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THE LAB

space exploration

OVERVIEW

Find a number of Space Exploration experiments and activities to do today. But make sure to check out your rank advancement tracking or Nova tracking tool to see what is needed for your rank to complete. For example: while anyone can complete the Motion Investigation, it is only needed for the Lion Rank for Gizmos and Gadgets. 

MOTION INVESTIGATION

What happens when you roll different objects down an incline? Will they roll

at the same speed? Will they do in a straight line? Let's investigate!

Materials Needed:

  • Different-sized balls

  • Cylinders

  • Pipes

  • Other similar items

Instructions:

  1. Roll multiple objects at once down an incline and observe what happens!

  2. Push the items across the floor and observe what happens!

Which ones roll faster—solid objects or hollow objects? Cylinders or spheres? Objects with large diameters or small diameters? When they roll down the incline, which one rolls the farthest? When they are pushed across the floor, do they roll at the same rate?

Learn more about how things roll and fall at different speeds!

Watch the investigation with Buckeye Council volunteer and Astronomy Professor, Claudia Barr and her daughter in Scouts BSA!

PAPER AIRPLANE EXPERIMENT

Create and fly three different types of paper airplanes. 

Paper airplanes are light. This helps them fly through the air when you use the power in

your muscles to propel them. But a real airplane is heavy. How does anything that big stay

in the air? 

Airplanes need to have lift to fly. Scientists explain lift with an idea called Bernoulli's

Principle. As planes travel through the air, air travels over the wings. The shape of the

wings makes the air travel faster over the top than beneath them. The difference in the air

speeds create higher pressure beneath the wings than above them. The pressure difference causes the wing to push upward, creating lift. The faster the plane moves through the air, the more air is forced under and over the wings, creating more lift. 

ARROW

  1. Place a sheet of paper on a table. Fold the paper hot dog style.

  2. Unfold and then fold the corners into the center line.

  3. Fold the top edges to the center.

  4. Fold the plane in half.

  5. Fold the wings down to meet the bottom edge of the planes body.

THE BUZZ

  1. Place a sheet of paper on a table. Fold the paper hamburger style.

  2. Unfold and then fold the corners into the center line.

  3. Fold the top peak down to the edge of the previous fold.

  4. Fold the upper sides to the center line.

  5. Fold the top about 1/2 inch away from you.

  6. Fold the plane in half towards you.

  7. Fold both flaps out to create the wings. The body will be about a half inch tall. You may want a small piece of tape on the top to keep the wings from popping up or separating.

THE STABLE

  1. Place a sheet of paper on a table. Fold the paper hot dog style.

  2. Unfold and then fold the corners into the center line.

  3. Fold the top peak down to create a square.

  4. Fold the top two corners to the center about an inch above the downward facing point, to form a triangle shape on top and a diamond shape on bottom.

  5. Fold the downward facing point up to secure the flaps.

  6. Fold the plane in half away from you and flatten it out.

  7. Fold the edges down to create the wide wings.

Now make a paper airplane catapult!

Have you ever seen pictures of a fighter jet being launched from an aircraft carrier? Because the ship has a short runway, the flight deck crew hooks the jet to a catapult to fling it into the sky. 

Materials Needed:

  • Your favorite paper airplane you made

  • A rubberband

  • A pencil

  • A hole punch

Instructions:

  1. Make a hole near the nose of your favorite airplane design using a single hole punch.

  2. Loop a rubberband into the hole.

  3. Launch your plane using a pencil or your finger with the rubberband.

BUILD A SPACE HABITAT

Build your own space habitat! You can find material for this project around the house and in your family’s recycling bin. A little thought and ingenuity can make a potato-chip tube into a lunar rover.

  • Soda straws become the axles; bottle caps become the wheels.

  • Aluminum foil can be wrapped around the tube, and a glue gun helps put it all together.

  • A three-liter soda bottle and similar imagination can make a habitation module, a colony, or a space base.

  • A cereal box can become a hangar bay for ground and space operations.

As you plan this project, ask yourself: What is the base’s intended use? How have you provided for crew quarters, power, breathable air, radiation protection, food, water, and transportation? 

BUILD AND LAUNCH A ROCKET

BEFORE GETTING STARTED

Not all cities and towns permit model rocket launches. Check with your local fire department or police to find out about local regulars governing model rocket launches. You may have to travel to a rural area to find a launch site. You can also do the following:​

  • For Cub Scouts - Create a chemical reaction rocket! 

