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Lift Off! by Megan, Monica, Jenny, and Emilia

We've all been to NASA's Space Camp. Back home, we entered a rocket-building contest where the challenge was to build a rocket with devices attached that could measure or detect other planets' environments. Our question: How can we make good sensors for our rocket?

What did we do?
Monica and Emilia attached things to one rocket, while Megan and Jenny worked on a second rocket. Monica and Emilia decided to pack a small glass thermometer in their rocket, but Jenny and Megan chose a flat aquarium thermometer. Emilia packed confetti and a magnetic compass to show wind direction, while Megan made a wind vane on her rocket. Monica attached paper strips to her rocket, that would bend to show the wind strength. Jenny made a pendulum that would swing according to how strong the wind was, and mounted it on the rocket's fin. We all launched our rockets, and checked to see how well our instruments worked after they landed.

What did we find out?
Both of our rockets' thermometers worked okay, although we realized that an aquarium thermometer doesn't have much of a temperature range. We decided we'd have to find a thermometer that works under lots of conditions. Emilia's confetti scattered, so she decided she needed a way to release the confetti only after the rocket landed. The wind vane and other devices would have worked better if we could have made sure they landed face up. We decided that having the same device on two sides of the rocket could solve that problem. We also realized that if we were sending measuring equipment to another planet, we'd need some way to send the information back to us on Earth!

What can you do?
  • Build some rockets of your own from a kit. Think of ways to attach simple measuring tools for weather or atmospheric testing. Make sure to keep your devices light enough so the rocket can still fly safely!
  • One tricky problem in space exploration is to get equipment to land safely on another planet. Pretend an egg is your "precious cargo" and develop a protective landing system. Use parachutes, foam padding, anything you can think of. Have a contest with your friends.
  • Join a model rocket club in your area (or start your own!), or enter a rocket contest. Learn how to measure the altitude of your rocket using simple equipment. See how at http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/K-12/airplane/rkthowhi.html. Ask a teacher to help you with the math.
  • Use this model rocket investigation as a science fair project idea for your elementary or middle school science fair! Then tell us about it!
more resources
More on space exploration.

Go to the DFTV Boards, and tell us about your science investigation.
whiz quiz
How large is the average meteor?

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