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This is a lesson about the role of computers in space exploration. Learners will investigate various ways to improve mission design to maximize the scientific return. In the first activity, the students examine how the use of flowcharts can help... (View More) make computer programs error-free and efficient, in this way making the spacecraft more reliable. In the second activity, the students investigate how data can be compressed for transmission over limited bandwidth. By the end of the lesson, the students come to realize that the wealth of data gathered by spacecraft is useless if it cannot be transmitted safely and efficiently to the scientists on the Earth. (View Less)
This is a lesson about how spacecraft use gravity assists to get where they are going. Learners will explore how engineers minimize the use of fuel by utilizing gravity. In Activity 1, students explore the physical conservation laws by observing the... (View More) behavior of balls colliding with other objects. In Activity 2, the students use an interactive online simulation tool to explore the various ways in which gravity assists can be used to aid space exploration. (View Less)
This is a video about the IAU definition of a planet. Learners will watch 3D animation designed to illustrate the history behind the discussion defining the question, what is a planet?, and to outline some of the traits that may be associated with... (View More) the definition of a planet. (View Less)
This is a lesson about density. Learners will relate the concept of density to the density of dust in space. They will use mission data from the Student Dust Counter (SDC) interface to determine the density of dust grains in a volume of space in the... (View More) Solar System in order to answer questions concerning the distribution of dust in the solar system. They will discover that space is much more sparsely populated with dust than they may have thought. Students discuss their findings with the class. (View Less)
In this activity, learners replicate the scientific processes of observing, forming an explanation, revising and communicating about a model of a comet. Learners construct a model of features of a comet using an assortment of common craft supplies.... (View More) This activity relates to several NASA comet missions such as Deep Impact, Stardust, Stardust-NExT, and EPOXI and can be used to emulate a process that scientists and engineers follow on all missions. (View Less)
This is an online interactive about asteroid composition. Learners will explore how scientists learn about the composition of an asteroid by studying energy and neutrons that emanate from it. Includes audio (and transcription) explaining the diagram.
This is a lesson about using gravity to assist in spacecraft navigation. Learners will relate an elastic collision to the change in a satellite's or spacecraft's speed and direction resulting from a planetary fly-by, often called a "gravity assist"... (View More) maneuver. Both hands-on and online interactive methods are used to explore these topics. (View Less)
This module is about collaboration and communication strategies that are used during mission design. Learners will strengthen their understanding of and ability to use collaborative processes and communication practices to clarify, conceptualize,... (View More) and make decisions. Students will compare the risks of varying courses of action that confront scientists and engineers. After the risks are identified, they will gather and convey evidence supporting and refuting the viability of these actions, and reach consensus. The module strategies rely primarily on student investigation into the background information that is necessary to support arguments; make quantitative risk analyses; engage in debate, role-playing, and persuasive writing/communication processes; and practice group decision-making procedures. (View Less)
This is a lesson about the shape of objects in space. Learners will observe the surface of rotating potatoes to help them understand how astronomers use variations in reflective brightness to determine the shape of asteroids.