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Special content for the budding young astronomer

Find The International Space Station

Join Arty and his new-found alien friend, Guplo, on their learning quest through our solar ... You need the Free Macromedia Flash 4 or later plugin... 

NASA Kids

NASA kids has it all from games, activities and interviews with astronauts. Has a page for Flash and non-Flash users.

Jokes

Q: What kind of saddle do you put on a space horse?
 
A: A saddle-lite.
 
Q: How does the solar system hold up its pants?
 
A: With an asteroid belt.

Pupil: "Please Sir! Did you hear that scientists have found life on another planet?"
Teacher: "What are you talking about?"
Pupil: "They found fleas on Pluto!"

How did the astronaut serve dinner in outer space? On flying saucers.

 

Build a Bubble-Powered Rocket!
Bubble power! Build your own rocket using paper and fizzing tablets! Watch it lift off. How high does your rocket go? Print this page for the instructions.

Suggestion: Find a grown-up to do this activity with you.

Materials:

  • Paper, regular 8-1/2- by 11-inch paper, such as computer printer paper or even notebook paper.
  • Plastic 35-mm film canister (see hints below)
  • Cellophane tape
  • Scissors
  • Effervescing (fizzing) antacid tablet (the kind used to settle an upset stomach)
  • Paper towels
  • Water
  • Eye protection (like eye glasses, sun glasses, or safety glasses)

Hints:

Right kind of film canister

The film canister MUST be one with a cap that fits INSIDE the rim instead of over the outside of the rim. Sometimes photography shops have extras of these and will be happy to donate some for such a worthy cause.

Keep in mind: Just like with real rockets, the less your rocket weighs and the less air resistance (drag) it has, the higher it will go.

Making the Rocket

You must first decide how to cut your paper. You may cut it the short way or the long way to make the body of the rocket. There is no one right way to make a paper rocket. Try a long, skinny rocket or a short, fat rocket. Try a sharp nosecone or a blunt nosecone. Try it with fins or without fins. Experiment!

Here's just one idea for how you might cut your whole rocket from one piece of paper:

One way to cut out rocket parts

Here are the basic steps: Young rocket engineer

  1. Cut out all the pieces for your rocket.

  2. Wrap and tape a tube of paper around the film canister. Hint: Tape the canister to the end of the paper before you start wrapping.

    Important! Place the lid end of the canister down.

  3. Tape fins to your rocket body, if you want.

  4. Roll the circle (with a wedge cut out) into a cone and tape it to the rocket's top.

Blasting Off

  1. Put on your eye protection.

  2. Turn the rocket upside down and remove the canister's lid.

  3. Fill the canister one-third full of water.

Now work quickly on the next steps!

  1. Drop one-half of an effervescing antacid tablet into the canister.

  2. Snap the lid on tight.

  3. Stand your rocket on a launch platform, such as your sidewalk or driveway.

  4. Stand back and wait. Your rocket will blast off!

    Finished pop rocket

Dr. Marc explains So, Dr. Marc, how does the pop-rocket work?

When the fizzy tablet is placed in water, many little bubbles of gas escape. The bubbles go up, instead of down, because they weigh less than water. When the bubbles get to the surface of the water, they break open. All that gas that has escaped from the bubbles pushes on the sides of the canister.

Now when you blow up a balloon, the air makes the balloon stretch bigger and bigger. But the little film canister doesn't stretch and all this gas has to go somewhere!

Eventually, something has to give! So the canister pops its top (which is really its bottom, since it's upside down). All the water and gas rush down and out, pushing the canister up and up, along with the rocket attached to it.

Real rockets work kind of the same way. But instead of using tablets that fizz in water, they use rocket fuel.

Launch of Delta rocket

Delta rocket similar to the one that launched the Deep Space 1 spacecraft from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in October 1998.

The rocket that launched Deep Space 1 on October 24, 1998, had four different kinds of engines. Some pushed the rocket off the ground. Then some helped it continue its climb into space. Others gave the Deep Space 1 spacecraft its final push away from Earth. But all of them forced a gas to shoot out of the rocket, thus pushing the rocket the other way.

We call this wonderful and useful fact the law of action and reaction. The action is the gas rushing out of the rocket. The reaction is the rocket taking off in the other direction. In other words, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The rocket goes in the opposite direction from the gas, and the faster the gas leaves the rocket, the faster the rocket gets pushed the other way.

You can also print out a 3-page Adobe Acrobat file of this activity.

How to Make Your Model Saturn and Rings
For each Saturn model, you will need:
CD Saturn supplies
  • One unwanted compact disc (CD). (Many people get these free in the mail.)
  • Cut styrofoam ball in halfOne 2-inch diameter styrofoam ball, carefully cut in half with a sharp knife (get adult help, please!)
  • White glue
  • Wooden toothpicks
  • Paint brush, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide
  • Glitter--silver, gold, black or any other colors you want
  • Yarn, black or other colors (optional)
  • Needle-nosed pliers (or scissors will do)
  • Small paper clip
  • Thread

What to do:

Our pictures are just suggestions. Decorate your Saturn and rings however you want.

