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In the future, if NASA decides to return to the Moon and establish a presence there, would you apply to be one of the lunar astronauts? What are you going to need to know about the Moon to be prepared to live and work on the Moon?
Lyle Tavernier, Digital Learning Network Education Specialist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California--NASA's lead center for robotic exploration of the Solar System--presents future lunar astronauts with a background of knowledge and corrects popular misconceptions about the Moon. Among the topics that are discussed include the Moon's origin, phases, size and distance, crater formation, eclipses, tides and how NASA has explored the Moon.
Students should familiarize themselves with the following Moon-related terms:
Apollo: U.S. space program of the 1960s and 1970s that, through a series of spaceflights, placed twelve men on the Moon.
Basalt: the dark, dense igneous rock of a lava flow or minor intrusion, composed essentially of labradorite and pyroxene. The dark areas on the Moon are basalt.
Crater: a bowl-shaped depression with a raised rim, formed by the impact of a meteoroid. The Moon is covered with craters.
Eclipse: the blocking of the light of the moon by the intervention of Earth between it and the sun (lunar eclipse) or the blocking of the light of the sun by the intervention of the Moon between it and a point on Earth (solar eclipse).
Farside: the side of the Moon that always faces away from Earth
Gravity: the natural force of attraction between any two bodies, which is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. The gravity of Earth holds the Moon in orbit and the gravity of the Moon causes tides on Earth.
Maria: any of the several large, dark basalt plains on the Moon. Galileo believed that the lunar features were seas when he first saw them through a telescope. The maria are what cause the illusion of the “man in the moon.”
Moon: a natural satellite revolving around a planet. Earth has one moon.
Nearside: the side of the moon that always faces toward Earth
Orbit: the curved path, usually elliptical, of one body revolving around another. The Moon orbits around Earth.
Phase: stage of the Moon's revolution around Earth where different amounts of the Moon's surface are visible from Earth due to the position of the Sun. Phases range from Full Moon where all the nearside is lit to New Moon where none of the nearside is lit.
Regolith: layer of dust, rock and mineral fragments that covers the surface of the Moon.
On a clear night, students can go outside and look at the moon, using a telescope or binoculars (if available), and draw what they see. They also can watch the moon over several nights, drawing the changes they see.
Complete Impact Craters on pages 61-69 in Exploring the Moon: Teacher’s Guide with activities for Earth and Space Sciences
Using models, pictures and film, the presenter helps students develop better understanding of Earth’s nearest neighbor in space. Students build on their current knowledge of the Moon, learning new information that dispels some common misconceptions such as: the Moon is close to Earth, Moon lacks gravity, and/or the Apollo moon landings really did not happen.
Have students explain what they learned in the videoconference to a partner or to the class, describing what they understand now that they didn’t before, and/or about what they’d like to learn more.
Each of the following activities help clarify students’ understanding of important ideas as well as apply what they’ve have learned about the moon. See Program Resources for links to guides and activities.
Grades K-4: At home with an adult, bake Moon cookies. Try adding some of the moon’s features to the cookies. What might powdered sugar represent? OR… Draw a picture of the moon with the knowledge you now have about its features. Label your drawing.
Grades 4-12: Complete Crater Hunters activity.
Grades 5-12: Complete units 2 and 5 in Activities in Planetary Geology for the Physical and Earth Sciences to learn more about impact cratering and lunar mapping.
Lunar materials are available for classroom use via the Lunar-Meteorite Sample Loan Program. See Program Resources.
NSTA Science Content Standards: 5-8
EARTH AND SPACE SCIENCE CONTENT STANDARD D: EARTH IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM
NSTA Science Content Standards: 9-12
EARTH AND SPACE SCIENCE CONTENT STANDARD D: THE ORIGIN AND EVOLUTION OF EARTH SYSTEM