The Space Shuttle: Teacher s Guide

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1 The Space Shuttle: Teacher s Guide Grade Level: 6-8 Curriculum Focus: Astronomy/Space Lesson Duration: Two class periods Program Description This video, divided into four segments, explores scientists' most amazing spacecraft. Learn about the history of the space shuttle program and how it fulfilled a decade of dreams for NASA engineers. See how the shuttle is put together in the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Then, train with the shuttle astronauts as they learn to cope with zero gravity and the rigors of space. Onscreen Questions and Activities Segment 1, The Space Shuttle o Discuss why the space shuttle is unique. What makes it different from other NASA orbiters and passenger airplanes? o Discuss the logistics of building and operating an international space station. Decide who should pay for it, who would manage it, and who would be in charge. Activity: Create a time line of events significant to space exploration. Use your school or public library to find the specific dates and scientific accomplishments of space missions. Try searching NASA's Internet sites for more information. Then present your findings to the class. Segment 2, Countdown o Debate the contributions that space exploration has made to everyday life versus the costs of maintaining the program. o Develop a list of jobs involved in preparing the space shuttle for a flight. Investigate the skills and knowledge needed for these careers. Activity: Find out more about a current astronaut. Get his/her biography from NASA and compare this astronaut to mission specialists. What personal and physical qualities are needed to become an astronaut? Present your findings to the class. Segment 3, Astronaut

2 The Space Shuttle: Teacher s Guide 2 o Discuss the pros and cons of being a career astronaut. What are the risks involved? Do you have the right stuff? o Discuss the effects space travel has on the human body. o What new information could scientists learn if astronauts are sent on longer missions? Activity: Research the orbital speed of the space shuttle. Then calculate the speed of the current world-record holder in the 100-meter dash. How do these numbers compare? Segment 4, Payload o Discuss how space shuttle experiments have benefited everyday life. What products have resulted from space technology? o Discuss the advantages of space-based telescopes, like the Hubble, over earthbound telescopes. What other tasks could be performed better in space? Activity: Design an experiment to go up in the space shuttle. Propose your idea to NASA. Send your letter to: Student Experiment Module Mission Manager NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Code Greenbelt, MD USA Lesson Plan Student Objectives Students will understand: From April 1981 through January 1986, 25 space shuttle missions were conducted. During the 25th launch, the space shuttle exploded, destroying the orbiter Challenger and killing its crew of seven. The accident had a far-reaching impact on the space shuttle program, suspending launchings for more than two years, while both NASA and a presidential commission investigated the accident. Materials The Space Shuttle video and VCR, or DVD and DVD player Research materials on the space shuttle Computer with Internet access

3 The Space Shuttle: Teacher s Guide 3 Procedures 1. Ask your students to share what they know about the space shuttle program. 2. Have students take careful notes as you share the following information about the first space shuttle mission: The first space shuttle launch took place on April 12, 1981, when orbiter Columbia, carrying astronauts John W. Young, commander, and Robert L. Crippen, pilot, lifted off from Pad A, Launch Complex 39, at the Kennedy Space Center. Columbia landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California on April 14, 1981, having made a 933,757-mile flight, orbiting Earth 36 times, and remaining aloft for 2 days, 6 hours, 20 minutes, and 32 seconds. Its primary mission was to check out the overall shuttle system, and the only payload it carried was a development flight instrumentation package containing sensors and measuring devices to record data. The only problem encountered was a two-day delay of the launch because of a problem with one of Columbia s computers. The mission was considered a success. Give students a chance to ask you to repeat any information they missed in their notes. 3. Divide students into pairs, assigning each pair to research one of the space shuttle missions numbers 2 through 25. As a class, use what you learned about the first space shuttle mission to decide what important facts you d like to learn about the other missions. For example, these facts may include: Name of Orbiter Name of Commander Number of Crew Members Date and Place of Launch Date and Place of Landing Purpose of Mission Payload Number of Days Number of Orbits Number of Miles Problems Success or Failure? 4. Have students research all the information for their assigned mission. The following Web site will lead them to all the necessary information: Space Shuttle Mission Summaries

