Solar Energy: Its Importance to Earth and Space Exploration

Target Audience
  • Educators: K-12
  • Students
Hosting Center(s)
  • Goddard Space Flight Center
Subject Category
  • Earth Science
  • Physical Science
Unit Correlation
  • Exploring Engineering and Technology
  • Exploring Earth
Grade Level
  • K-04
  • 05-08
  • 09-12
Minimum Delivery Time
  • 030 min(s)
Maximum Connection Time
  • 050 min(s)

Event Focus

What impact does solar energy have in space and on Earth?  

What impact does solar energy have on future developments to generate electricity on Earth and for long duration space travel?




This module is appropriate for video conference AND web conference presentation

All the energy stored in Earth's reserves of coal, oil, and natural gas is matched by the energy from just 20 days of sunshine. This free and inexhaustible resource is already being harnessed by the solar arrays to power the International Space Station.  Learn how solar energy will impact our future in space and here on Earth.


Instructional Objectives




TLW share prior knowledge about energy and its importance to life on Earth and NASA with the NASA Education Specialist


TLW define the different types of energy and its parts, and discuss the many ways solar energy can be used on Earth


TLW discover how NASA utilizes the sun and solar cells to power vehicles such as the International Space Station


TLW observe an on-camera solar cell demonstration,  and synthesize their observations by explaining how solar cells work on the International Space Station and Mars Rovers


TLW demonstrate their understanding of solar energy by completing a post-activity assessment, and compare their results from their pre-activity assessment



Sequence of Events


Pre-Conference Activities


The links below are previews of the activities only. For the complete module and event information, please see the Complete Educator Guide link for each grade level.


Grade K-4


Reinventing the Wheel Activity      

Students will distinguish between potential and kinetic energy.


Complete Educator Guide for K-4       



Grade 5-8


Beaming Down Energy Activity    

Students will measure the energy output of a photovoltaic cell under varying conditions.


Complete Educator Guide for 5-8       



Grade 9-12


Chain Reaction Activity    

Students will simulate a chain reaction.


Complete Educator Guide for 9-12       









Videoconference Activities


Students will look at how solar energy was used in the past, how it is used today, and how it could be used in the future. Students will learn about the various forms of energy and how it is being used at NASA for missions in space. A NASA Education Specialist will demonstrate how solar cells work and how they are used to power the ISS and the rovers on Mars.


Post-Conference Activities






The following standards are abbreviated for the 5-8 module. Due to the longevitiy of standard descriptions, expected student behaviors are listed in the Educator Guide. Standards and expected student behaviors for grades K-4 and 9-12 can be found in the appropriate Educator Guide.


National Standards National Science Education Standards (NSES)


Science as Inquiry - Content Standard A

Physical Science - Content Standard B

Life Science - Content Standard C

Earth and Space Science - Content Standard D

Science and Technology - Content Standard E

Science in Personal and Social Perspectives - Content Standard F

History and Nature of Science - Content Standard G


National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)

Measurement - Standards 12C, 13B


International Technology Education Association (ITEA)

Energy and Power Techniques - Standard 16A


Texas State Standards

5.8 Science Concepts - Standard B

6.9 Science Concepts - Standard B

8.2 Science Processes - Standards A, C

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Page Last Updated: November 5th, 2014
Page Editor: NASA Administrator