Celebrating Space Exploration

Celebrating Space Exploration Image Credit: NASA.
On July 29, 1958, President Eisenhower signed into law the National Aeronautics and Space Act, which provided federal funding for research into space flight. Just over two months later, on Oct. 1, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) began operations. They responded quickly to the gauntlet thrown down by the Soviet Union with the 1957 launch of Sputnik and set to work exploring the universe around us. A little more than a decade after being created, NASA successfully sent men to the Moon.

Inspired by every new victory and challenged by each setback, NASA continues to explore the limits of space, sending regular missions out to seek new answers about what lies beyond our ken. These include the ongoing construction of the International Space Station, missions (such as Galileo, Cassini/Huygens, and Messenger) to explore the other planets of our solar system, explorations of comets and asteroids, and mapping the universe using satellites and telescopes from around the world.

These Science NetLinks resources provide a variety of rich media learning experiences to help students learn more about NASA and discover the history and future of space travel.
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  • Cooler in the Shadows

    Cooler in the Shadows

    K-2  |  Hands-On
    In this lesson, students will make inferences about the cause of shadows by observing and making their own shadows in the sun.
  • Lunar Cycle

    Lunar Cycle

    K-2  |  Interactive
    This lesson offers activity ideas and discussion questions to facilitate students' learning about the phases of the Moon.
  • Sky 1: Objects in the Sky

    Sky 1: Objects in the Sky

    K-2  |  Hands-On
    In this lesson, students will investigate objects in the daytime and nighttime sky
  • Sky 4: The Moon

    Sky 4: The Moon

    K-2  |  Hands-On
    Students draw the moon's shape for each evening on a calendar and then determine the pattern in the shapes over several weeks.
  • Star Search

    Star Search

    K-2  |  Hands-On
    In this lesson students observe stars in the night sky and record their observations.
  • Gravity Launch

    Gravity Launch

    3-5  |  Interactive
    In this lesson, students will explore how the earth’s and moon’s gravity affects the path of a rocket launched into space.
  • Gravity Launch Mobile

    Gravity Launch Mobile

    3-5  |  Interactive
    In this lesson, students explore how the earth's and moon's gravity affect the path of a rocket launched into space.
  • Sensing Energy

    Sensing Energy

    In this lesson, students will perform simple experiments that will help them to explore unseen energy produced by the sun.
  • Looking into Space

    Looking into Space

    In this lesson, students will learn how telescopes work, will build a model of their own, and will consider how real telescopes can be used to ask—and help answer—questions about the universe.
  • Make a Mission

    Make a Mission

    6-8  |  Interactive
    The focus of the lesson is technology, not only how it allows humans to collect scientific data and information on a faraway terrestrial planet, but also the constraints involved in designing the spacecraft to carry this technology.
  • Mission: Mars

    Mission: Mars

    6-8  |  Audio
    In this lesson, students will use Internet resources to write a mock Wikipedia entry on the many ways technology is central to traveling to, working, and living on Mars.
  • Mercury


    In this lesson, students will have the chance to view the solar system and identify the sun and planets that compose it.
  • Satellite Orbits

    Satellite Orbits

    In this lesson, students refine and expand their understandings of gravity, forces, and motion in the context of satellite orbits.
  • Snow Goggles

    Snow Goggles

    6-8  |  Hands-On
    This lesson illustrates how the use of scientific inquiry can solve different kinds of problems, like blocking unwanted sunlight.
  • The Sun

    The Sun

    6-8  |  Hands-On
    This lesson introduces students to our local star, the sun, especially its structure and its features such as sun spots, magnetic fields, and solar flares.
  • Team Moon

    Team Moon

    In this lesson, students will first read Team Moon and then divide into teams to further investigate one of the challenges of the Apollo 11 mission.
  • Behind the Mission to Mercury

    Behind the Mission to Mercury

    9-12  |  Interactive
    In this lesson, students explore the technological design challenges and constraints behind a space mission.
  • Black Holes

    Black Holes

    9-12  |  Website
    To introduce black holes and demonstrate how space telescopes can provide data to support current hypotheses.
  • Dangers of Radiation Exposure

    Dangers of Radiation Exposure

    In this lesson, students learn about sources of high-energy radiation and calculate student exposure to ionizing radiation over the past year.
  • How Old Are the Stars?

    How Old Are the Stars?