4 The Space Shuttle: Teacher s Guide 4 5. When their research has been completed, have them post their mission fact sheets on a bulletin board for a history of the space shuttle, Have interested students do further research to find out about the space shuttle program from 1986 to the present. Encourage them to find out what changes were recommended and implemented by NASA and the presidential commission that investigated the disaster of mission number 25. Discussion Questions 1. The first landing of astronauts on the moon was a tremendous source of pride for Americans. Do you think that the country still has as much national pride in our space program as it did then? Why or why not? 2. Discuss whether or not we should try to send humans to Mars an expensive proposition, but one that might yield a great deal of scientific information. Consider whether we should more fully understand the Earth before moving on to another planet and whether we have a right to try to inhabit Mars just because we have the technology to do so. 3. Are we learning enough from the space shuttle missions to justify the billion-dollar price tag for each launch? Who should pay for these trips? Who benefits from them? 4. Discuss the importance of computer simulations to the space program. Could astronauts be trained properly without them? Can every dangerous situation be properly simulated? Why or why not? 5. The space shuttle program was designed with the building of an international space station as its final goal. This goal has yet to be reached. Do you think that different nations are capable of working together toward such an ambitious, costly goal? How should we decide which countries are allowed to be involved in building and using space stations? 6. Do you have the right stuff to be an astronaut? Discuss the educational backgrounds of the people on board the space shuttle. What are the similarities? What are the differences? How does educational diversity make a stronger shuttle team? Assessment Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson. 3 points: Student s research included all categories of information; information complete and accurate; fact sheet carefully prepared. 2 points: Student s research included most categories of information; information nearly complete and mostly accurate; fact sheet satisfactorily prepared. 1 point: Student s chart headings cover few categories of information; information incomplete with many inaccuracies; fact sheet carelessly prepared.

5 The Space Shuttle: Teacher s Guide 5 Vocabulary astronaut Definition: A person trained to travel beyond the earth's atmosphere. Context: A space shuttle mission usually requires seven astronauts bay Definition: The cargo area of a transport vehicle. Context: Many satellites transported into space have been stored in the space shuttle's cargo bay, which is about the size of one and a half school buses. jettison Definition: The action of casting off an object. Context: Once the shuttle is ready to enter orbit the booster rockets are jettisoned from the shuttle and allowed to parachute back Earth for reuse. orbit Definition: The path that one body takes around another body as a result of their mutual gravitational attraction. Context: When the booster rockets are jettisoned, it is only gravity which keeps the space shuttle in orbit around the earth. payload Definition: The load that is carried by a spacecraft that consists of things related directly to the purpose of the flight as opposed to things that are necessary for operations. Context: The Hubble Space Telescope is the most famous payload carried into orbit by the space shuttle. quarantine Definition: To isolate from normal relations or communications. Context: Astronauts are quarantined for up to seven days before a mission for medical observation in an isolated environment. simulator Definition: A device which allows a person to reproduce or represent, under test or training conditions, phenomena likely to occur in an real performance. Context: To learn how to perform in a real zero gravity situation in space, astronauts practice their jobs in a free falling aircraft which acts as a simulator. thrust Definition: A forward directed reaction force produced by a high speed jet of fluid discharged rearward from a nozzle.

6 The Space Shuttle: Teacher s Guide 6 Context: Burning fuel in the booster rockets causes expanding gases exiting the bottom of the tanks to thrust the launch vehicle into space. zero gravity Definition: A condition of real or simulated sensation of weightlessness. Context: Although the gravitational attraction keeping an astronaut in orbit continues to exist, the astronaut is said to be in a zero gravity state. Academic Standards National Academy of Sciences The National Science Education Standards provide guidelines for teaching science as well as a coherent vision of what it means to be scientifically literate for students in grades K-12. To view the standards, visit This lesson plan addresses the following science standards: Earth and Space Science: Earth in the solar system Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) McREL's Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education addresses 14 content areas. To view the standards and benchmarks, visit This lesson plan addresses the following national standards: Science Physical Science: Understands forces and motion Science Nature of Science: Understands the scientific enterprise. Technology: Understands the relationships among science, technology, society, and the individual

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