First, start with the rings:
Decorate the CD
  • The CD will become Saturn's rings. Usually one side of the CD has printing on it. This is the side you will decorate with glitter.

  • Try not to get glitter in the center part of the CD, where you will be gluing the styrofoam ball.

  • Rinse the paintbrush out between uses, so it will stay soft and easy to use.

  • Use the paintbrush to carefully spread glue on the CD. If you want to make it look like some of the rings are silver and some gold, spread the glue only where you want to put the first color, then sprinkle the glitter on the wet glue. Let it dry completely. Then repeat for the remaining areas. You can use as many different colors as you want. Just be sure to let the glue dry completely for each color before adding the next color.

  • If you want to use yarn also--for example, black to show the divisions in the rings--glue it on and let it dry before adding the glitter.

Then decorate the planet:

  • Stick a toothpick into the flat side of each half of the styrofoam ball to give yourself a handle.

  • Use the paintbrush to apply glue and glitter on the round part of each half, as you did for the CD. Let the glue dry completely.

Now put them together:
Put it all together

  • Take the toothpick out of one of the styrofoam halves. On the other half, make sure the toothpick is stuck exactly into the center and push it in until it starts to poke out the top.

  • Spread glue around the center of the decorated side of the CD. Pick up the CD and place the styrofoam half with the toothpick exactly in the center of the CD, toothpick sticking through the hole.

  • Now push the other styrofoam half onto the toothpick sticking out the hole on the other side of the CD. When both halves are flat against the CD, a small part of the toothpick will be sticking out one of Saturns "poles." Break it off with needle-nosed pliers.

And hang it up:
  • Open a small paper clip so it looks like this:

    paper clip

  • Decide which half of Saturn you want to be the top. Since Saturn's axis is tilted 27 degrees, stick the paperclip into the top about inch away from the center (where the toothpick comes through). Angle the paperclip so it passes through the hole in the CD and helps hold the two styrofoam halves together.

    When you hang your Saturn up, and it turns in the breeze, you will see the "rings" from different angles, just as we see the real Saturn at different angles from Earth.

  • Tie any length of thread to the paperclip and hang your model wherever you like.

Find out more about Saturn's awesome rings!

Stump Your Friends with Your Mosaic Robot Puzzle!
Robot puzzle

You will need Adobe Reader. You can download it free.

Click here to download Adobe Reader

  1. Click on the puzzle image above to display the full-size puzzle.

  2. Print the puzzle on a color printer, if you have one. Or print it in black and white and color it yourself, if you wish.

    But don't cheat! Color all the similar types of robots exactly the same.

  3. Glue the page onto a piece of heavier paper or half of a file folder.

  4. Then, cut out the squares on the lines. Cut right through the robots!

  5. Now mix them up, and try to put the puzzle back together again.

Not so easy, is it? There are almost 100 billion wrong ways to put the squares together, but only one right way!

All the cartoon robots on the puzzle are something like the robots NASA is designing to go into space!

A Palm-sized Spiderbot

If it had fur and a couple more legs, it would look like a tarantula! Like a real spider, this robot has feeler-like antennas, which help it detect obstacles in its path. Instead of eyes, it has cameras. With its six legs it walks much like a spider and moves very nicely across rough terrain. Someday, spiderbots like these, or even much tinier, could be used to explore comets, asteroids, or the Moon, or to do maintenance and repair jobs on the outside of the International Space Station. On Earth, spiderbots could fill in for humans by sniffing out hazardous materials or taking soil measurements on farms.

Puzzle Spiderbot

The real spiderbot!

Big Wheels in Space?!

What do you get when you cross a tricycle with a monster truck? Then replace the truck's body with computers, cameras, and scientific instruments? You get a funny-looking vehicle with beach ball-like tires that can drive around by itself, climb over big rocks, and take notes and pictures of its surroundings. Just the thing for exploring planets such as Mars! NASA has already tested the Big Wheels rover idea on sand dunes, rocky terrain and even water.

Big Wheels puzzle robot

Big Wheels robot.

Balloon-bots on Alien Worlds?!

Another way to get around on planets or moons that have atmospheres is by hot air balloon--sort of. A hot air balloon rises when the air inside it is heated. This makes the air expand and become lighter than the air outside the balloon, so the balloon goes up. On Mars, for instance, the Sun would heat helium gas inside the balloon and make it go up. At night, the helium would cool and the balloon would come back down and rest on the ground until the next day. The balloon could carry instruments and cameras to study the planet's atmosphere and surface.

Balloon puzzle robot.

Balloon robot on Mars

Here, FIDO!

A rover a bit like the one in this photo went to Mars in 1997 and two more are on their way to Mars now! This particular rover is part of NASA's Field Integrated Design and Operations (FIDO!) project. This project develops and tests technologies that will be used on robotic rover missions on the surface of Mars. The FIDO rover tries out navigation and control systems, sensing instruments, intelligent behavior systems, data processing, and other types of instruments and tools. NASA plans to send a mission to Mars to collect soil and rock samples and return them to Earth. The field tests that FIDO is doing in Mars-like terrain on Earth will help NASA explore the Martian surface.

