Live From Mars Teacher's Guide Preview: Activity 1.1

From: (Jan Wee)
Subject: Live From Mars Teacher's Guide Preview: Activity 1.1
Date: Fri, 04 Oct 1996 15:22:57 -0500

Dear discuss-lfm members,

For your preview... Activity 1.1 from the Live From Mars
Teacher's Guide.  Remember, these files are *not*
in final copy form but for your convenience to assist
you as you prepare for the Live from Mars project. The
final print version of the Teacher's Guide will be 
shipping by the end of next week!

Jan Wee


Activity 1.1.A: Rocket Science 101

Teacher Background
Without the mighty Saturn V rockets, there could have been no 
Apollo program and no humans on the Moon. Without the smaller, 
cheaper Delta 2 rockets, MGS and MPF would not have been 
affordable. Weight, cost, thrust, power... all these are critical to the 
exploration of our Cosmos. This set of Activities will expose your 
students to some fundamentals of rocket science, and some key 
physics principles .

Simple balloon rockets, for example, offer great opportunities for 
students to explore the Laws of Motion. These laws were first 
expressed by the English physicist, Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727).

Newton's First Law: Objects at rest will stay at rest and objects in 
motion will stay in motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an 
unbalanced force.

(i.e., If something is at rest (not moving), it will stay at rest unless 
something pushes or pulls on it -- that is, exerts a force on it. Also, 
if something is moving in a straight line at a constant speed, it will 
continue to move that way unless something pushes or pulls on it.)

Newton's Second Law: Force is equal to mass times acceleration. 

(i.e., If you push or pull on something, that force can change the 
object's speed and/or direction. The greater the force, the greater 
can be the resulting change in the object's speed and/or direction. 
But, for a given force, you will have less effect on a massive object 
than a less massive one.)

Newton's Third Law: For every action there is always an opposite and 
equal reaction.

(which translates as: if you push on something, it will "push back" 
with an equal amount of force)

In its simplest form, a rocket is a chamber enclosing gas under 
pressure. A small opening at one end of the chamber allows the gas 
to escape, and by so doing provides a thrust which propels the rocket 
in the opposite direction. There's a strong similarity between the 
mightiest rocket and a humble balloon. The air inside a fastened 
balloon is compressed by the rubber walls. The air pushes back so 
that inward and outward forces balance: the balloon is static. When 
the nozzle is released, air escapes through it and the balloon is 
propelled in the opposite direction.

Newton's Laws in rocket motion
To summarize, an unbalanced force must be exerted for a rocket to 
lift off from a launch pad or for a spacecraft to change speed or 
direction (First Law). The amount of thrust (force) produced by a 
rocket engine will be determined by the rate at which the mass of 
the rocket fuel burns and the speed of the gas escaping from the 
rocket (Second Law) OR if you push or pull on something, that force 
can change the objects speed and/or direction. The harder you push 
or pull, the greater the effect! The reaction, or motion, of the rocket 
is equal to and in the opposite direction of the action, or thrust, 
from the engine (Third Law).
Activity 1.1.A Balloon Rockets (or bursting misconceptions)

Students will explore aspects of Newton's First and Third Laws of 
Students will be able to describe the launch and cruise phases of the 
MGS and MPF missions in terms of Newton's First and Third Laws of 
Students will conduct controlled rocketry experiments and analyze 
the MGS and MPF missions in terms of the principles of rocketry.

Materials (for each team of 3/4 students)
several balloons which, when fully inflated, are 3 to 5 inches in 
diameter and 1-2 feet long (party time!)
several plastic drinking straws (milk shake size)
strong adhesive tape
nylon fishing line
stopwatch or timer
metric measuring tape or meter sticks
Activity 1.1.A Student Worksheet (one for each student)
Mars Mission Logbooks

For whole class
Large printed signs of Newton's Laws of Motion


Show students a video of a rocket or Space Shuttle being launched 
and continuing up into orbit (Most NASA mission films will show 
this) i.e., a sequence of the last stages of a Shuttle/Mir docking 
maneuver. Have students note any changes they observe in the 
rocket's speed and direction. Allow time for discussion and students' 
sharing of personal experiences with rockets and/or launches.

