from Come Fly With Me – Exploring Science through aviation and aerospace concepts.

SUBJECT: Science
GRADE: 7,8,9
GROUP SIZE: Individual or Small
TIME: Several Weeks
TYPE OF ACTIVITY: Student Investigation
TEACHING STRATEGY: Open Discovery Guided Discovery
CONCEPTS: Research Space Shuttle
SKILLS: Experimentation Collecting Data Reporting Data

Objectives: To give students a greater understanding of what happens as people live and work aboard the Shuttle; to provide ideas for possible science fair projects.

space shuttle search assignment worksheet

Materials: “Space Shuttle Search Assignment Sheet,” (following activity); Books, pamphlets, online sites about the Space Shuttle; Shuttle models or pictures.
Teacher Background Information:

One of the concerns most science teachers have is getting students to do meaningful science projects either for class or for the annual science fair. One of the reasons for this seems to be that kids tend to do projects “in a vacuum;” they seldom see how what they’ve been studying relates to them or how it could be extended to an idea for a project. When they do understand how something can be bridged to their own lives, experiments or investigations become a great deal more inviting for most. This activity is an example of how this can work.

Small groups of students research Shuttle topics and have the opportunity to present their information to the class verbally and with visual effects. Following the presentation, the teacher and the class engage in a brainstorming session on each of the eleven topics, looking for related ideas that might lend themselves to a question which could be investigated for a science (fair) project.

(Part I)

  1. Show the students a model or pictures of the Space Shuttle. Ask what they already know about how the Shuttle works, what people do on it, how life is provided for. Because of press coverage, they should have some conceptual knowledge about the Shuttle; however, some of their information is likely to be incomplete and some may be incorrect.
  2. When the discussion is completed, break the class into eleven groups and give each group ONE of the assignments from the sheet. Provide time and resources for the students to search for information on their topic. Explain they will be expected to compile their data and to present it on a specific day.
  3. At the scheduled time, have the students give their presentations to the class. Leave time for questions of the groups and, once finished, display the visual material in a Space Shuttle Centers Invite other classes in to see.

(Part II)

After the presentations, brainstorm each of the eleven topics with your students keeping in mind they are to think about related ideas that might possibly be worked up as a science project. They are to consider anything that relates to the particular Shuttle topic under discussion; they should not try to think of specific project questions yet – just related ideas. No evaluation or qualifying should be done about the ideas at this point, either. Even if an idea doesn’t exactly relate to the subject, it could still be an idea that leads to a good investigation question so write everything down. To give some idea of the sort of thing that can come up in sessions like this, here are a few ideas that came up for topics 1 and 10:

1. Sleeping on the Shuttle How much sleep do I really need? Do animals dream? How can the space in my bedroom be made more efficient? How long can people go without sleep? Does exercise help people to sleep? Are there ways to help people fall asleep? Can you sleep upside down? Standing up?

10. Manipulator Arm Devices to pick up stuff in my room. Devices paraplegics use. How does my arm/hand work? Robotics Artificial arms and legs Can you use the manipulator arm on Earth? The ideas that come from the brainstorming are just that – ideas – not project questions. The students and teacher will still have to formulate good research questions that can be turned into hypotheses which can then be investigated.

1. Find out how the astronauts sleep on the Shuttle. Investigate the difference between some earlier sleeping arrangements (for example what were the sleeping arrangements on Apollo ll) and the Shuttle’s facilities. Explain to the class how things have changed. Use illustrations or models to show how the astronauts sleep. Explain what time they go to sleep and what time their work day starts.

2. Find out about the Shuttle Orbiter’s food system. Find out what sort of food is eaten by the astronauts, how much, how it’s prepared, stored, etc. Tell the class how the astronaut diet is figured out and where they can get similar food. Bring samples of the sort of food eaten on the Shuttle and share with the class

3. Find out about the space suits and head gear worn on board the Shuttle. How do they differ from earth models for other missions? What are they made of? Are they made for male and female crew members? (Find out only about the gear worn inside the craft as another group is working on the EVA gear.) After you have your information gathered, make drawings or find pictures to show the class what the gear looks like and how it works.

4. Find out how the Shuttle is launched. Using an illustration of the Shuttle show the class the basic parts of the craft and explain how it gets off the ground and how it enters orbit. What kind of fuel is used? How many g’s are experienced on take off (What is a “g” ?) How is the g force better now with the Shuttle than most other manned flights? How fast does the Shuttle orbit? Describe to the class what can be seen as the Shuttle orbits the Earth. Bring pictures of take off. They’re beautiful. Bring pictures of what the astronauts see while in orbit.

5. Find out about weightlessness on the Shuttle. (Did you know you’d be taller in space than on Earth. Find out why.) Explain to the class what happens in weightless conditions when you eat, go to the bathroom, take a shower or do work on board. How are the problems solved on the Shuttle? Bring pictures or drawings of astronauts in weightless conditions. Tell the class how NASA prepares astronauts to live in weightlessness.

6. Find out why it’s so important for the astronauts to exercise in space. Find out what kind of exercises do the job and what some of the problems are. Show the class a drawing of the treadmill and explain its use. Why is it important that astronauts be in good condition before they come on board? Why do they need to exercise after they get there? Why are the needs greater the longer the flight?

7. Find out how the air manufacturing and control system inside the Shuttle works and why it’s so VITAL up there where the Shuttle orbits. Why would your blood boil in space? Find out and tell the class how the Shuttle engineers keep that from happening to the astronauts. Explain how the air is purified. Bring something that illustrates to the class how the whole process works.

8. You won’t be able to shower on the Shuttle but you will be able to stay clean AND go to the bathroom when necessary. How come showering is such a problem and just how does one go about staying on the toilet seat in a weightless condition? Find out how NASA has provided for the personal hygiene of its astronauts. Find out why the fuel cells on board are so important to this provision. Explain why it is so VITAL that this aspect of space travel be carefully provided for and while you are at it find out why you don’t have to trim your fingernails as often in space. Bring pictures or drawings of the personal hygiene facilities to show the class.

9. Find out how the astronauts, while in orbit leave the Shuttle and why. Find out what kind of gear is used for EVA (Extra Vehicular Activity). Find out and explain to the class the procedure used to leave the vehicle and some of the things the astronauts do outside the craft. Explain how gear protects the astronauts from the hostile environment. What would happen without it? Bring pictures or drawing of EVA to show the class.

10. Find out about the Manipulator Arm. How does it work? Why is it so helpful to the astronauts? What does it do in space? How is it like a human arm? Make a model for the class of the space crane showing the movable shoulder elbow and wrist on the arm. Explain how it works. Bring pictures of the arm.

11. Find out how the Space Shuttle comes back to Earth. Find out when the astronauts begin re-entry procedures and explain to the class the steps they go through to bring the craft back to the landing site. Explain how a vehicle that took off as a rocket comes back as an airplane. How fast is it flying as it touches down? What is its angle on re-entry? How does it differ from most other airplanes? What happens to the Shuttle after it returns? How is that different from other spacecraft in the past?

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