Humans and Space Science

September 2018: Space

Are we alone in the universe?


One of the interesting things about being human at present is watching our knowledge of the universe increase. Struggling to understand things that are much bigger than ourselves is something that many people do. There are many ways we can study space, with both Earth-based and space-based observations.

A list of space observatories can be found here. Many of these observatories offer public family programming at reasonable costs, some of which may be appropriate for your young scientists. For some engaging games about space, check out NASA’s Kids Club. Background information about the games and how they align with national standards can be found here.

Observatories in space are outside Earth’s atmosphere and experience fewer distortions. If your young scientists would like to visit an observatory for themselves, a list of Earth-based observatories can be found here. The first sighting of Saturn or Jupiter through a telescope is something most people find memorable.

Picture of an astronautThere are also a number of ongoing missions to planets and space-based objects. A list of all missions (planned or achieved) to objects within our solar system can be found here. There are currently six humans in space (five men and one woman) aboard the International Space Station. Two of the men are Russian, one is German, and two are American. The woman, Dr. Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor, is also American.

The big news this month is the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Hayabusa 2 mission to the asteroid Ryugu. Two robot rovers have been successfully landed on this asteroid that is approximately 1 km in diameter. The first color images from the rovers are starting to come in as of this writing. You can view the current status of the Hayabusa 2 mission here.

The purpose of the Hayabusa 2 mission is to explore the potential of eventually mining asteroids. There are a number of other missions planned or underway to investigate resources on asteroids. One of these potential resources is water, which could be used as rocket fuel directly or split into hydrogen or oxygen. Other targets include precious metals and heavy metals. If your young scientists are interested in asteroid mining as a career, they can now get a graduate degree in space resources from the Colorado School of Mines.

Humans are also looking at the potential for a crewed expedition to Mars. There are three organizations making plans for such an expedition, which could happen as soon as 2024. It is safe to say that the number of career opportunities in space will continue to grow, and possibly some of your young scientists will live and work in space. To help pique their interest in space, a list of activities and resources can be found here. A list of good books about space can be found here.

Get Involved!

If you’ve got a topic you’d like to see discussed in this newsletter, an activity or demonstration that worked for you, or any other comments or suggestions, email the editor, Becky Stewart, at We’d love to hear from you.

Be sure to check out NSTA’s Outstanding Science Tradebooks for Students K–12: 2018 (books published in 2017), for a great means of building literacy skills and learning science content!


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