Program 8 Exploring the Solar System and Beyond

After viewing the video and participating in one or more of the Hands-On Activities, students will be able to:
• discuss why spacecraft and telescopes in orbit are needed to study distant planets and other celestial objects
• describe the history of solar system exploration, and possible future developments
• identify 2 or more scientists and/or engineers currently engaged in the exploration of the solar system, and describe their motivations and job satisfaction.

Program Description
This final program looks back-to the scientific principles which made the Space Age possible, and to early missions-and forward, to the spacecraft that will perhaps be built, managed and operated by students in today's classes. In line with Science Standards 14-16, it states that exploration requires the application of design, technology and engineering to enable scientific breakthroughs.
• "Seeing the Universe" (4:33) explains why spacecraft operating high above Earth's "ocean of air" are able to use sections of the electromagnetic spectrum blocked by water vapor at Earth's surface. In the successes of spacecraft, students are seeing math, physics and chemistry in action. A series of images from surface telescopes, Skylab, and several solar spacecraft emphasize advances in imaging techniques and understanding of our solar system. The Mars Global Surveyor's Laser Altimeter (aka "MOLA," see program 4) is an example of new technology revealing new understanding of the Red Planet. We see how spacecraft also reveal information about Earth, such as the height of forests, the character of ice floes and the presence of earthquake-prone fault lines.
• "Tools and Techniques, Risks and Rewards" (3:25) compares the staffing and organization of an early Mariner mission to the more recent (1997) Pathfinder mission to Mars. We learn that project teams are now smaller in numbers, more diverse in character, with women in many leadership roles. Spacecraft are also changing in size and design.
• In "The Next Generation" (4:32) we see possible future missions to comets and computer animation of the TIMED spacecraft (designed to study previously uncharacterized portions of Earth's upper atmosphere). The program concludes with the thought, paraphrasing astronomer George Wald, that curious, committed, questing humans are the solar system's "way to understand itself." The series ends with an echo of its opening words, describing the solar system as our cosmic neighborhood, our home in the vast Universe of time and space.

Mars mission designer Wayne Lee, from JPL, explains how planetary mission are based on the principles of optics and motion discovered by Isaac Newton, and an understanding of planetary orbits dating back even farther, to Johannes Kepler. On a tour of JPL, Wayne Lee and Mars 2003 Exploration Rover systems engineer, Rob Manning, compare the giant Galileo and Cassini spacecraft with the miniaturized instruments and spacecraft being prepared for future missions. Lee explains that for all the high technology, space missions remain risky, and that it takes ingenuity to understand the telemetry coming back from distant planets. Chris Chyba predicts that the next 2 decades will be among the most exciting in the entire space age since they will likely include the development of catalogs of solar systems beyond our own. Wayne Lee notes that the International Space Station is already in orbit, and that this and other space stations will soon be permanently inhabited. Claudia Alexander predicts the discovery of life beyond Earth, and the first human missions to Mars. She suggests that this will need people interested in new technologies and innovative machines, as well as scientific research. Wayne Lee closes by saying that, for him, exploring the solar system is as exciting as being in the 4th down, with 2 seconds left to play, in the Super Bowl!