1. Explain to students that they are going to become flight 
engineers for NASA, working in small "Rocket Science Teams", and 
that their mission is to investigate how rockets work. This will 
involve some fun experiments with rockets made from balloons and, 
in the process, testing Newton's famous Laws of Motion. (Along with 
Einstein's e=Mc2, these are some of science's "Greatest Hits" or 
"Holy of Holies" and we hope these hands-on Activities will give the 
sacred text concrete significance.) Place Newton's Laws of Motion 
on chalkboard. This Activity will illustrate two of these laws.
 2. Demonstrate experimental procedure as outlined on Student 
Worksheet 1.1.A. Hand out materials, and answer student questions. 
Then allow Rocket Teams time to construct their rockets and 
complete the experiment, recording data on individual worksheets as 
well as collecting all the teams results on a class data sheet or 
3. Discuss the results of the balloon rocket experiments with the 
students. In particular, ask the following: 
Did all teams obtain the same data? How can we explain the 
When did the balloon rockets go the farthest? What caused this? (A 
greater unbalanced force was applied for a longer period of time.) 
How could they test their ideas? 
Why did the balloon rockets stop? 
(There was a counter-acting force called friction between the string 
and the straw.)
If there was no friction between the straw and the nylon string, and 
no wall in the way, how would the balloon rockets behave? 
(They would keep accelerating until all the fuel was gone because 
there would continue to be an unbalanced force on the balloon.)
If there was no friction between the straw and nylon string, no wall 
in the way, and no air resistance acting against the deflated shell of 
the balloon, how would the rockets behave after they ran out of 
(They would keep going at the final speed they had when the fuel ran 
Which Law(s) of Motion does this activity illustrate and why?

Research (using print or online sources) the Delta 2 rockets chosen 
by NASA for Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Pathfinder. When were 
these rockets designed and built? Have they been used on other space 
missions? What are their strengths and limitations?
(check out:

Activity 1.1.B: Rockets and Payloads

Students will investigate and predict the effect of payload on the 
amount of energy needed to lift a rocket vertically (thereby working 
with Newton's Second Law of Motion).

Materials (for each Rocket Science team of 3/4 students)
2-3 large, long balloons
balloon pump (available in party stores)
fishing line
paper clips (or pennies)
1 dixie cup
straws (milk shake size)
clothes pins
metric scale
Activity 1.1.B Student Worksheet (one for each student)
Mars Mission Logbooks

Have Rocket Science Teams brainstorm what equipment they would 
place on MGS or MPF spacecraft. Would there be any limitations to 
the "payload"? (Hopefully, students will suggest that payload weight 
was a serious constraint to the equipment that could be carried by 
MGS and MPF to Mars.)

1. Place large sign with Newton's Second Law of Motion on 
chalkboard and review the formula (force = mass times 
acceleration). Have students express this in more colloquial terms, 
until you are sure all understand the principle involved. Ask: Using 
the same amount of pushing force, which object could you get to 
accelerate faster, a Mack truck or a toy wagon? Why? (If F is equal 
and you have bigger M, you have to have a smaller A to keep the 
equation balanced.)
2. Distribute materials and Student Worksheets. Review 
procedure with students and answer any questions.
3. Allow Rocket Science Teams sufficient time to complete 
investigation and record data.
4. Call all the groups together and have them post the results of 
each of their trials on a data table on the chalkboard. Draw group 

Note: In this experiment students first witness action-reaction. 
Then they vary the amount of M between the first phase and second 
phases of the experiments, and should see a corresponding increase 
in the amount of force required. Acceleration is a variable not 
addressed , but this should be discussed, along with the effects of 
not holding the string vertically which adds drag from friction, 
lowers acceleration and changes results, etc.
5. Have teams share the design principles which made their 
launches successful and then develop and contribute ideas they think 
could be used to create an even more successful "heavy-lift" 
Design an experiment to investigate the following:
Can you eliminate the paper cup from the rocket and have it still 
carry paper clips?
If each balloon costs one million dollars and you need to lift 100 
paper clips, how much money would you need to spend? Can you think 
of a way to cut this cost?
Without attaching the paper cup as a payload carrier, measure the 
distance the balloon travels along the string in a horizontal, 
vertical, and 45 degree angle. Compare and discuss the results.

Go online and find information giving the specific course that MPF 
and/or MGS will follow to travel to Mars. How many trajectory 
changes will be necessary? How is the spacecraft controlled?

Go online, read Field Journals and bios to find out what course you 
need to follow to become a rocket scientist.

Explain (in writing or with illustrations) a spacecraft launch, from 
blast-off through entry into orbit, in terms of Newton's Laws of 
Motion. Make sure your explanation could be understood by a younger 
brother or sister!

Math: Graph data from the rocket experiments.

Language Arts: Write a first-person account of a rocket launch as if 
you were Sir Isaac Newton.

Reading:  Read a biography of one of the following scientists 
associated with rocketry: Robert Goddard, Johann Schmidlap, Isaac 
Newton, Wan Hu, William Congreve, William Hale, Konstantin 
Tsiolkovsky, Hermann Oberth.  Report this person's contributions to 
science to your class.

Social Studies:  
Research Robert Goddard (his boyhood hometown, Worcester, 
Massachusetts, will be an uplink site for the first broadcast on 
November 19, 1996).

Research why launches are held at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Research the development of rockets from the earliest to the most 
current of NASA designs.  Then add your own design! Present your 
report using computer presentation software (HyperCard, 
HyperStudio, etc.)

Art:  Design your own rocket and translate into two-dimensional 
drawing or three-dimensional model.

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