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Achievement Curriculum: Module 1: Student Handout

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Clyde Tombaugh, Ph.D.
Discoverer of the Planet Pluto

I have this feeling of wonder what it's like to kind of look there and just sweep around through the Milky Way and say, "Oh there's hundreds and hundreds of stars and star clusters." It gives me a feeling of great elation. It's a therapy for me, just idle, plowing through the sky. It's fun. I wonder about all the wonderful things that must be going on there that we don't see, realizing there are thousands and thousands -- millions -- of alien civilizations out there, doing things, maybe something like we are. This is something you think about.

[ Interview ] Clyde Tombaugh

I did not know that I had recorded the image of Pluto on those plates, not until I scanned them later in February. You passed your gaze over all these stars that you have to be conscious of seeing every star image, because you don't know which one's going to shift, if they shift. It's very tedious work and you go through tens of thousands of star images. I came to one place where it actually was, turned the next field and there it was! Instantly, I knew I had a planet beyond the orbit of Neptune because I knew the amount of shift was what fitted the situation. That was the most instantaneous thrill you can imagine. It just electrified me!

[ Interview ] Clyde Tombaugh

Donna Shirley
Mars Exploration Program

Mars Observer was launched in '92 and it was a failure. But, in the meantime, we started thinking about, "Okay, life lives on earth in many places where we wouldn't have believed that it would have lived." So, scientifically, we found life at the bottom of the ocean, living off of just the gases coming out of vents. No light, but there it is. We found life down in the Columbia River basalts, several kilometers down, just living off of rock and heat - life in Antarctica, in frozen, frigid conditions, inside rocks. So, anywhere there's liquid water on earth, there's life. So, we said, "Gee, you know, maybe there's life on Mars."

[ Interview ] Donna Shirley

Adm. Alan Shepard, Jr.
First American in Space

The excitement really didn't start to build until the trailer -- which was carrying me, with a space suit with ventilation and all that sort of stuff -- pulled up to the launch pad. I walked out, and looked at that huge rocket, the Redstone rocket, for the first time. Of course it's not huge by today's standards, but it seemed pretty big then. And I thought, well now, there is that little rascal, and I'm going to get up on top and fly that thing. And you know, pilots always go out to the airplanes and kick the tires before they fly. Nobody would let me get near the rocket to kick the fins, but I kind of walked around and thought, well, I'll take a good look at it, because I'll never see that part of the machine again. And then the excitement started building, I think, at that point.

[ Interview ] Alan Shepard

Story Musgrave, M.D.
Dean of American Astronauts

Space takes almost a new language. It's a new place. We created and evolved here on earth. We're earth-based creatures, and the magic of what goes on when you take humanity out there, it's going to take a new language to do it. And poetry has some tools in it which will, as music does, directly do you. You don't have to intellectualize music. You listen to music and it works on you and you get it. So it's a direct communication. And so, I think, a way of bringing space to people, that poetry will work.

[ Interview ] Story Musgrave

Grades 4-6

The International Space Station Project ISS or the International Space Station is a home in space to scientists from many different countries. It is the biggest spacecraft ever flown. How big is it? How fast is it flying? What is it like to live on it for weeks at a time? What physical effects do scientists experience after a space station stay? What is its purpose? What scientific experiments are conducted on the space station? How do these experiments help us better understand the cosmos? Imagine that you are a reporter sent to the International Space Station to gather information. Your editor has charged you with writing an article that is supportive of providing on-going funding to keep the International Space Station flying.

How Big is the Cosmos?
How big is the Universe? Does it go on and on and never end? Does it have an edge? What do scientists know about the visible universe that can be seen? What do scientist's think is beyond what they can see? Research this question and create a multimedia presentation that introduces your class to facts and theories about the size of the cosmos.

Riding a Rocket: The First American in Space
Admiral Alan Shephard Jr. describes the excitement of becoming the first American in Space. The rocket that took him into space was very different that the current rockets that launch the space shuttle into orbit. Research Alan Shephard's achievement. Create a special edition newspaper that covers a variety of stories about the first time an American went into space. Include stories and articles that cover both the human drama and the scientific achievement.

Grades 7-9

Planet Hunting: What Lurks in the Outer Solar System?
Scientists believe it is just a matter of time before astronomers follow in Dr. Clyde Tombaugh's steps and find something as big as the planet Pluto beyond the reaches of the solar system. Research the amazing scientific journey that led Dr. Tombaugh to Pluto. Research current efforts to discover new planets by the planet-hunters of today. Find out how new technologies and theories are helping scientists in their planet quest as they go further out into the solar system and beyond its reaches. Develop a multimedia presentation that compares Dr. Tombaugh's discovery of Pluto with 21st Century planet hunters' explorations and methods.

The Case for Life on Mars
Donna Shirley from the Mars Exploration Program speaks of the possibility of life on Mars. To scientists, the prospect of finding even the tiniest of life forms on the red planet is exciting. For this reason, scientists have launched projects, like the Odyssey program, that promise to tell us more about Mars. It's even possible that new discoveries will make a future manned expedition to Mars possible. It won't be easy. Your research project is to investigate what scientists currently know about Mars that supports the theory that there is life on this barren planet. Include evidence collected from recent exploration programs like the Odyssey project that land on Mars to look for water, map chemical elements, and analyze the radiation in the environment. Present your research in the form of a multimedia essay.

The Big Bang Space Dictionary
The terms used to describe events and phenomena in our Cosmos are often amazing in themselves. What is the big bang? A supernova? A quasar? A black hole? Develop a list of 10-20 interesting terms that relate to the history of the universe. Create a multimedia dictionary presentation that defines and illustrates these unique words from outer space.

Grades 9-12

Are We Alone in the Universe?
Scientists, from Copernicus's discovery that the Earth orbited the sun and not the other way around, have continued to find that our solar system's place in the universe is not unique at all. There are billions of galaxies, stars like our sun, and likely many planet systems. Whether there is another planet in the universe like the Earth that has the unique conditions to support life has been a cause for wonder and sci-fi movies. Now scientists believe that there is enough of a possibility that there is other life in the universe to justify a scientific search. How do scientists look for life in space? What tools do they use? What have they found out that supports their search? How does NASA's Origin Program search for life elsewhere in the universe. Present your findings by designing a web site with multiple pages.

The History of the Universe: A Cosmic Timeline
Through the centuries, scientific knowledge has grown regarding the history of the universe. As current space exploration projects go forward new information, questions, and theories will be added to this evolving body of knowledge. Conduct research to identify the major events scientists believe played a role in the history of the universe. Create your own multimedia timeline to define and explore these events including the evidence scientists use to support these dominant theories.

The Hubble Telescope:
Almost 400 years ago Galileo opened a new world to human beings on Earth when he pointed the newly invented telescope into space. Centuries later the launch of the Hubble telescope, currently orbiting the Earth, has further opened the beauty and mystery of space to human beings. The images Hubble is sending back from space will change our understanding of the universe from our own solar system to the most distant galaxies. Research the history of the Hubble telescope. How was it built and launched? What challenges did scientists have to overcome to make it successful? What discoveries have already been made because of the Hubble telescope? What are some of the expected new discoveries scientists believe the Hubble telescope can make possible?

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