Mission: Solar System allows students to take on the roles of scientists and engineers as they send spacecraft to the Moon, Mars, or a nearby asteroid. Students work in teams or as individuals to accomplish the specific goals of each mission. The missions are authentic experiences that give students a unique perspective on what goes into putting any craft into space.
Preparation and follow-up activities are important components of the mission simulation experience. More than 100 lesson plans exist for teachers to choose from when preparing their students for the missions. The lessons cover topics such as motion, history, and classification. They also utilize a number of different teaching formats to ensure learning opportunities are available for all students. When the mission is complete, students can go into the data lab and analyze data collected during the NASA mission. This program takes the spacecraft data and lets students look at the values in color with a realistic 3-D landscape, providing a realistic ending to any successful mission.
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National Science Standards
Mars Explorer simulates driving a Mars Exploration Rover on the surface of Mars. Students embark on this simulation individually as they analyze individual rocks scattered throughout the surface of Mars. In this simulation, students examine Martian data to compare various landing sites. Once they have chosen their landing site, they launch their rover. The students watch an animation of the rover from the time it sits on the launch pad until it lands on Mars and opens up for deployment.
On the planet, students use spectrometers and rock abrasion tools on all of the rocks they examine. Students accumulate points as they complete a list of mission objectives, and their final score demonstrates the success of their mission. Through the experience, students gain an understanding of what scientists look for as they drive the NASA rovers on the surface of Mars.
In Marslink®, students simulate mission control as they place the Mars Odyssey spacecraft in orbit around the planet Mars. Students work together on 12 computers to launch a simulated rocket over the Internet. Many of the actions are authentic and scripted, but each mission must overcome anomalies that are not part of the script. Through all the tasks the students perform, they learn about the positions that must work together to get a spacecraft to Mars.
The mission takes students through three phases of the Odyssey mission. The first is the launch sequence, in which students turn equipment on and count down to liftoff. The second phase is the cruise phase, where students perform trajectory correction maneuvers to make sure the spacecraft is following the correct path to Mars. The last phase takes students through aerobraking, which is the process where the spacecraft skims through the atmosphere to slow down the spacecraft. Once the craft is in orbit, students finish the mission by turning on their science instruments to let the spacecraft collect and transmit data from Mars.
Moonlink® simulates the Lunar Prospector mission that was sent to research the Moon. As in the Marslink® program, students work together on 12 computers to launch their spacecraft to the Moon. Students perform tasks that mimic the actions of scientists and engineers in mission control. This mission also utilizes a script for most of the actions that students are to perform, but again, like Marslink, there are unscripted moments throughout the simulation that mission control must resolve.
The phases of the Moonlink mission are similar to Marslink in that students take the spacecraft through pre-launch, launch, cruise, and orbital insertion. During each of these phases, students gain an understanding of how their position contributes to the mission. At the end of the mission, however, students guide their spacecraft to impact the surface of the Moon. This was the last phase of the Lunar Prospector mission. It was done so that seismographs on the Moon and telescopes on Earth could be used to analyze the impact results.
NEARlink® simulates the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous Shoemaker spacecraft that observed two different asteroids, Eros and Mathilde. Students assume roles like “mission manager” and “public affairs officer” to work together as mission control, using 12 computers to launch the spacecraft over the Internet. The spacecraft performs a flyby of Mathilde. Students must then make advanced calculations to adjust the spacecraft’s course and align it with Eros, where it will make observations until the end of its mission. The simulation is the perfect resource for physical science classes, and the calculations required to track the orbits of the asteroids also make it an excellent addition to physics curriculum.
Space Explorers applets are an exceptional tool to not only illustrate complex concepts, but also allow students to make and test predictions. The inquiry-based applets complement the lesson plans and simulations while allowing students to learn at their own pace. These are ideal for visual and hands-on learners.
The Interactive Applets were designed to allow students to test out various scenarios to better understand asteroid impacts, trajectory correction techniques, launch windows, and aerobraking calculations. This allows for a fun, fast paced learning experience related to NASA missions with minimal interruption to regular classroom curriculum.
The Interactive Applets were born out of a desire to provide Space Explorers’ customers with several activities that take advantage of the many gains made in computer and Internet technologies. The Applets are designed to be completed online, combining contextual and activity-based exposure to many key science concepts with fun, interactive activities.
Space Library® contains all the information needed to enhance a space education curriculum. It is comprised of engaging articles, written by scientists and educators. Students will learn about some of the most fundamental and complex topics in space science by exploring our online space encyclopedia.
Students begin exploring Space Library by selecting what interests them most. Space Library has detailed information about the planets, the Sun, the Moon, comets, rockets & X-planes, deep space, asteroids, and live missions. For each planet in our solar system, students will find planetary data, images, information about past, current, and future missions, and much more.
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