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Lesson Plans

What's Out There? Space Shuttle Exploration and Simulation
Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students

Procedures for Teachers is divided into four sections:
Prep -- Preparing for the Lesson.
Steps -- Conducting the Lesson.
Extensions -- Additional Activities.
Tips -- Managing Resources and Student Activities.


Student Prerequisites:
Students will need prior knowledge of the basic use of Internet search engines, how to use bookmarks, and how to cut and paste appropriate Internet material into a word processing program. Students may also need to understand how to capture, download, and modify images from the Internet to use in their presentations. A review of copyright rules may be needed.

  • An astronaut log book for each participant.
  • Offline experiment materials, as chosen by teachers to fit curricular objectives.
  • Non-fiction materials, such as books, magazines, etc., relating to space topics.
Computer Resources:
You will need at least one computer with Internet access to complete this lesson. While many configurations will work, we recommend:

  • Modem: 28.8 Kbps or faster.
  • Browser: Netscape Navigator 3.0 or above or Internet Explorer 3.0 or above.
  • Macintosh computer: System 7.0 or above and at least 16 MB of RAM.
  • IBM-compatible computer: 386 or higher processor with at least 16 MB of RAM, running Windows 3.1. Or, a 486/66 or Pentium with at least 16 MB of RAM, running Windows 95.

Additional Hardware:
  • A camera (optional) would allow facilitator to take photos of student-astronauts during their "flight" and incorporate them into the presentation.
  • A printer.
Additional Software:
  • A wordprocessing program.
  • A multimedia authoring tool (such as ClarisWorks, HyperStudio, or PowerPoint) is optional.
For more information, visit What You Need to Get Connected in wNetSchool's Internet Primer.

The following sites should be bookmarked:

  •  Yahooligans

    This search engine, designed with kids in mind, is a great place to look for sites specific to your district's curriculum.

  •  StarChild: A Learning Center for Young Astronomers

    This is an excellent place to begin your exploration. This site is full of information about the solar system. It is engaging and written with kids in mind.

  •  NASA Television on CU-SeeMe

    This NASA channel allows you to watch broadcasts from the recent space shuttle mission.

  •  Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum

    Use this site to get current information on available shows and exhibits. This may help in finding current astronomy "hot topics."

  •  The Nine Planets

    This site has all kinds of information about the planets in our solar system, such as what the planets are made of, which is the most dense, which is the brightest in the sky, and other information.

  •  The Sun

    Find out all about the center of our solar system!

  •  Views of the Solar System

    Another site full of information about our entire solar system, including images of planets, comets, and asteroids.

  •  Welcome to the Planets

    This site from NASA not only includes information about the planets, but information about many of the spacecraft NASA has used to find this information, such as Voyager, Magellan, Galileo, and the Hubble Space Telescope.

  •  Astronomy Picture of the Day

    Each day, this site has different pictures of scenes from space. There are captions and links to other materials as well.

  •  Space Shuttle Clickable Map

    This site gives information about how NASA recycles parts from the space shuttle after the shuttle has been used. It includes a clickable picture of the shuttle that lets you explore the different parts of the shuttle.

  •  Space Shuttle Launches

    This site includes the official schedule for all upcoming space shuttle launches. You will learn about the crew and cargo for each mission as well as information on various experiments. Maybe you can try some of them!

  •  The Ultimate Field Trip

    This site focuses on astronaut Kathy Sullivan and tells about her experiences in deciding to become an astronaut, and her experiences as a mission specialist aboard the shuttle.

  •  USA Today WEATHER

    When it is time to check for weather information for your shuttle landing and take-off, this is the site to turn to.

  •  The Weather Channel

    Another great weather site, this Weather Channel homepage is full of information. Meteorologists will even answer your questions.

  •  WeatherNet

    Information about the weather at the current time. It also has links to over 200 great sites.


    Time Allotment:
    This activity will probably take a minimum of ten 45 minute class periods but could be expanded for longer periods of time depending on the objectives to be covered.

  • When students enter the classroom, introduce yourself as the NASA team leader and discuss the project. Students should be assigned to teams of three for this project. Each crew will consist of three astronauts: pilot, science specialist, and shuttle technical specialist. Give each team member their shuttle assignment. Each member will need a log book to keep track of their activities, and to keep their notes and information concerning oxygen and power use. Teams may want to check the actual shuttle schedule. As a class, or in teams, students should go to Space Shuttle Launches (

    As a class, decide what the objectives are for the space shuttle mission. One idea is to visit a different part of the solar system each day, beginning with the sun, and then travel to each of the planets. You may also build in time for experimentation along the way. Your teams may even want to visit different parts of the solar system. Discuss these options with the class and make master schedules for each day's topic, to be posted at NASA headquarters (your classroom).

    The crews may also need to learn more about their spacecraft before launching, as well as find out what it is like to be a real astronaut. Background knowledge and training is essential for a good astronaut: Have students go to The Ultimate Field Trip (, the Space Shuttle Clickable Map (, and Astronauts (

  • BLAST OFF!!! It is time to take off on your mission! Arrange your "space shuttle" so that each team of three can work together. (Optional: You may even want to put a cloth over the door to protect your astronauts from the elements of space. If they must leave the room at any time, they will have to wear an oxygen mask -- a hospital mask -- and use an oxygen pack -- backpack).

