CSM Space Exploration Outreach

With a classmate, I created an interactive space exploration trivia game as part of a space exploration elective at the Colorado School of Mines (2008). This presentation was given to 8th grade Gifted and Talented science students at Creighton Middle School in Lakewood, CO. Below, you will find the project notes, game rules, trivia questions, and video used during the presentation. The final project report can be found under "Attachments" at the bottom of this page.  Note that it must be downloaded and viewed with Adobe Reader, free from the Adobe website here.

Creighton Middle School 
75 Independence Street 
Lakewood, CO 80215 

Teacher: Craig Munsart 
Class: Eighth Grade Gifted and Talented Science

November 20, 2008

Feedback given to Dr. Angel Abbud-Madrid, CSM professor, Intro. to Space Exploration:

Dr. Abbud-Madrid
On Nov 20 Katie Smith and Satira Labib came to Creighton Middle School and delivered a period-long program about space. The two girls were well-prepared and seemed very comfortable speaking to the students. They brought several hands-on activities that engaged students in-between the various instructional and informational times. They even brought small gifts for the students that were distributed after the lesson. The class consisted of 15 eighth grade gifted and talented students. The students asked questions and Katie and Satira responded appropriately. The result was a pleasant and informative hour for the students and a great learning experience for Katie and Satira.

They are welcome back anytime.

Craig A. Munsart
7th and 8th grade G/T Science
Creighton Middle School





Multi-Category Trivia Game


Divide the room into four to five groups, depending on class size


The game is similar to Cranium



Build It!





Trivia—grade level appropriate questions on solar system, planets, space mission, astronauts, universe, etc.  The questions would have a point system based on difficulty.


Build It!—This category is the most involved and will have the fewest prompts, due to time restrictions (can fit more rounds of Build It! if class period is longer than 50 minutes.)  This will be a competition between only two groups per round.  The group will have a time limit to create a rocket, rover, or space structure from household supplies (Legos, blocks, paper towel tubes, tape, etc.).


Video—Similar to trivia question.  The group will have to answer a question about a movie clip.  (mission footage, satellite images, identify phenomenon…)


Math—Students will answer a question using basic algebra:


  • Ex.  How long would it take to travel to a certain planet given that your speed is --- and the planet is --- distance away?


  • How many earths can fit in the sun?


  • What is the density of Saturn given mass and volume?  Why would Saturn float in water?


Draw—Students will have a time limit to illustrate a concept on the board.  The rest of their group will guess the answer.  Each group sends one person to the board.  The presenter shows a card to the selected members.  Each person will illustrate the same concept.  First group to guess wins.  Same rules as Pictionary.


As time allows, each group will go at least once.  Each group must pick a different category.  No category can be called on twice in one round.  If hosts start the game as soon as the bell rings, they will have about five to ten minutes per round, depending on the difficulty and involvement.  For math and trivia, the time limit is five minutes, maximum.  Draw is two minutes total.  Movie has a time limit of one minute after the clip is over (clips will be from 15 sec. to 30 sec.)  Build It! will have five minutes to build and one minute, per group, to explain.


Rules of a Round:


Play moves clockwise around the room.  First group is called on to pick a category*.  After task is presented, all groups will consult.  First group to have a correct answer will win.  If not, second group to raise hands will answer for fewer points, and so on.  At the end of the task, the hosts will provide a brief (several sentences) explanation of the concept.


*Build It! exception:  When a group calls Build It!, they will pick one other group to challenge.  Both groups will be given a box of supplies to complete the task.  The remaining groups will choose one of the following tasks for the contestants to build: rocket, rover, or space station.  At the end of the challenge, the groups will explain their object.  There are no points for this category; instead, the students from both groups will be given a small, space themed, prize (small toys, eraser, and pencils) for completion of the task.  At the end of this round, the hosts will give a brief explanation of NASA’s and other companies’ real proposals for rockets, rovers, and space stations.

