Teachers' Home Student Pages


Overview Lessons & Materials Pre Mission Prep. Mission Day Assessment Student Pages

Mission Day

Mission Day

Student Login

Data Answer Key

Mission Day Tips

Post Brief Questions

Description Of Mission Day Events  

I. Introduction
On Mission Day, the students should be prepared with solid background information about the overall mission. They will have had specific training in their particular team assignment, or “area of expertise.” Prior to the official start of the mission, the Flight Director will review communication protocols with the Communications Team. This will help facilitate a smooth exchange of information, both verbally and via the chat window. Once the mission begins, the Flight Director at Mission Control will provide the students with a brief overview and introduction to their tasks. They will be introduced to the crew prior to liftoff, and then the mission will get under way.

II. General Story Line
The Shuttle Discovery is in its final stages before lift-off. It will transport the Expedition Two crew to Space Station Alpha. The Expedition Two crew will be the second team of astronauts to make the space station their home. Once the shuttle rendezvous with the station, they will link up and begin the process of changing crews. If all goes well, the Expedition Two crew will take over the duties of running the space station, and the Expedition One crew will return to earth.

Unfortunately, all does not go well. Immediately following docking, Mission Control receives an urgent bulletin from the Space Weather Center in Boulder, CO, informing them that another huge solar storm is imminent. As the sun makes its next rotation, a solar proton event is likely. This should occur within the next few hours. Therefore, the hatches between the shuttle and the station will need to remain closed until further notice. The Shuttle crew and Expedition Two crew are safer in the shuttle where they are more adequately protected from solar radiation.

The focus of the mission will be to, first and foremost, protect the Expedition One crew currently on board the space station and minimize their exposure to radiation. The Crisis Management Team will have to maintain power levels, keep the space station in its proper orbit, and safeguard the research experiments that are currently in progress on board the space station.

Each student team will be asked to download a URL that will begin the data stream for their team. Every five to six minutes, each team will receive new data that will require calculations, conversions, and subsequent recommendations for the space station crew. They will be responsible for developing an action plan and communicating it to the rest of the teams. They must take into consideration the interrelationships between the space station’s systems. For this reason, communication among the teams is critical for a successful mission.

III. Individual Team Story Lines
A. STORM Team’s Story Line
The STORM Team’s job is to predict space weather. They will be tracking X-ray and proton activity to determine if and when the solar storm will hit the space station. This team serves as the early-alert team and should be prepared to warn and inform the other teams and Mission Control if they see any cause for concern.

Within the first few readings at UTC 15:20 and 15:40, the STORM team will see a spike in the X-ray data. Graphing is critical for this team. Graphs serve as a visual aid and help them predict an increase in radioactive protons. They should anticipate the jump in protons to come about 2-3 readings later, or 20-50 minutes, in real-time, after the X-ray spike. The proton data reflects this as it begins to increase at UTC 16:40. Anticipating the arrival of protons to the space station is their main concern. This event has implications for all of the other student teams. They should take the initiative to warn the other teams, especially the Radiation Team; but if they don’t, they will be prompted by Mission Control to do so.

Another more serious X-ray spike occurs at UTC 17:00 and 17:20. This will cause the proton level to remain at critical levels for almost the remainder of the mission. This crisis is the impetus for the Radiation Team to implement shielding procedures.

The STORM Team will also be looking at the severity of the X-ray and proton levels and comparing their data to the descriptors on the space weather scale found in their Reference Guide. They will use this information to inform the other teams of the potential ramifications of a storm of this magnitude.

B. Radiation Team’s Story Line
The Radiation Team’s job is to monitor the radiation levels from the two TEPC (Tissue Equivalent Proportional Counter) monitors on board the station. TEPC 1 is portable. It can be moved from place to place with the crew. The stationary TEPC, which we call TEPC 2, is located in the U.S. Destiny Laboratory on the end of the station closest to the sun. The Team will track the levels of radiation from both TEPCs and alert Mission Control if they see levels approaching the danger zone. This team is also responsible for making any shielding recommendations for the crew.

The Radiation Team will have a few readings before they start to see the radiation levels rise dramatically. The increases in both the TEPC 1 and TEPC 2 data will coincide with the warning that they should receive from the STORM Team. They will be making projections regarding the total dose that the crew may receive in a 24-hour period and comparing this information to the “Effects Chart” found in their Reference Guide. This should serve to emphasize the urgency of their role in the mission.

When the TEPCs register their first big jump, at UTC 15:40, the team should begin considering recommendations. The first course of action is to suggest re-orienting the space station from an LVLH to an XPOP orientation. This is something that needs to be discussed with the Crisis Management Team. It will cause an initial drain on the power supply.

