacts. Requests for these artifacts will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis, NASA said.

The tiles and food are actualy government property and so a transfer protocol is observed.

Those who receive these artifacts will be responsible for a shipping and handling fee. This fee is payable to the shipping company through a secure website, NASA said.

Tiles for Teachers are offered for the shipping and handling fee of $23.40. Space Food for Schools is offered in one package containing about three space food items for a shipping and handling fee of $28.03, according to NASA.

How to Apply

Schools may request a tile at the NASA Space Programs - Historic Artifacts Prescreening Web site. Once at the site, go to the NASA Artifacts Prescreening Register block of information to register and receive your login ID and password.