Monday, 9 June 2008

Space - The Final Frontier

I have a relatively new class on Fridays with two very smart young people, and recently we have been talking about space exploration. We have talked about the space race of the 1960s - from Sputnik's first beeps in orbit to Neil Armstrong's footprints on the moon. This week we talked about Skylab and Mir, and did some work with David Bowie's famous song 'Space Oddity' ("Here, am I floating in my tin can, far above the earth...")

The International Space Station (ISS) is in the news this week because the astronauts from the Shuttle Discovery have had to fix the toilet way up there. We wondered if they were wearing pink rubber gloves - and what would happen if they didn't fix it properly (after all, they can't open a window, can they?!) I asked my students if they'd like to see ISS & Discovery? Rather excited "Yes!!!"

We went to and first of all discussed the map. Why was half of it dark? Why was the sun seeming to move? That meant we needed to remember that the earth was actually moving around the sun, and that we are spinning as we go too - once every 24 hours we agreed.

We knew from our book that ISS was probably about 300km "up". We wanted to know how fast it was moving - faster then their mums' cars on the expressway perhaps? A great time to practice big numbers, as the information showed us that ISS was moving at 27,760 km/h. Very surprised looks all round! At that kind of speed, no police car would ever catch you!

Also no way in the world you can see this thing, either, right? Wrong! The ISS is now one of the brightest objects in the night sky. We tapped in our location (nearest one was Tokyo) and realised that at 8.08pm tonight (about 40 minutes after class finished) we should be able to see it for 3 minutes, if we looked ENE (East North-East). How's that for interactive learning?!

So my class scampered off home eagerly awaiting for their homework to arrive, hurtling across the night sky with the space shuttle hanging on to it! R-chan called me later to say thank you - so sweet! - she'd managed to find ISS & Discovery in the sky, exactly where we decided it would be, exactly when we thought it should be there. Now, ends of the week don't get much cooler than that! But if you click here, you can watch ISS on YouTube

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