Trivia & Math

What astronomer discovered that the universe is expanding?

a.     Albert Einstein

b.     Percival Lowell

c.     Edwin Hubble


Although concepts underlying an expanding universe were well understood earlier, this statement by Hubble led to wider scale acceptance for this view.  Hubble’s Law states that the greater the distance between any two galaxies, the greater their relative speed of separation.

What event do astronomers believe began the universe?

a.     Big Bang

b.     Quasar

c.     Supernova


About 15 billion years ago a tremendous explosion started the expansion of the universe. This explosion is known as the Big Bang. At the point of this event, all of the matter and energy of space was contained at one point. The Big Bang actually consisted of an explosion of space within itself, unlike an explosion of a bomb, were fragments are thrown outward. The galaxies were not all clumped together, but rather, the Big Bang lay the foundations for the universe. 

What is the name of our galaxy?

a.     Andromeda

b.     The Solar System

c.     The Milky Way


Although the Milky Way is one of billions of galaxies in the observable universe, its special significance to humanity is that it is the home galaxy of our Solar System. The plane of the Milky Way galaxy is visible from Earth as a band of light in the night sky, and it is the "milky" appearance of this band of light which inspired the name of our galaxy. 

About how old is the oldest known star in the Milky Way?

a.     22 million years

b.     7 billion years

c.     13 billion years


That unprecedented birth date was confirmed by using the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Very Large Telescope to split the star's ultraviolet light into individual wavelengths — like a UV rainbow. In that rainbow, or spectrum, they were able to identify lines that show the presence of heavy elements like uranium and thorium, which indicated the age of the star.


The 13.2-billion-year-old star was born half a billion years after the universe exploded into existence, say astronomers. 

What is the most common element the Sun is composed of, and about what total percent of the Sun’s composition is it?

a.     Hydrogen, 35%

b.     Hydrogen, 90%

c.     Oxygen, 45%

d.     Oxygen, 90%


The reactive element Hydrogen makes up about 91.2% of all the atoms in the sun. Helium comes in second with 8.7%.

If the diameter of the sun is 1.4 million km and the average diameter of the Earth is 12,740 km, about how many Earths could fit inside the Sun?


a.     220

b.     110

c.     80

d.     160

If a Jupiter year is about 12 Earth years, and you are 13 years old on Earth, approximately how old would you be in Jupiter years?

a.    13

b.    156

c.    24

d.    1

If Mars is about 55 million km away from Earth, and your rocket travels at a top speed of 40,000 km/hr, about how many days would it take you to get to Mars?


a.     64 days

b.     57 days

c.     15 days

d.     38 days


If the mass of Jupiter is approximately 2 X 10^27 kg and the mass Mercury is approximately 3.3 X 10^23 kg, how many times greater is the mass of Jupiter?


a.     60

b.     606

c.     6,060

d.     6

If Mars' gravity is 38% of Earth’s gravity, and a person weighs 100 pounds on Earth, how much would they weigh on Mars?


a.     3.8 lbs

b.     380 lbs

c.     38 lbs

d.     100 lbs

Build It!

Mystery Science Trivia: Space Edition

Build It!


Time Limit:

8 minutes to build

1 minute per group to explain design



Space Rover

Lunar Colony

Original rocket design





Play Dough


Paper towel tubes




Real Project Designs



Rover: Phoenix Mars Mission


Robotic spacecraft on mission to Mars under Mars Scout Program

Headed by University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory

Sixth successful landing on Mars of twelve attempts

Launch Aug. 4, 2007

Landed: May 25, 2008

Last contact: Nov. 2

Concluded: November 10, 2008


Goal: Observed cracking on Martian soil similar to permafrost on Earth, rover samples determined presence of water ice

Scientists determining whether ice thaws enough to be able to sustain life, and if carbon and life-sustaining raw materials are available



    350 kg (770 lb)


    About 5.5 m (18 ft) long with the solar panels deployed.