    9-12  |  Hands-On
    In this lesson, students examine the Jewelbox cluster, located within the southern constellation Crux, and determine its age using a relationship between temperature, color, and luminosity.
  • Rocket Launch

    Rocket Launch

    9-12  |  Hands-On
    In this lesson, students will explore design considerations of model rockets.
  • Star Light, Star Bright

    Star Light, Star Bright

    9-12  |  Video
    This lesson will help high-school students understand how star brightness in the night sky is classified by various orders of magnitude. It uses the GoSkyWatch Planetarium app to help students look at stars in the night sky and determine apparent magnitude and distances of various stars in the night sky.
  • Sunspots 1: A Look at Sunspots

    Sunspots 1: A Look at Sunspots

    In this lesson, students will learn how the development of new technology has increased our knowledge of how the sun works.

Science Updates

  • Astronaut Health Risks

    Astronaut Health Risks

    6-12  |  Audio
    Astronauts on long-term space missions may face health risks that their predecessors didn't have to worry about. These Science Update reports describe two of them.
  • Dinosaur-Killing Asteroid

    Dinosaur-Killing Asteroid

    6-12  |  Audio
    Scientists have identified the event that probably created the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs. This Science Update takes a closer look at the research.
  • Faces in Space

    Faces in Space

    6-12  |  Audio
    In this Science Update, you'll hear about a proposed system to spot signs of burnout on marathon space flights.
  • Gas Giant Origins

    Gas Giant Origins

    6-12  |  Audio
    This Science Update discusses how planets called gas giants form.
  • Mars 500 Mission

    Mars 500 Mission

    6-12  |  Audio
    A crew of six volunteers has embarked on a simulated, 520-day Mars mission.
  • Mars Hotel

    Mars Hotel

    6-12  |  Audio
    Hear about research to try to make long distance space travel more comfortable for astronauts.
  • Rail Space Launcher

    Rail Space Launcher

    6-12  |  Audio
    In this Science Update, find out why giving spacecraft a running start on a long rail may significantly reduce launch costs.
  • SETI at Home Upgrade

    SETI at Home Upgrade

    6-12  |  Audio
    SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, is looking for more recruits to hunt for aliens with their home computers.
  • Solar Power from Moon

    Solar Power from Moon

    6-12  |  Audio
    Solar power is clean, abundant, and becoming cheaper and more efficient all the time. Unfortunately, however, the sun isn't always there when you need it—like when it's cloudy, or it's raining, or it's nighttime. In this Science Update, you'll hear about an ambitious plan to get around that problem.
  • Tilted Earth

    Tilted Earth

    6-12  |  Audio
    In this Science Update, learn how the earth got tilted on its axis.
  • Waving to Aliens

    Waving to Aliens

    6-12  |  Audio
    Scientists are debating whether or not we should actively try to contact intelligent extraterrestrials.


  • Lunar Cycle 2: The Challenge

    Lunar Cycle 2: The Challenge

    K-5  |  Interactive
    This activity allows you to "drag" pictures of different phases of the moon to their correct places in lunar cycles.
  • Lunar Cycle 1: Calendar

    Lunar Cycle 1: Calendar

    K-5  |  Interactive
    This tool includes printable calendars where you can record your observations of the moon. In addition, it provides illustrations of the phases of the moon (a full lunar cycle) that can be printed and cut out for a hands-on activity where you can place the phases of the moon in the correct order on a calendar.
  • Amazing Space

    Amazing Space

    K-12  |  Website
    Amazing Space uses the Hubble Space Telescope’s discoveries to encourage you to learn about the universe.
  • GoSkyWatch Planetarium App

    GoSkyWatch Planetarium App

    3-12  |  Interactive
    GoSkyWatch Planetarium allows you to identify and locate stars, planets, constellations, and more by touching the screen or by pointing to the sky.
  • Gravity Launch

    Gravity Launch

    3-12  |  Interactive
    Gravity Launch is an interactive activity that allows you to virtually launch a rocket into space to see how the force of gravity can pull an object toward the earth and moon.
  • Gravity Launch App

    Gravity Launch App

    3-12  |  Interactive
    Gravity Launch is an app where you try to get a rocket to its destination to learn about gravity.
  • Planets App

    Planets App

    3-12  |  Interactive
    The Planets App, by Q Continuum, provides several different ways for you to get information about objects in the sky.
  • Star Search

    Star Search

    3-8  |  Interactive
    This interactive encourages students to find constellations in the night sky of the four seasons.
  • Day on Mercury

    Day on Mercury

    6-12  |  Interactive
    A Day on Mercury allows the user to experience a typical Mercurian day, which is actually 176 Earth days.
  • Fact Challenge

    Fact Challenge

    6-12  |  Interactive
    This interactive activity challenges you with questions about Mercury.
  • NASA Visualization Explorer App

