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Unlocking the Mysteries of Our Solar System
Unlocking the Mysteries title image from video

The Unlocking the Mysteries video provides an overview of NASA's Discovery missions. Image Credit: NASA

How have scientists at NASA explored our solar system and beyond? What is the next step for robotic space missions?

Unlocking the Mysteries: Science on the Edge of Our Solar System asks students in grades 5-8 to consider these questions.

Students begin by learning about the Discovery Program missions. An award-winning 29-minute video highlights the explorations of NASA's Discovery missions. The missions selected by NASA to date can be placed into three categories: (1) to investigate comets and asteroids; (2) to collect data and/or samples from the sun, the moon and the planets; and (3) to search for Earth-size planets orbiting around stars outside our solar system. The video discusses each of the ten missions, with emphasis on purpose, timeline and what makes the mission unique.

After the introduction to Discovery, students work in small groups, with each group learning more about a single Discovery mission and presenting their findings to the class. Students then respond to a request from NASA to design the next generation of robotic space missions. Students act as scientists and engineers, and each group designs a mission that would investigate the solar system in new ways.

The module is broken down into seven activities and includes a teacher guide, viewing guide, graphic organizer and activity sheets. There are also links to Internet resources.

Unlocking the Mysteries: Science on the Edge of Our Solar System was developed by Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) in Aurora, Colo.

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Brandi Bernoskie/Institute for Global Environmental Strategies