Robotic arm and camera

Surface stereo imager (primary camera with two lenses, mimics what human eye would see)


Wet chemistry lab

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoenix_(spacecraft) - Surface_mission


Lunar Colony:  Permanent Lunar Base


Announced December 4, 2006

Construction to begin after astronauts return to the moon in 2020


U.S. will develop rockets and spacecraft to get to the moon; other countries will expand the outpost.

Permanent by 2024, individual stays on base max. 180 days


Plans call for putting a Lander craft near a polar crater and adding solar-powered generating units.




Rocket: Ares I Crew Launch Vehicle


In line two-stage rocket with capsule on top.  First stage: solid rocket boosters.  Single booster with five segments.  The booster will be recoverable for reuse.  ON top of first stage will be motors used for separating the upper stages.  The upper stage is a vehicle with a liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen engine.  On top of the second stage is an adapter ring to connect the  Orion crew vehicle to the rocket.  Orion consists of two modules, service and crew modules, larger than Apollo.  The service module holds propellants for single rocket engines.  The capsule can carry six astronauts to the International Space Station or four to the Moon.




Note: This video was made with footage from NASA's website and other sources and edited in iMovie 6

Mystery Science Trivia: Space Edition

Video Questions/Answers

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YR2tFjvCV18


  1. What is the name of this most recent Martian rover?  Phoenix


  1. What phenomenon is this?  How does it occur?  Solar eclipse.  It occurs when moon passes between the Sun and Earth so that the Sun is obscured and casts a shadow on Earth.


  1. What weather phenomenon is occurring on Saturn?  Cyclones


  1. What is the name of this Russian satellite?  Why is it significant to the U.S.A.?  Sputnik (1).  Launched America into the “Space Race.”


  1. What will the Europa probe ultimately look for?  Water and life.


  1. Name this phenomenon.  How does it happen?  Black Hole.  Acceptable Answers: End of the lifecycle of stars OR region of space where gravity is so strong nothing, including light, escapes.


  1. What causes a supernova?  Death of a star OR implosion of mass around core.




Robotic spacecraft on mission to Mars under Mars Scout Program

Headed by University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory

Sixth successful landing on Mars, of twelve attempts

Launch Aug. 4, 2007

Concluded November 10, 2008

Last contact Nov. 2


Goal: Observed cracking on Martian soil similar to permafrost on Earth, rover samples determined presence of water ice

Scientists determining whether ice thaws enough to be able to sustain life, and if carbon and life-sustaining raw materials are available

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoenix_(spacecraft) - Surface_mission


Solar Eclipse


Only happens during a new moon.  Most recent eclipse occurred on August 1, 2008 and was seen in parts of Canada, Europe and Asia.  When the Sun is blocked by the moon's shadow, scientists are better able to observe the Sun’s corona.  The corona is the outer “atmosphere” of a star, extending millions of kilometers into space.  The corona is nearly 200x hotter than the Sun’s surface.








Pictures taken in near-infrared (north pole in winter) time lapse show whirlpool-like clouds of gas rotating at 325 miles/hour (more than 2x faster than highest cyclone winds recorded on Earth) North pole cyclone is surrounded by a hexagon shape that does not move when clouds spin

  • Unlike Earth, Saturn cyclones have no body of water at the base, and are locked at the poles, rather than drifting
  • Thunderstorms underneath cloud formations
  • Further missions are planned to see how features of both poles change through seasons in August 2009




Sputnik (1)


The Sputnik program was a series of robotic spacecraft missions by the Soviet Union.  Sputnik 1 was the first manmade object to orbit the Earth, launched on October 4, 1957.  Until this time, the United States had failed launch attempts.  The U.S. responded to the launch of Sputnik 2 (Nov. 3, 1957) by creating the Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and NASA.  The satellite was about 23 inches in diameter and weighed 183 pounds.  Each of its elliptical orbits around Earth took 96 minutes.  The satellite itself was not visible from Earth, but the casing from its rocket booster was.