    NASA Visualization Explorer App

    6-12  |  Interactive
    The NASA Visualization Explorer provides visualizations, animations, and images of our sun and the universe.
  • Sizing Up the Universe

    Sizing Up the Universe

    6-8  |  Video
    This interactive from the Smithsonian Institution helps you visualize the scale and distances between objects in our solar system.
  • GeoHunter


    6-8  |  Interactive
    This interactive provides you with data about the geological structure of the planet Mercury.
  • Make a Mission

    Make a Mission

    6-12  |  Interactive
    In this interactive, you should build a spacecraft in order to explore the planet Mercury—just as the NASA team did when they planned and built the real MESSENGER spacecraft!
  • Orbit & Rotation

    Orbit & Rotation

    6-12  |  Interactive
    This resource is an animation showing the orbit and rotation of Mercury around the sun.
  • Places in the Sun

    Places in the Sun

    6-12  |  Interactive
    This animation allows you to see a side-by-side comparison of the sun on Earth and Mercury.
  • Planet Size Comparison

    Planet Size Comparison

    6-12  |  Interactive
    In this animation, you can find out the dimensions for each planet as well as how they compare in size.
  • Hubble Top 100 App

    Hubble Top 100 App

    6-12  |  Interactive
    This app from the ESA Hubble Space Telescope site helps you enter the world of the Hubble Space Telescope.
  • NASA Kids' Club

    NASA Kids' Club

    K-5  |  Website
    NASA Kids is an excellent site for "kids" of all ages and provides an abundance of information, images, and interesting things to do on astronomy and the space sciences.
  • Rocket Science 101 App

    Rocket Science 101 App

    5-8  |  Interactive
    With NASA's Rocket Science 101 app, you get to be a NASA rocket scientist and design and launch a rocket into space.
  • NASA GLOBE Observer App

    NASA GLOBE Observer App

    K-12  |  Interactive
    GLOBE Observer app invites you to make environmental observations that complement NASA satellite observations to help scientists studying Earth and the global environment.


  • Planetfall

    3-12  |  Video
    Michael Benson discusses the Planetfall art exhibition.
  • Images of Our Solar System

    6-12  |  Video
    Artist Michael Benson and planetary scientist Dr. Nancy Chabot discuss the intersection of art and science at the opening of the Planetfall art exhibition.
  • Suit Up: 50 Years of Spacewalks

    3-12  |  Video
    This NASA documentary celebrates 50 years of extravehicular activity (EVA) or spacewalks that began in 1965 and continue to this day.
  • Pluto on the Horizon

    6-12  |  Video
    An interview with Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator, about the upcoming Pluto encounter and what is next for his NASA spacecraft.
  • NASA Pumps Up Prospects for Inflatable Spacecraft

    6-12  |  Video
    NASA has seen the future, and it is inflatable. Find out what makes pumped-up ships so intriguing that the agency is deploying one to the International Space Station in the spring of 2016.

AAAS Resources

Spotlight on Space Exploration
Grade Band: 6-12
Description: This collection of audio podcasts from Science Update offers students the opportunity to hear from NASA and its partners, as they explore worlds both near and far.

The End of an Era
Grade Band: 6-12
Description: Learn more about Discovery's history and its various accomplishments in this blog post.

World Space Week
Grade Band: 6-12
Description: Check out this blog post about the annual, worldwide festival celebrating space exploration.

Science Magazine's Breakthrough of the Year
Grade Band: 6-12
Description: Learn more in this blog post about the 2014 scientific breakthrough deemed most important by Science Magazine.

A Brush with Greatness
Grade Band: 6-12
Description: A testimony in blog format to the end of the space shuttle era.

Rest in Peace, Sally Ride: The First American Woman in Space
Grade Band: 6-12
Description: A blog remembrance post about the importance of astronaut Sally Ride.

Other Resources

50 Years of Space—Two Pioneers Look Back
Grade Band: 3-12
Description: This YouTube video by the European Space Agency looks 50 years of the space program. Sigmund Jähn and Vladimir Remek, former cosmonauts for the Soviet Intercosmos program, talk about their experiences in the beginning of the Space Age.

50 Years since Sputnik
Grade Band: 6-12
Description: 50 Years Since Sputnik allows students to explore a diagram of the satellite itself as well as a timeline of space exploration.

NASA's 50th Anniversary
Grade Band: 6-12
Description: NASA's official site marking the anniversary of its founding.

New Moon: Reds Launch First Space Satellite
Grade Band: 6-12
Description: An old newsreel clip featuring an animation on the launch of Sputnik.

Space Race: The Untold Story
Grade Band: 6-12
Description: This is a companion website to National Geographic’s special on the space race.

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