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Understanding Space TravelUnderstanding-Space-Travel

  • Subject: Space Science
  • |
  • Grade(s): 9-12
  • |
  • Duration: Two class periods

Lesson Plan Sections

Objectives


Students will
  • At some time in the future, there likely will be cities in space.
  • The first of these cities will probably be lunar based, Mars based, or space based (orbiting Earth).
  • Designers of such a city will have to work within the parameters of the unique conditions of the base environment.
  • Designers will have to consider the conditions and services that will be necessary for people living in the city.

Materials


  • Computer with Internet access
  • Research materials on the moon, Mars, and space stations

Procedures

  1. Discuss with your class the design of a large city near your area. What materials are common in buildings and other structures? What kinds of recreation facilities are available? How is power provided to the residents? What are the main businesses and industries carried out in the city? Can students think of any reasons for the characteristics they have ascribed to the city? Are the city's characteristics related to its geography, location, or available natural resources? In what ways
     
  2. Continue the discussion by pointing out that, in the future, we are likely to have cities in space—either lunar based, Mars based, or space based (i.e., orbiting Earth). Go on to point out that, as on Earth, the characteristics of space cities will be, in part, dictated by the unique conditions of the base environment.
     
  3. Divide the class into three teams. Team 1 will design a lunar-based city; Team 2, a Mars-based city; and Team 3, a space-based city.
     
  4. Before beginning, Teams 1 and 2 should research the base environments of the moon and Mars; Team 3 should research space stations.
     
  5. Set aside a time for the three teams to meet and plan their cities with the following questions in mind:

     

    • What building materials will be available?
    • Which jobs will be required; what skills will people need?
    • What kind of recreational facilities should be available for the inhabitants?
    • How will power, food, water, oxygen—the necessities—be provided?
    • What conditions and services will people need?
    • Are there any special scientific research projects that could be carried out on this base that are unique to this location?
    • What types of businesses and commercial services will be most likely to thrive in this city?

    Team members should share the task of preparing written answers to each of the preceding questions.

  6. Have teams create computer-aided designs, physical models, or drawings of their cities and present them to the class.
     
  7. Following the presentations, students can prepare written reports on one of the following:

     

    • Life at the Base ("A Day in the Life of a . . . Student, Scientist, Teacher, Doctor, Artist, Writer, etc.")
    • Tourist Brochure (tourist traps; best restaurants; sports activities; museums; historic sites, such as Apollo and other landing sites on the moon, Viking and Pathfinder on Mars).
    • The Daily News (newspaper that communicates the current events on the base)

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Adaptations


Accept from students a more imaginative and less scientific focus.

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Discussion Questions

  1. Discuss the following "What ifs":
    • What if...the Soviet Union had never launched the Sputnik?
    • What if...the Apollo Program had never resulted in a landing on the Moon?
    • What if...no one had ever tried to break the sound barrier?
    • What if...the Soviet Union had landed on the Moon first?
    • What if...you were offered an opportunity to ride on the Space Shuttle?
  2. Discuss why people want to go into space and debate whether human space exploration should be replaced with robotic missions. Are there compelling reasons why humans should have a presence in space travel?
  3. Explain how the exploration of space is similar to an expedition to Mt. Everest.
  4. Debate the value of the Apollo Lunar Mission Program. Support your opinion with specifics.
  5. Debate the value of a manned mission to Mars. Support your opinion with specifics.
  6. Discuss the benefits which could result from private industry's participation in the commercialization of space.
  7. Explain how space travel has affected people's lives. How has it affected your life?

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Evaluation


You can evaluate the teams on their plans and presentations using the following three-point rubric:
  • Three points: Plan shows serious consideration of all suggested questions; presentation carefully prepared and well presented.
  • Two points: Plan shows serious consideration of most suggested questions; presentation adequately prepared and presented.
  • One point: Plan shows serious consideration of few suggested questions; presentation lacking in organization and clarity.

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Extensions


Greetings!
Both the Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft carry messages from planet Earth. Have your students research the reasoning behind the designs and the objectives of the two messages. Have students, working in pairs, design their own messages to be carried on a spacecraft leaving the solar system. In planning their messages, students should address the following issues:

  • How can we communicate with a species unfamiliar with our language and culture?
  • How do we tell this species where we are located, or the point of origin of the spacecraft?
  • What should the content of the message be? How much or little information should we include, and for what reasons?

FIGuring NEWTON Out
Have students research Newton's laws of motion, if necessary. Then divide the class into four teams. Direct each team to design its own demonstration of Newton's first or third law and present it to the class. Tell students that the demonstration must be applicable to space travel. As an extension, have students examine the relationship between force, mass, and acceleration in Newton's second law, F = ma , by designing experiments to test one variable at a time.

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Suggested Readings


The Case for Space: Who Benefits from Explorations of the Last Frontier?
Paul S. Hardersenm, Shrewsbury, MA: ATL Press, Inc., 1997
This book discusses ideas and plans about space and how people may continue to benefit from space exploration in the future. The author says that shuttles, space stations, satellites orbiting Earth, stations on the Moon, and spaceships landing on asteroids to mine metals will be possible in the next 50 years.