Rover puzzle robot

FIDO rover

Robots can go where no one has gone before. NASA is building smart machines that will be able to do very hard tasks far from home. The robots and spacecraft are our eyes and ears on distant planets, moons, and asteroids. From the information they gather, we will be able to plan for possible human travel to those places someday in the future.

Recipe for a Galactic Mobile
Galactic Mobile

You might need help from an adult or older friend for this one.

What you need:

  • 12" (family size) or 7" (individual size) round cardboard from frozen pizza box. (Or cut circle from a cardboard box.)
  • 4 large sheets (11" x 17") black construction paper
  • Glitter--gold, silver, red, orange, yellow, blue, purple, or any other colors you like
  • White glue
  • Paintbrush, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide
  • Scissors
  • Thread (black is best) or fine nylon fishing line
  • Small, 4-holed button
  • Large, sturdy sewing needle
  • 16 sequins or very small beads, black is best (optional)
  • Tape measure or yard (meter) stick
  • Pattern for galaxies.
    This is a 2-page Adobe Acrobat file. If you don't have Acrobat, you can get it free now.

Get Adobe Acrobat Reader

First, make the galaxies:
1. Print out the patterns for the galaxies.
2. Cut the galaxy patterns apart on the dotted lines.
3. Use the patterns to cut each galaxy out of construction paper. If you are making a "family size" mobile, use all 12 galaxies. For an "individual size" mobile, use only 9 galaxies. Here's one way to cut out the galaxies:

Cutting out the galaxiesFirst cut out a small square of construction paper a little larger than the pattern paper. Tape the edges of the pattern to the construction paper so it doesn't slip when you cut. Now, cut out the galaxy, cutting through both the pattern and the construction paper.
4. Now decorate the galaxies with glitter. Imagine each speck of glitter is a star!

Use the brush to spread the glue on one side of one galaxy. Sprinkle one or two colors of glitter on each. Remember, galaxies are brighter in the center (where the stars are younger and hotter), becoming fainter at the edges or on the spiral arms.

5. When you have decorated one side, set the galaxy on something it won't stick to when the glue is dry! (Like a cookie sheet, for example.)
6. When you have decorated one side of each galaxy, let the glue dry. Then turn them over and decorate the other side. Be sure to leave them laying flat until the glue is completely dry. Otherwise, the spiral arms will droop. (If they do, when they are dry you can set a heavy book on them for a while.)

While you wait for the glue to dry . . .

Make the frame for the mobile:

7. Use the round pizza cardboard as a pattern to draw a circle in the center of each of two pieces of construction paper. If the paper is big enough, cut the two paper circles a little larger than the cardboard.
8. Pasting together the circlesGlue the paper circles to the top and bottom of the cardboard. If the paper circles are large enough, glue their edges together so the edge of the cardboard is also covered.

Note: Instead of covering the cardboard with paper, if you wish, you can paint both sides of the cardboard with flat black spray paint.
9.

3 marks equally spacedMake three pencil marks equally spaced around the edge of the circle, about 1 inch in from the edge.

10.

Cut a length of thread about 2 feet long. Thread the needle, and either tie a fat knot in the end or tie a sequin or small bead to the end (include only one strand of thread).

11. Poke the needle through one of the pencil marks on the edge of the cardboard circle. Pull the thread through to the knot, sequin, or bead.
12. Thread through the buttonTake the 4-holed button and poke the needle up through one hole in the button and down through another.
13. Now poke the needle back down through another pencil mark on the circle (since the mark will be on the wrong side of the circle, you'll have to poke the needle up the other way first just to mark the hole).
14. Unthread the needle and tie a fat knot, sequin, or bead in the end of the thread.
15. Now, cut a length of thread about 3 feet long and rethread the needle. Again, tie a fat knot, sequin, or bead in the end. Poke the needle up through the remaining pencil mark on the circle. (Knots, sequins, or beads should all be on the same side.)
16. Poke the needle up through one of the remaining holes in the button and then down through the last hole. Unthread the needle and tie a loop in the end of the thread for hanging the mobile from the ceiling.

Hang the galaxies from the mobile frame:

17. Distribute the galaxiesMake pencil marks on the bottom of the cardboard circle where you will be attaching each galaxy. For a 12-inch mobile, you could put eight evenly spaced around the edges and four evenly spaced in the center area. For a smaller mobile, you could put six around the edges and three in the center.

For each galaxy:

18. Cut a length of thread and thread the needle. Tie a knot, sequin, or bead to the end. Draw the needle through the center of the galaxy. Now poke the needle through one of the marks on the circle. Adjust the length of the thread so the galaxy hangs nicely, then cut the thread and tie a knot, sequin, or bead in the end.

19. Make the galaxies hang at different levels, so they can turn freely without hitting each other.

20. Hang your Galactic Mobile from the ceiling. Notice that you can adjust the thread going through the button to make the circle hang level.

21. Listen to the "Oh's" and "Ah's."

Boy completes Galactic Mobile