At UTC 17:00 the radiation levels become even more alarming and the differences between the stationary and portable TEPC become more pronounced. This should be the impetus for the team to implement the ALARA guidelines and make shielding recommendations. Expected recommendations could include placing all the astronauts into the Zvezda module, farthest from the sun, building an “igloo” of polyethylene shielding and crawling inside, and transferring and strapping water containers into place for additional shielding. Zvezda is probably the safest choice because the crew’s sleeping stations are there and the polyethylene shielding is designed to fit in this module. It is critical to have a shielding plan in place by UTC 17:20. If they are not making recommendations, they will be prompted to do so by Mission Control.

The Radiation Team should experience some satisfaction as they see the radiation levels begin to drop, around UTC 18:20. They should compare the levels of the two TEPCs and note that the portable TEPC that is with the crew is considerably lower than the unshielded TEPC in Destiny. However, they will need to assess the damage that may have occurred to the crew as a result of the radiation exposure when they were not shielded.

C. Life Support Team’s Story Line
The Life Support Team’s job is to monitor the living environment on Space Station Alpha. They will receive readings from sensors on board for oxygen and carbon dioxide, as well as for total air pressure. It is critical that all of these readings remain in the normal range so that the astronauts are living and working in a healthy environment. If after several readings, the conditions are becoming dangerous, they should inform Mission Control and discuss possible solutions to the problem. Their Reference Guide describes various alternatives to maintaining a balanced atmosphere.

The Life Support Team’s data begins fairly quietly since it gives them an opportunity to practice with small decimals. They are working with percentages of oxygen and carbon dioxide that are then converted into millimeters of mercury that is the standard used by most scientists when evaluating atmospheric components.

The carbon dioxide begins to steadily rise. The carbon dioxide level remains above critical levels and continues to rise until 17:20. During this period, the team needs to consider the effectiveness of the available solutions and make recommendations. Possible recommendations include activating the Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly, or checking it to make sure that it’s working, or already in use, and using Lithium Hydroxide Canisters to clean the air.

While the carbon dioxide is rising, the oxygen levels begins to fall. The oxygen levels steadily fall unitl UTC 17:20, and the team needs to make recommendations to correct the problem. Temporary solutions include using perchlorate candles or oxygen masks (PBAs). When making recommendations they should consider that the astronauts are in the midst of a radiation crisis and will be in the process of shielding themselves from rising radiation levels. This may affect their ability to use some of the Life Support Team’s recommendations. Oxygen levels normalize shortly after the crisis at UTC 17:40.

D. Crisis Management Team’s Story Line
The Crisis Management Team is responsible for keeping the class on track during the mission. They must keep all of the teams informed regarding the current status of Space Station Alpha and its crew. They need to be in continual contact with their respective teams and constantly updating the Mission Status Board. This will provide a visual for the teams as well as an up-to-the-minute status report on the crew.

The action for the Crisis Management Team will coincide with the critical periods that the individual teams are experiencing which are as follows:
STORM Team: UTC 15:40 and 17:00
Radiation Team: UTC 16:20 – 18:00
Life Support Team: UTC 16:20 – 17:20 (CO2) and UTC 16:00 – 17:20 (O2)

The challenge for the Crisis Management Team is to negotiate the problems that may arise when teams are experiencing a crisis and making recommendations that impact another team’s ability to function. For example, at UTC 17:00 the Radiation Team is recommending that the crew relocate, probably to Zvezda. At the same time, the Life Support Team may want to activate the Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly to solve the problem of rising carbon dioxide levels. This equipment also requires additional electrical power. The role of the Crisis Management Team is to help the teams work out a solution that will assist both teams in solving their problems.

Because of the unique nature of every mission, there is no hard and fast story line for the Crisis Management Team. What they do is largely dependant upon what the other teams recommend. It is critical, however, that they continue to assert that the space station functions like a body and that all of the systems are inter-related. (This was the object lesson of the application process!) This alone will go a long way towards helping facilitate a successful mission.

IV. Mission Completion
All data begins to stabilize at UTC 17:40 as the solar storm wears itself out. There will be three more readings after that. Each team will, hopefully, be pleased with their action plans and recommendations as they assist the crew to weather the worst solar storm in the last 100 years! They will be asked to prepare a brief post-mission report by answering questions sent to them from Mission Control. A representative will be expected to answer the questions orally through the communications link. This is a great opportunity for all of the students to be able to get a summary of the other team’s challenges.

Finally, the mission will end with a visual of the shuttle crew opening the hatches between the shuttle and the space station. This is a momentous occasion as the Expedition One crew turns over the reins to the Expedition Two crew. The mission ends with the Expedition Two crew beginning another day of living and working in space.

Copyright 2002. Challenger Learning Center at Wheeling Jesuit University. All rights reserved.