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 Mission Day


How to Set up the Classroom

What Happens During the Simulation

Communications Center

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 Team 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 Team a password for logging onto 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

Type in the team name.
Type in the password.

At this point the Data Officer logs in and begins chat with Mission Control. The Flight Director reviews the proper protocol with the Communication's Officer.

For the Other Teams
Select the appropriate team. You should see a message that says, "Connecting to Satellite." Now you should wait about 10 minutes after the mission begins until the Flight Director signals all teams to examine the data. Once every five minutes, new data on the comet will appear on the computer screen. The data comes from telescopes and radar on Earth. Each reading corresponds to a half hour of real time.

t-minus 0 min.
The Flight Director begins the mission. All students should be watching and listening to the Flight Director.

The Story: The year is 2035. Humankind continues to explore the universe. Recently, NASA and its international partners built a permanent base on the Moon. Eventually, NASA will launch manned missions to Mars from there. The main lunar base includes a living area and laboratory. Not far away, lunar astronauts and engineers are building a mine. The mine will produce ilmenite to extract oxygen and helium-3 to export back to Earth.

In addition, there is a mobile lab on its way to the lunar north pole for research. The lab has three modules, and each of them can be separated for transport. One module, the “Habot,” provides living quarters and basic research equipment. The other two are called “Mobitats.” They carry all the equipment and life support supplies for exploration. On any given day around 30 astronauts work and live on the Moon.

On Mission Day all eyes turn to the amazing KC2035 comet. This newly found comet is passing close enough to Earth to be seen with the naked eye. Early reports indicate that it might even hit the moon. However, the point of impact is expected be a safe distance from the lunar bases. The lunar astronauts are excited. This will be a rare opportunity to research comets and their impact as it happens.

Suddenly, NASA's Mission Control gets alarming news. A group of amateur astronomers discover another comet within the tail of the first comet. This comet is darker and much smaller than KC2035. With only two images of the new comet in existence, any predictions about its trajectory are rough. The first estimates indicate that it will strike the moon near the lunar bases in about five hours.

t-plus 5 min.
Student teams need to switch their attention to this new comet.

t-plus 6 min.
Teams begin download of data. Working together, the teams have to determine if the comet will hit the Moon, when this might happen, where the impact point will be, and how much energy the impact will unleash. All of this information will help Mission Control to determine possible emergency plans.

Note: As the teacher, go around to every team and double-check that all teams have logged on and begun the download of data. Each reading represents a simulated time of 30 minutes, beginning at 3 a.m. The readings for the Comet Tracking Team and Moon Mapping Team should change and update about every six minutes. Let Mission Control know if there are any issues with this.

t-plus 10 min.
Check in with the Comet Tracking Team. It is VERY important that one member of the team gives the "ejecta distance" to the Moon Mapping Team as soon as possible. They need this information to begin their calculations. During this time Mission Control will ask the Crisis Management Team for information about the locations of astronauts and equipment.

t-plus 12 min.
The second readings for the Comet Tracking Team and Moon Mapping Team should change and update at this point. All teams should have completed report forms and given those to the Communications Team.

t-plus 18 min. through t-plus 45 min.
Teams continue downloading and calculating. The Moon Mapping Team will calculate the probabilities. As these probabilities are given to the Crisis Management Team, team members should start to worry about the safety of Base A right away. For Bases B and C, they should start to worry around 0400. The worry for Base C should only increase, as the concerns for the others tapers off over time.

t-plus 45-50 min.
The mission concludes with the comet hitting the Moon. Depending on how well the students do before this point, the comet might or might not strike one of the bases. Student teams that do well should suffer no loss of life or equipment.

The Flight Director will, at this point, direct the teams to answer a series of post-brief questions.

t-plus 55 min.
Student teams will report the answers to their post-brief questions. Each team should come up to the communication station so they may all be seen on the screen.

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