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Monday, February 4, 2013

50 Years of Solar System Exploration & 10 Good Resources for Learning About Space

National Geographic and Bill Nye the Science Guy hosted a panel discussion with NASA scientists. The panel discussed the history of major developments over the last fifty years of space exploration. The half hour discussion was recorded and is available to watch online. Watching the video, embedded below, prompted me to review some of the many resources for learning about space exploration that I've discovered over the years. Here are ten of my favorites.



Station Spacewalk Game is designed for middle school students to learn about the purposes and functions of the International Space Station. In the game students go on Extravehicular Activities modeled after real EVAs performed by astronauts. Station Spacewalk can be played online or downloaded for free as a Windows game or as a Mac game.

NASA's Lunar Electric Rover Simulator is a free iOS app that lets you explore the moon. The app is really a game in which players perform tasks to support the activities of a lunar outpost. Players transport items from place to place and along the way encounter lunar challenges to overcome. The app also includes an interactive gallery of images. You can download the app for free from iTunes.

NASA 360 is a series of videos about NASA's work. The episodes examine NASA's technological and scientific work. The episodes discuss how NASA's work is used not only in space exploration but also in elements of our modern everyday lives. The episodes can be downloaded from the NASA 360 page or viewed on Hulu.

In the 25 minute video below former commander of the International Space Station, Sunita Williams takes viewers on an in-depth tour of the International Space Station. In the video you'll get the answers to almost everything you may have wondered about regarding living in space for weeks or months at a time. Williams shows us the laboratories, the space suits for space walks, the kitchen, and the sleeping quarters. Williams even shows us the space station's "outhouse" and goes so far as to explain the different types of toilet paper on the space station.


We Choose the Moon is a project put together by the John F. Kennedy Presidential LibraryWe Choose the Moon has eleven stages that viewers can follow as the mission progresses. If you visit We Choose the Moon you can explore image and video galleries capturing the sights and sounds of the lead-up to the launch. Included in these galleries are videos of President Kennedy talking about the goal of putting a man on the moon.

Planet In Action is a fun website that features games based on Google Earth. In  the Moon Lander game you take control of the Apollo 11 moon lander and guide the Eagle to touch-down. 

NASA has an excellent interactive timeline tracing the history of astronomy and space exploration from the Greek philosophers through today. Planet Quest is actually three timelines combined into one. The three timelines cover technology, discovery, and culture as it relates to astronomy and space exploration. Each element on the timeline is narrated. Users can select individual elements on the timeline or choose autoplay to hear the narration of each item in sequence.

The Scale of the Universe 2 features a huge selection of objects in the universe that are arranged according to size and scale. You can zoom-in on the image to objects as small as neutrinos and quarks or as large as planets, constellations, and galaxies. When you click on an object in The Scale of the Universe 2 a small window of information about that object pops up.

Spacecraft 3D is a free iPad app produced by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Spacecraft 3D uses augmented reality technology to bring NASA spacecraft to life on your iPad. To get started using the app you first need to print out the spacecraft target codes. Then your students can scan those target codes with their iPads. The spacecraft then becomes a 3D model that your students can explore.

NASA Space Place is a sizable collection of fun projects, games, animations, and lessons about Earth, space, and technology. Before playing the games or attempting one of the projects, students should explore the animations and facts sections to gain some background information. The projects section of NASA Space Place provides teachers, parents, and students with directions for hands-on projects like building a balloon-powered rover, building relief maps, and building a moon habitat. The games section offers thirty games covering all of the subjects in the animations and facts sections.

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