Europa Lander


This is a proposed mission to Europa.  It was to follow the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter (JIMO).  However, this mission was canceled in 2002.  If JIMO were successful, the Europa Lander would continue the exploration of water on Europa, based on the remote sensing data of the orbiter.  The Lander would land on the surface of Europa and drill miles under the icy surface of Europa.  A second robot would be released underwater and would relay, in real-time, video and pictures of the Europan ocean, looking for life that might exist at thermal underwater vents.  Although this particular mission was canceled, there are many proposals for exploring the possibility of an ocean on Europa.  Many of these proposals come from universities as well as NASA.







Black Hole


When a massive star dies, it undergoes a supernova and leaves behind star remnants.  There are no outward forces to oppose gravitational forces, so the mass collapses in on itself.  When it collapses, the mass collapses to a point of no volume and infinite density.  Light cannot escape, so light rays are bent around the black hole.  Since light cannot escape from a black hole, and nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, nothing escapes the black hole.







 Supernovae are the most energetic explosions in nature, exploding with the force of several octillion nuclear warheads.  Stars get their power from nuclear fusion (several small nuclei combine to make a mass that is slightly greater than the combined mass of the particles.  The difference in mass is converted to energy E=mc2).  When there is no longer enough fuel for the star, it swells into a red super giant on the outside.  The star’s core shrinks, becoming hotter and denser.  When the core becomes iron, fusion stops.  The core temperature rises to over 100 billion °F and atoms are crushed together.  The core collapses, but then springs back; the energy is transferred to the rest of the star, which then explodes.  When the star has gained more mass than its core can support, the star collapses in on itself (implodes).





Mystery Science Trivia: Space Edition

Draw Questions/Descriptions


  1. A binary star


  1. The Milky Way Galaxy


  1. Pluto


  1. A comet


  1. A man-made satellite



Binary Star


Star system made of two stars orbiting around their center of mass.  A large percentage of star systems are binary stars. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binary_star

Milky Way Galaxy


This is the home galaxy of our solar system.  A small band of the stars within the galaxy is visible in the night sky.  The galaxy is 100,000 light-years in diameter and contains 200-400 billion stars.  The galaxy is estimated to be 13.2 billion years old, almost as old as the universe.  The galaxy is made of a bar-shaped core region, surrounded by a spiraling disk of gas, dust and stars.  For this reason, it is classified as a "barred spiral galaxy." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milky_way



Pluto is composed of rock and ice.  Pluto is approximately 1/5 the mass of the Earth’s moon and 1/3 its volume.  Pluto’s orbit takes it from 4.4 to 7.4 billion kilometers from the sun.  When it is closer to the Sun, Pluto has an atmosphere, due to the thawing out of the methane and nitrogen frozen at the poles.  The second largest known dwarf planet in the solar system, it was originally classified as a planet.  Now, it is considered a member of the Kuiper Belt.  The Kuiper Belt is a region of the solar system extending beyond Neptune.  It is far larger than the asteroid belt and composed of many small bodies.  Most of these celestial bodies are remnants from the formation of our solar system.  The Kuiper Belt is home to at least two other dwarf planets besides Pluto.







A comet is a small solar system body that orbits the sun.  When it is close enough to the sun, it exhibits a visible tail.  Comets are a loose collection of ice, dust, and small rocky particles.  They range in size from a few kilometers, to tens of kilometers, across.  If a comet passes Earth’s path, the tail may rain down as a meteor shower, as Earth passes through the debris.





The first satellite in orbit was the Russian-made Sputnik.  It was launched on October 4, 1957.  This satellite helped identify the density of high atmospheric layers.  Currently, there are many types of satellites, including astronomical satellites, used for observation, defense satellites, and weather satellites.

MILSTAR communications satellite


Katie Smith,
Jan 11, 2011, 1:03 AM