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 Mission Day

How to Set up the Classroom

What Happens During the Simulation

Communications Center

Mission Day Answer Key

Post-Brief Questions

What Happens During the Simulation

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 min.
Classroom links with the Challenger Learning Center's simulated Mission Control.

t-minus 10 min.
Students arrive and double-check for all team materials and Internet connectivity and make team replacements for any absences.

t-minus 5 min.
The Communications Specialists should ask for the attention of the entire room and come up with a team name for the mission, such as "Operation New Frontier." Mission Control should give the Communications Specialists a password for logging into the Communications Center. Once they do, all teams should get online. If the computers are not already on the correct web site, open Internet Explorer and go to

At this point the Communication Specialists log in and begin their chat with Mission Control. The Mission Control Flight Director reviews the communications protocols with the Communications Officer.

For the other specialists:

Select the appropriate specialist type. You should see a message that says, "Connecting to Satellite." Now you should wait until the mission begins and the Flight Director signals all teams to examine the data. The Investigations Specialists will receive new real-time data every 10 minutes or so.

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

The Story:
Students begin the mission expecting to assist astronauts during a routine fire drill on the lunar base. During the drill astronauts discover an actual fire in progress within a storage module. During the past 17 years of construction and existence of the base, no such incident has ever occurred. Although this is an unpleasant surprise, the astronauts and Mission Control realize that the fire is an excellent opportunity to conduct fire suppression research. Several sensors had been installed when the module was constructed, so there is ample data to analyze.

Once the data is collected, Mission Control starts sending to the classroom a set of data that shows what the original conditions (for some variables) should have been, and the actual condition (for the result variables). The students will plug all these values into a fire simulator.

The data will represent readings from different sensors, and it will come to the student in the form of clues.

Step 1
Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide Specialists receive information coming from the five different sensors placed on the lunar base storage unit. It seems that the sensors have been somehow damaged during the fire because the readings do not show exactly the same numbers. The teams will need to estimate the real values using statistical analysis (mean, median, mode, box-and-whiskers plots).

The sensors will compile information about oxygen percentage per volume and carbon dioxide per volume.

The values found on the statistical analysis are going to be used to compare with the results coming from the fire simulator. When the two of them match, the teams will have found the cause of the fire.

At the same time that Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide Specialists are analyzing the results from the sensors, the Investigation Specialists will receive a map of the storage unit to calculate the room volume. This team will also receive the other probable initial setting of the fire simulator: percent of oxygen, heat release rate, and the possible fire source.

Step 2
The CO2 and O2 Specialists run the simulator with the given room volume. The simulator will return seven runs of output data. This team will need to perform statistical analysis over this output to compare with the data compiled from the sensors. Meanwhile, the Investigations Specialists will receive a graph of oxygen vs. time. They need to study the graph to determine the actual percent of oxygen present at the start of the fire.

Step 3
The Carbon Dioxide and Oxygen Specialists will run the simulator with the updated value of oxygen. They will repeat the process of statistical analysis. The Investigations Specialists will receive a graph of heat release. They will study this graph and determine the average heat rate release over time. The Carbon Dioxide and Oxygen Specialists will again run the simulator with the new heat rate release value.

Step 4
The Investigations Specialists will receive 3D pictures of various materials that could be the source of the fire. They are also given the sides burning. They must calculate the heat rate release value for each possible fire source. They should be able to discard some of the materials automatically and save some time by not running these calculations.

The Carbon Dioxide and Oxygen Specialists will process the four runs using the fire simulator. They will then determine the source of the fire by comparing all the runs with the initial sensor or baseline data.

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