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Mission Day Storyline
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Post-Brief Questions
Communication Center

Mission Day Storyline

Here is an outline for how the mission typically runs over the 60-75 minute time frame. All times given here are approximate. The mission may run shorter or longer depending on decisions students make.


t-minus 20 minutes
Classroom links with The Challenger Learning Center’s simulated Mission Control.

t-minus 10 minutes
Students arrive. Double check for all team materials, Internet connectivity and make team replacement for any absences.

t-minus 5 minutes
The main communicator or teacher should ask for the attention of the entire room and come up with a class name for the mission, such as “Operation New Frontier”.

Mission Control will display a password for logging onto the
mission website. If the computers are not already on the correct web site, open your internet browser and go to

Type in the team name.
Type in the password (given by Mission Control).

The Mission Control Flight Director reviews the communications protocols with the communicators.

t-minus 0 minutes
The Flight Director begins the mission. All students should be watching and listening to the Flight Director (you may want to turn the lights down for this).

The Story:
The Flight Director informs the students that NASA needs their help with a possible emergency situation with a lost space ship, the Distant Discovery. It was traveling to the outer planets and lost their navigation systems aboard their ship! They are unable to steer their ship and their communications systems are so weak Earth is receiving only pieces of information about its location.

The Flight Director sets the scenario:
The year is 2080 and NASA has permanent research bases on both the Moon and Mars. From these bases astronaut scientists can study stars and planets and continue to search for possible life outside Earth.

Exploration vessels routinely take off from the Moon and Mars to conduct research. Flybys of planets and moons yield valuable information and will tell us if the establishment of more research stations is possible. The exploration missions also look for and track any comets, asteroids, or meteoroids which may potentially harm the Earth or our bases.

As scientists in Mars Mission Control, NASA needs the students to prepare for the arrival of a space ship that is launching from the lunar base. The space ship is on a rescue mission. The rescue ship just launched from the Moon will hopefully bring the two- astronaut crew back to the Mars station safely. The rescue ship will have to stop at the Mars base to pick up the supplies needed for the rescue of the astronauts and for the trip back to Mars.

The students have a lot to do before the rescue ship arrives at the Mars station. They are divided into teams to work more effectively on the rescue. The teams are based on the five planets in our outer solar system, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, with an additional team working to communicate the results of the team work directly to Earth Mission Control.

The Flight Director tells the students that we know the Distant Discovery visited one outer planet per day and did not return to that planet. All teams now prepare to start work on their handouts.

t-plus 5 minutes—t-plus 50 minutes
All teams work on the various team tasks. Students download the first data from their team computers and begin cargo calculations, decoding of messages, or plotting x,y coordinates. Communicators relay information to Mission Control.

As the teams finish each set of Task Cards, information and data is relayed to Mission Control for verification. Specialist Teams leave their Planet Teams to come together and check their progress and discuss any problems they may have.

Data is posted on the coordinate graph in front of the room or on the Problem-Solving Chart as students work through the five days of information to find the lost ship. Charts, maps, and graphs can be found here .

t-plus 50 minutes—t plus 60 minutes
The Flight Director calls for all Navigation and Transmissions Specialists to come up to the charts at the front of the room for a final discussion of the exact location of the Distant Discovery.

After the brief discussion, the Flight Director calls for a final answer on the location of the lost ship. Hopefully, the class answers correctly and the Flight Director congratulates the teams for their wonderful work.

The Cargo Team (from the correct planet) is asked to read the number of crates of food, water, and oxygen from the wall chart to verify the amount of food, water, and oxygen that needs shipped.

The students watch the video as the rescue ship launches from Mars on its way to the lost astronauts. They watch as the ship docks with the Distant Discovery, the hatch opens, and the lost astronauts join the astronauts of the rescue ship.

t-plus 65 minutes
A post-brief session for the mission occurs with each group of specialists coming together to answer
questions about the mission.

The mission concludes with more congratulations and a video of the astronauts on the Distant Discovery.

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The Challenger Learning Center’s innovative program for digital learning, the e-Mission™, provides teachers with curriculum aligned with state and national standards and a mission conducted via distance learning. e-Missions are designed around best practice models and principles derived from the latest educational research.

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