« Return to AACT homepage

AACT Member-Only Content

You have to be an AACT member to access this content, but good news: anyone can join!


Need Help?

Working for NASA (0 Favorites)

PROJECT in Physical Properties, Interdisciplinary, Chemical Properties. Last updated June 30, 2020.


Summary

In this project, students will take on the role of a NASA employee on a mission to discover what resources humans need in order to survive on another planet inside of our solar system as well as an exoplanet outside of our solar system. Students will research the materials and resources needed to sustain life on Earth and compare these to another planet and exoplanet to determine if they can possibly be habitable and sustain life.

Grade Level

High School

NGSS Alignment

This project will help prepare your students to meet the following scientific and engineering practices:

  • HS-ESS1-1: Develop a model based on evidence to illustrate the life span of the sun and the role of nuclear fusion in the sun’s core to release energy that eventually reaches Earth in the form of radiation.
  • HS-ESS1-2: Construct an explanation of the Big Bang theory based on astronomical evidence of light spectra, motion of distant galaxies, and composition of matter in the universe.
  • HS-ESS1-3: Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.

Objectives

By the end of this project, students should be able to:

  • Recognize and list each planet in our solar system by name
  • Understand the physical and chemical characteristics of each planet
  • Define a light year
  • Explain what an exoplanet is
  • Discuss necessary characteristics needed for habitability and sustainability for life
  • Evaluate the possibility of inhabiting an exoplanet if humans had the technology to get there

Chemistry Topics

This project supports students’ understanding of:

  • Physical properties
  • Chemical properties
  • Planets in our solar system
  • Exoplanets
  • Necessities for human life

Time

Teacher Preparation: 30-40 minutes
Lesson: 3-5 days

Materials

  • Computers/device with internet access (at least one per group)
  • PowerPoint, Google Slides, or a Prezi account

Safety

  • No specific safety precautions need to be observed for this activity.

Teacher Notes

  • This project was originally designed as an activity for elementary and middle school students, Astronaut on a Mission. This lab is a modification, inspired by that resource, for use in the high school classroom as part of the AACT Strategic Plan and the work of the AACT Grade-Level Ambassadors.
  • This project can be done during class time or outside as a homework assignment. If done outside of class time, give the students ample time to complete it since they will be also doing homework for all of their other classes.
  • Groups of 3-4 students is recommended.
  • Depending on class numbers, if possible, try to not have any planets or exoplanets repeated in the same class. They can, however, be repeated between different classes. Students can sign up on a paper or electronic sign-up sheet.
  • Here are the planets that students can choose from:
    • Mercury
    • Venus
    • Earth
    • Mars
    • Jupiter
    • Saturn
    • Uranus
    • Neptune
    • Pluto
  • Here are the exoplanets that students can choose from:
    • Proxima Centauri b
    • Gliese 667 Cc
    • Kepler-442b
    • Kepler-452b
    • Wolf 1061c
    • Kepler-1229b
    • Kapteyn b
    • Kepler-62f
    • Kepler-186f
    • Luyten b
    • TRAPPIST-1d
    • TRAPPIST-1e
    • TRAPPIST-1f
    • TRAPPIST-1g
    • LHS 1140 b
    • Kepler-1638b
    • Teegarden c
  • The teacher can decide if there are specific websites that are not reputable enough to use for student research. I allow my students to use all websites including Wikipedia as long as they can verify with another website that the data is accurate.
  • Here are some websites that you and your students might find useful:
  • Students will present their research and recommendations in class. They can do this by using PowerPoint or another presentation program, or they can make a video about moving to a new planet, etc. Be sure to remind students to share this with you prior to their in-class presentation.
  • A rubric will be used for grading. Each group member should receive the same grade, unless extenuating circumstances arise. In addition, students should also complete a self-assessment using the grading rubric and submit to you on the project due date.
  • If doing this project in an environmental science course, climate change can also be introduced as a factor in humans’ need to discover a new habitable planet.

For the Student

Lesson

Background

In this project, you will take on the role of a NASA employee on a mission to discover what resources humans need in order to survive on another planet inside of our solar system as well as an exoplanet outside of our solar system. You will research the materials and resources needed to sustain life on Earth and compare these to another planet and exoplanet to determine if they can possibly be habitable and sustain life.

Terms to Know

These vocabulary words should be studied before your start your project. You will need to incorporate them into your project using research:

  • Habitable
  • Sustainable
  • Physical properties
  • Chemical properties
  • Temperature
  • Mass
  • Density
  • Revolve
  • Rotate
  • Atmosphere
  • Sun
  • Moon
  • Constellation
  • Galaxy
  • Planet
  • Solar system
  • Astrology
  • Telescope
  • Celestial
  • Seasons
  • Exoplanet

Project Instructions

  1. You will play the role of an astronaut. In this role, you are the person at NASA that is in charge of researching and gathering data about each planet and exoplanet, in order to ultimately sustain life on another planet.
  2. You will need to research and identify the physical and chemical properties of Earth in terms of being habitable and capable of sustaining life.
  3. You will then research and identify the physical and chemical properties of one other planet in our solar system in terms of being habitable and capable of sustaining life. You will be signing up with your teacher to select one of these planets:
    • Mercury
    • Venus
    • Earth
    • Mars
    • Jupiter
    • Saturn
    • Uranus
    • Neptune
    • Pluto
  4. You will also need to research and identify the physical and chemical properties of one planet outside of our solar system in terms of being habitable and capable of sustaining life. You will be signing up with your teacher to select one of these planets:
    • Proxima Centauri b
    • Gliese 667 Cc
    • Kepler-442b
    • Kepler-452b
    • Wolf 1061c
    • Kepler-1229b
    • Kapteyn b
    • Kepler-62f
    • Kepler-186f
    • Luyten b
    • TRAPPIST-1d
    • TRAPPIST-1e
    • TRAPPIST-1f
    • TRAPPIST-1g
    • LHS 1140 b
    • Kepler-1638b
    • Teegarden
  5. These two planets’ properties will be compared to Earth’s properties to discuss the possibility of sustaining life and being habitable for humans.
  6. Here are some examples of the information to be discussed during the presentation or video:
    • Resources that are needed to sustain life anywhere
    • Why Earth is habitable and capable of sustaining life
    • Mass, diameter, and density of the planet and exoplanet
    • Temperature of the planet and exoplanet at the surface
    • Weather and seasonal information of the planet and exoplanet
    • Gases that make up the atmosphere of the planet and exoplanet
    • Distance of the planet and exoplanet from their suns
    • How long one day on the planet and exoplanet is in Earth days
    • A comparison of the planet and exoplanet to Earth in terms of habitability and sustainability
  7. Make a group decision on which presentation method to use, presentation program or pre-recorded video. Be sure to share this with your teacher before your in-class presentation.
    • If using a presentation program, make your slides interesting with lots of pictures, GIFs, graphics, colors, etc.
    • Your presentation should be 8-10 minutes.
    • All group members must take part in the oral presentation.
    • Do not read from your slides, but you may use notecards if you like. Your slides should be an accompaniment to your presentation.
    • Practice before the day of your presentation.
    • Be sure to include a works cited or bibliography in MLA format.
  8. Refer to the rubric on the next page for grading information.
    • Your teacher will fill out the rubric during and after your presentation and then give it back to you with your grade. Each group member receives the same grade, unless extenuating circumstances arise.
    • In addition, you will complete a self-assessment using the grading rubric and submit to your teacher on the project due date.