The Story of Astronomy
Lloyd Motz and Jefferson Hane Weaver, New York: Plenum Press, 1995
Read about the history of astronomy from ancient Greek times to the present. Meet famous astronomers as they search for scientific principles and the meaning of the universe.

The Dream is Alive
Barbara Embury, New York: Harper & Row, 1990
Book describes the experiences of those who ride in the NASA space shuttle, including the sensation of weightlessness, the ways they eat and bathe, and the special exercises performed in space.

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Links


It's About TIMED [PDF]
Find information and additional activities on this topic at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab website.

Careers in Space [PDF]
Find information and additional activities on this topic at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab website.

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Vocabulary


weightlessness
Definition: Having little weight: lacking apparent gravitational pull.
Context: For film director Ron Howard the most challenging aspect of recreating the drama of the Apollo 13 spaceflight was figuring out how to show weightlessness.

free fall
Definition: The condition of unrestrained motion in a gravitational field; a rapid and continuing drop or decline.
Context: Weightlessness for an astronaut in space and free fall for a bungee jumper are exactly the same.

parabola
Definition: A plane curve generated by a point moving so that its distance from a fixed point is equal to its distance from a fixed line.
Context: You really can't wait for the next parabola.

terminator
Definition: The dividing line between the illuminated and the unilluminated part of the moon's or a planet's disk.
Context: You can actually look out and see the terminator between night and day coming toward you.

speed of light
Definition: A fundamental physical constant that is the speed at which electromagnetic radiation propagates in a vacuum and that has a value fixed by international convention of 299,792,458 meters per second — symbol c.
Context: In the laws of physics, the speed of light is the fundamental speed limit.

biodome
Definition: An enclosed area containing all necessary elements to support Earth's life forms.
Context: We could launch a self-contained biodome.

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Standards


This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of the Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning in Aurora, Colorado.
 
Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: physical science
Standard:
Understands essential ideas about the composition and structure of the universe and the Earth's place in it.
Benchmarks:
Knows that the Sun's gravitational pull keeps the Earth and other planets in their orbits, just as the gravitational pull of planets keeps their moons in orbit around them.

Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: science
Standard:
Understands essential ideas about the composition and structure of the universe and the Earth's place in it.
Benchmarks:
Knows that light travels from the Sun to the Earth in a few minutes, from the next nearest star in four years, and from very distant stars in several billion years; the distance light travels in a few years would take the fastest rocket thousands of years to travel.

Grade level: 9-12
Subject area: science
Standard:
Understands essential ideas about the composition and structure of the universe and the Earth's place in it.
Benchmarks:
Knows that life is adapted to conditions on Earth, including the strength of gravity to hold an adequate atmosphere and an intensity of radiation from the Sun that allows water to cycle between liquid and vapor.

Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: science
Standard:
Understands motion and the principles that explain it.
Benchmarks:
Knows that whenever an object is seen to speed up, slow down or change direction, we know that an unbalanced force (e.g., friction) acts on it.

Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: science
Standard:
Understands motion and the principles that explain it.
Benchmarks:
Knows that an object that is not being subjected to a force will continue to move at a constant speed and in a straight line.

Grade level: 9-12
Subject area: science
Standard:
Understands motion and the principles that explain it.
Benchmarks:
Knows that objects change their motion only when a net force is applied; whenever one object exerts force on another, an equal amount of force is exerted back on the first object.

Grade level: 9-12
Subject area: science
Standard:
Knows the kinds of forces that exist between objects and within atoms.
Benchmarks:
Knows that gravity is a universal force that each mass exerts on any other mass; the strength of the gravitational attractive force between two masses is proportional to the masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.

Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: science
Standard:
Understands the interactions of science, technology and society.
Benchmarks:
Knows that technology influences society through its products and processes, and technological changes are often accompanied by social, political and economic changes that may be beneficial or detrimental to individuals and to society; social needs, attitudes and values influence the direction of technological development.

Grade level: 9-12
Subject area: science
Standard:
Understands the interactions of science, technology and society.
Benchmarks:
Knows that science often advances with the introduction of new technologies and solving technological problems often results in new scientific knowledge; new technologies often extend the current levels of scientific understanding and introduce new arenas of research.

Grade level: 9-12
Subject area: science
Standard:
Understands the interactions of science, technology and society.
Benchmarks:
Knows that individuals and society must decide on proposals involving new research and technologies; decisions involve assessment of alternatives, risks, costs and benefits, and consideration of who benefits and who suffers, who pays and gains and what the risks are and who bears them.

Grade level: 9-12
Subject area: economics
Standard:
Understands that scarcity of productive resources requires choices that generate opportunity costs.
Benchmarks:
Understands that technological change depends heavily on incentives to reward innovation and on investments in capital, research, and development.

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Credits


Lee Ann Hennig, science teacher, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Alexandria, Virginia.

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