Today was the 25th anniversary of what is called the “Challenger Disaster.” I was standing in a line outside a chow hall in Orlando, Florida when the launch took place. I had my back to it, so didn’t notice it. I was devastated later when I heard — I have always been intrigued by the space program, ever since I watched the first moon landing, and even when busy with life in general I kept up with news of every rocket launch. We tend to think about our usually reliable rockets as completely safe. But, clearly, they aren’t.

So, what is it about rockets that fascinates? The sheer power they exude, I think. What a HUGE amount of force it takes to escape Earth’s pull. What an amazing display of vectors as the rockets arc over the hemispheres. Wow. Math, physics, a good bit of chemistry (solid fuel rockets, anyone?), anatomy… I think there is a link to nearly every branch of science in today’s space programs.

Today, feeling nostalgic for the young woman who dreamed of going into space (that would have been me) and for more optimistic times about the space program, I looked up NASA and Christa McAuliffe and found that her lesson plans are still available!

With some minor updating, here are ideas relating to science that she was excited about sharing with students all around the world. Ideas that teachers are still excited about sharing.

One Interaction on “Friday Fiddling: Challenger, Force and Motion

  1. Nice find! It was interesting to go through the “lost” lesson plans and see what Ms. McAuliffe had planned for her class. I found the quality questions:

    What Would Have Happened on Challenger?
    1. How would the absence of gravity have affected the apparatus designed for the classroom?
    2. What impact would ambient lighting onboard Challenger have compared to classroom lighting?
    3. Based on classroom plant growth over seven days, was the hydroponics chamber design adequate to contain the plant volume produced?
    4. Do a report on the characteristics of the mung bean. Why was it a good choice for the Challenger hydroponics demonstration?
    5. Would the hydroponics chamber grow plants in the Shuttle’s cargo bay…why or why not? Discuss.
    6. Finally, examine the STS-118 Educator in Space Mission which dealt with the same considerations for building a classroom hydroponics chamber. What makes it more doable and less complicated than the hydroponics lost lesson proposed for Christa on STS-51L?
    7. Compare Christa’s Hydroponics Lost Lesson Chamber with the commercial Plant Growth Chamber carried to the space station for the hydroponics lesson planned for students after STS-118. How does the commercial chamber [adapted from a ground based chamber for the space station experiment] compare with Christa’s?
    8. Compare the STS-118 choice of basil seeds with STS-51L’s mung beans. Would basil seeds have worked better or worse for the Challenger Hydroponics Loss Lesson? Why or why not?

    very challenging and would cause students to think about their answers to be able to discuss their line of thought.

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