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.
PLEASE DO NOT DISCLOSE THIS INFORMATION TO STUDENTS
t-minus 20 minutes
Classroom links with The Challenger Learning Center’s simulated Mission
t-minus 10 minutes
Students arrive. Double check for all team materials,
Internet connectivity and make team replacement for
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
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 http://www.e-missions.net/mmab/data.
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 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
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
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.