Friday, April 23, 2010

Build Your Own Space Mission


The JPL-Education branch of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory invites children to "Build Your Own Space Mission." This particular flash game is aimed toward a younger set who may not be able to navigate the intricacies of the "Be A Martian" site, but I'm thinking a fair amount of adults will still get side-tracked here ;)

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory for Kids
First, create your scientist avatar... and hey, there's nothing wrong with genuises in lab coats having purple hair! Gather the telescopes and other tools in your lab, and plan your mission into the solar system. Pick a craft, choose a destination and prepare for launch. The launch itself is quite entertaining... Oh, if only we could "drag & drop" in real life!

After a little while, the music on there is enough to make you want to poke your own eyeballs out, so know where your magic mute button is by the time you get to the launch pad.

Once at your destination, whether it be our moon or one of Jupiter's, use the scientific instruments on your craft (spectrometers, cameras, microscopes, grinder scoops) to see the surface of wherever you have landed and collect data.

California JPL
The JPL offers tips on how long it takes for data to traverse the distance between your craft and Earth. For instance, I traveled to Titan, the largest satellite of planet Saturn, and my readouts indicated 1 1/2 hours for the signal to reach my lab back on Earth.

Another fun interactive spot in the JPL family is their Virtual Field Trip. The floating heads are a bit creepy in places, but the images and graphics are appealing, and children can also "respond" to the scientists and tour guides with a handy chat feature.

Note that if you stay in one spot without moving for awhile, they will admonish you for lurking too long, LOL…

Virtual Field Trip JPL
Kids can learn about things like the Voyager Golden Records in the JPL Museum, visit Mission Control, the Robotics Lab, and even leave Earth to go sail the solar wind (pictured above), along with the many crafts studying our sun.

Along the way, you can scavenger-hunt 20 "souvenirs" for your snazzy JPL badge. Happy hunting! No lurking!