  • Traveling in Space. Tailor this part of the lesson to take as many days as needed. Each day, astronaut teams will travel to different locations in space. If a specific topic warrants, you may need several days at some locations. Students should use their astronaut logs to keep track of facts learned (off and online) and the amount of oxygen and energy used. Have students log the amount of time they spend on the shuttle (in your classroom). Students must figure out the amount of minutes traveled and use some type of formula to figure out the amount of oxygen and energy consumed. For example, for every minute traveled, your astronauts use two units of energy and three units of oxygen. Give each team an amount to begin their mission: have them keep track of the oxygen and energy consumed during the entire flight using the Oxygen and Energy Supply Log, found in Organizers for Students.

    The following sites should be consulted:

  •  From Mir to Mars

  •  Stephen Hawking's Universe

  •  Mysteries of Deep Space

    Experiments students can conduct include: making crystals, growing plants, or making a model of the solar system. The NASA site Space Shuttle Launches (
    missions/missions.html) contains information about experiments carried out on space shuttles. Students could try to replicate some of these experiments.

    Daily Jobs:

    Pilot: The pilot must keep track of where his or her team travels in space, and where various communications are coming from. Students can be given the latitude and longitude of various places around the world. The pilot must plot and locate these places on a map and show his or her teammates the originating point of all communications. NASA team leader (the teacher) can hand out these coordinates each day.

    Science Specialist: This astronaut will be in charge of the various offline experiments taking place. This crew member collects all needed materials and records detailed observations of findings. Graphs or other information may need to be created.

    Technical Specialist: This astronaut must keep a close eye on conditions on earth throughout the mission, in case there needs to be an emergency landing. This astronaut must find current weather conditions for the astronauts' home town as well as the landing site for the shuttle. The technical specialist should also track and graph temperature and weather conditions at the proposed landing site.

    All Crew Members: All crew members must keep track of oxygen and energy supplies as well as keep notes on each day's findings. All crew members should also work collaboratively on all experiments. Astronauts may use the following bookmarks or offline materials to collect information about the space topics on their journey, and to do their daily jobs. These sites are listed on Student Pathway for Daily Jobs, found in Organizers for Students.

  •  NASA Television on CU-SeeMe

  •  Yahooligans

  •  StarChild

  •  Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum

  •  The Nine Planets

  •  The Sun

  •  Views of the Solar System

  •  Welcome to the Planets

  •  Astronomy Picture of the Day

  • Time to land the shuttle! It is time to return to earth and get ready for your press conference. The Technical Specialist must determine current weather information to see if a landing is possible. Upon finding this information, the crew may either land or must make alternate plans. Some sites to use for weather reports are USA Today WEATHER (, The Weather Channel (, and WeatherNet (

  • Begin to plan the shuttle press conference. The astronauts should begin to formulate their ideas on how they would like to put together their presentation for the press conference. This can be decided by each crew, or the NASA team leader may want to assign a topic. The astronauts should begin to pick information and appropriate images to include in their presentation. Students should sift through the information collected during their trip in their daily logs and begin to create a presentation to share with the class.


    Science: Teachers can extend this activity to include any type of experiments. For example, students could plant seeds during the first day and make observations of growth during the shuttle's mission.

    Language Arts: Astronauts can write a daily journal as if they were on an actual mission. This would read like a space diary of the mission.

    Mathematics: Instructors could expand on the idea of keeping track of oxygen and energy supplies by making the mathematical formulas more difficult -- for example, by adding fraction or decimal work to the equations.

    Problem Solving: During the missions, the NASA team leader may present the various crews with problem solving situations or emergencies that may occur in space. Students would have to brainstorm possible solutions to the problems.

    Health: Astronauts must keep careful records of the amount of food and drink they consume in space. Ask each astronaut to keep track of the food they have eaten during the day, along with the amounts and food group information, to turn into NASA headquarters.


    One Computer in the Classroom
    If you have access to one computer in your classroom, you can organize your class in several ways. Divide your class into two groups. Instruct one of the groups to do paper research while the second group is working on the computer. Bring in books, encyclopedias, etc., from the library for the group doing paper research. Lead the group working at the computer through an Internet search or allow the students in the class to take turns. (Always have a set of bookmarks ready for the students before they start working on the computer, in order to show them examples of what to look for.) When the groups have finished working have them switch places.

    If you have a big monitor or projection facilities, you can do Internet research together as a class. Make sure that every student in your class can see the screen, go to the relevant Web site(s), and review the information presented there. You can also select a search engine page and allow your students to suggest the search criteria. Again, bookmark and/or print the pages that you think are helpful for reference later.

    Several Computers in the Classroom
    Divide your class into small groups. Groups can do Internet research using pages you have bookmarked. Group members should take turns navigating the bookmarked sites.

    You can also set the class up so that each computer is dedicated to certain sites. Students will then move around the classroom, getting different information from each station.

    Using a Computer Lab
    A computer center or lab space, with a computer-to-student ratio of one to three, is ideal for doing Web-based projects. Generally, when doing Web-based research, it is helpful to put students in groups of three. This way, students can help each other if problems or questions arise. It is often beneficial to bookmark sites for students ahead of time.

    Submit a Comment: We invite your comments and suggestions based on how you used the lesson in your classroom.

    Overview | Procedures for Teachers | Organizers for Students