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Modeling Solar System Objects
Grade Level: 5-8
Our Solar System,
Meteors & Meteorites,
Kuiper Belt & Oort Cloud,
ARTEMIS (Earth's Moon),
Dawn (Dwarf Planets),
Deep Space Network (Our Solar System),
GRAIL (Earth's Moon),
Hubble Space Telescope (Beyond Our Solar System),
IBEX (Our Solar System),
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (Earth's Moon),
NEAR Shoemaker (Asteroids),
New Horizons (Dwarf Planets),
Venus Express (Venus),
Viking 1 (Mars),
Viking 2 (Mars),
Voyager 1 (Our Solar System),
Voyager 2 (Our Solar System)
Science Education Standards: Science and Technology: Understanding About Science and Technology
Short Description: Extreme Exploration -- Solar System Exploration Missions Timeline involves students in the wide range of mission events of 2008-2015+. Using the Solar System Exploration Timeline poster as a guide, student teams research assigned missions and record events such as launch and landing, etc. It is expected that students will be drawn into the excitement of mission events as they follow along with NASA's Solar System Exploration -- past, current, and future.
Extreme Exploration -- Solar System Exploration Missions Timeline involves students in the wide range of mission events of 2008-2015+. Using the Solar System Exploration Timeline poster as a guide, student teams research assigned missions and record events such as launch and landing, etc. It is expected that students will be drawn into the excitement of mission events as they follow along with NASA's Solar System Exploration -- past, current, and future.
The class will place images of solar system bodies on a large bulletin board or wall. After researching the missions, teams place appropriate symbols that represent mission events by the planetary body where the events will or did take place (example: a rocket = launch or a ring = orbit). Oral and/or written reports could enhance and reinforce the experience.
- Identify planetary bodies in our solar system that are mission targets.
- Research solar system missions.
- Create a visual display of solar system bodies and related missions
- more if extensive written or oral reports are assigned. Students could conduct unit or semester projects around this Solar System Exploration theme if desired.
- Images of planets, Sun, Earth's moon, Jupiter's moons, comets, asteroids. See source for images below:
- Colored or construction paper for mission symbols, different color for each
- Mission Event Symbols template for mission symbols (right)
- Markers or pens
- Solar System Exploration Timeline 2008-2016
- Mission Events Student Sheet (PDF, 46 KB)
- Mission Events Student Sheets (at least one for every student - more if needed)
- Tape or mounting material to attach display to wall or bulletin board
- Read all parts of the lesson and decide how much time to allot the activity. There are many ways a teacher could decide to do this activity involving students in as much or as little of the preparation as desired. Determine what parts the students will do and what parts the teacher will do prior to the activity time. An example is whether students will download images of planets, if students will create their own images of the planets, or the teacher will provide images. Note that this could be a much longer unit or semester project if desired.
- Determine if students will do research on the missions to planets and other solar system bodies or if the information included below will be given to the students to transfer to the event mission symbols. Mission event research by individuals or teams will require Internet computer access.
- Assemble materials.
- Preview the Solar System Exploration Timeline (attached). Print if desired.
- Determine assignments for posting mission events on the Solar System display. See Possible Team Research Assignments page at the end of this procedure. Students may copy events from the listing provided in this lesson or they may research the missions on the NASA websites to find the events themselves. The Solar System Exploration Missions by Planetary Body listing is available at http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/missions/index.cfm.
- Copy Mission Events Student Sheets
- Introduce the Solar System Exploration Timeline and invite the students to research and follow along as we explore our solar system. Read or allow the students to read the Join the Adventure information found on the back of the Timeline.
- Explain to the students that they will make a display of Solar System Mission Events using symbols to depict the various types of mission events. They will post exploration symbols for each mission event on the wall near the planet or solar system body where the event has or will take place. Launches always take place here on Earth but the launch symbol (rocket) should be placed near the target body. The rocket for a launch to Mars will be near the image of Mars.
- Review types of mission events (flyby, orbit, probe, lander, rover, sample return) and indicate the symbol that represents each type of event.
- Assign student teams (2-4 students per team) to specific solar system bodies (see list below entitled Possible Team Research Assignments).
- Hand out Mission Events Student Sheets to each student. Students may request more sheets if they are representing several missions.
- Instruct students to use the Solar System Exploration Timeline to find the events related to their assigned planetary body. Have students note the events on the Mission Events Student Sheets. If students use the Timeline only then proceed to step 7 below. Consider the options below to extend this lesson.
- Students may investigate events on the internet.
- Students may use the Solar System Exploration Mission Events by Planetary Body pages provided at the end of the lesson.
- Students may present oral or written reports on mission events, planetary bodies, or scientists or engineers involved in planetary missions.
- Instruct each team to transfer the mission event data to symbols that represent the events. Indicate to students where the construction paper and symbol templates will be available.
- Facilitate the construction of the planetary display and the posting of their results in the form of annotated symbols.
- Allow student teams to report their findings to the class.
- Use or develop a rubric to assess the oral or written reports.
- Assess the individual Mission Events Student Sheets.
Split research teams so that each team has a mix of mission types or split them according to specific planetary bodies.
For the latest information on solar system exploration missions, visit: http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/missions
Past, Recent, and Upcoming Mission Events in the NASA Discovery Program
Missions available at http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/missions/index.cfm
NASA's Discovery and New Horizons Missions
The small-class Discovery missions and the medium-class New Frontiers missions complement NASA's flagship missions to meet the many scientific and technical challenges of deep space exploration. The Discovery and New Frontiers missions provide the diversity of vantage points - flybys, orbiters, landers, and sample returns - for optimum scientific value. The discoveries produced by Discovery and New Frontiers missions not only dramatically advance our understanding of the solar system; they also allow NASA to further refine its exploration strategy.
Solar system exploration presents unique challenges. It requires highly capable robotic vehicles that can travel vast distances with an array of instruments to make detailed scientific measurements. It requires power to fly the missions and place the space probes into orbit around or on the surface of another world, where they must be able to survive and function in hostile environments. The spacecraft acquire and transmit data and sometimes return planetary samples back to Earth. The scientific requirements of solar system exploration have driven some of the most remarkable engineering achievements of the past 50 years.
The challenges common to all planetary missions - immense distances, long flight times, stringent limitations on mass, power, and data rate - mean that technology advances in these
areas benefit all missions. The short development times and cost constraints of Discovery and New Frontiers missions mean they are always seeking new technologies to accomplish their science objectives.