  • For Scouts BSA/Venturing - Create a chemical reaction rocket or to complete the Space Exploration Merit Badge/STEM Exploration, make a model of a NASA rocket. Explain the functions of the parts. Give the history of the rocket.

CHEMICAL REACTION ROCKET

Demonstrate Newton's third law of motion. Make a paper rocket propelled by Alka-Seltzer and water or baking soda and vingear. Guaranteed fun for the whole family.

Materials Needed:

  • Paper cut to 5x8 inches or a large index card

  • Empty film canister with lid that snaps inside

  • Markers, crayons or colored pencils

  • Tape

  • Scissors

  • Alka-Seltzer tablets or baking soda (baking soda to use with vinegar)

  • Water or vinegar (vinegar to use with baking soda)

  • Ruler

Instructions:

  1. Decorate the paper — get creative! This will form the body of your rocket.

  2. Roll the paper into an 8-inch-tall tube. Slide the empty film canister into the tube so that the
    canister opens at one end of the tube. Securely tape the paper to the canister. You do not
    want these two parts to separate.

  3. Now, tape closed the 8-inch-long seam of the paper tube.

  4. Cut two triangular paper fins and tape them onto the rocket.

  5. Make a small paper cone and tape it to the top of the rocket if you would like a nose cone.

  6. Hold the rocket upside down and add water to the canister to one-quarter full.

  7. Add half a tablet of Alka-Seltzer or to the film canister and quickly snap on the lid.

  8. Place the rocket on the ground, lid down. Stand back and count down while you are waiting
    for launch.

Watch Meteorologist Kelly Dobeck with Cleveland 19 News show us how to make an alka seltzer rocket!

 

BUILDING AND LAUNCHING A MODEL ROCKET

Model rocketry is a great way to learn about space exploration. The rocket you build won’t reach space, but the science and technology that goes into your rocket is the same as NASA uses in launching giant rockets. Model rockets are made of paper, balsa wood, plastic, glue, and paint. You build them with simple tools such as a modeling knife, sandpaper, scissors, rulers, and paintbrushes. Model rockets are powered by solid propellant rocket engines. Depending on the size and design of the rocket and the power of the engine, model rockets may fly only 50 feet high or up to a half mile in altitude. They are powerful, and through misuse could harm animals, people, or property. By following the rules below, you can launch your rockets in complete safety over and over.

BUILDING YOUR OWN ROCKET

If you have never built a model rocket before, it is best to start with a simple kit. The kit will consist of a body tube, nose cone, fins, engine mount, and parachute or some other recovery system that will gently lower your rocket to the ground at the end of its flight. Engines must be purchased separately from the rocket. Be sure to buy the recommended engines for your kit. If you use engines that are too powerful, you may lose your rocket on its first flight.

STABILITY-CHECKING YOUR ROCKET

Check every rocket for stability before flying it. Stability checks before launch assure you that your rocket will fly properly. Unstable rockets tumble in the air and may head back toward the launchpad at high speed. Stability checks are simple and require only a long piece of string, a piece of tape, and a few minutes of your time. To check a new model rocket, prepare the rocket for flight and insert a live engine. Tie a slipknot around the body of the rocket and slide it to the point where the rocket is perfectly balanced on the string. Hold the string in one hand over your head, and begin to twirl your rocket as though you were spinning a lasso. As the rocket picks up speed, gradually play out the string until the rocket is about 6 to 8 feet away. If you are not tall, you may want to stand on a chair at this point. If your rocket is stable, it will travel around you without tumbling. The nose cone will point into the air and the tail end will follow. If the tail end goes first or if the rocket tumbles, your rocket may be dangerous to fly. You can correct this situation by putting on larger fins or adding weight to the rocket’s nose with a lump of clay.

LAUNCHING YOUR ROCKET

When your rocket is ready for its first flight, you must choose a proper launching site. Your launching site should be a large field that is free of power and telephone lines, trees, buildings, or any other structures that might snag a returning rocket. Choose a field away from airports. You will need a launchpad. Perhaps you can borrow a launchpad from a local model-rocket club, or join the members on a day when they are launching rockets (To find a local club, see the National Association of Rocketry listing in the resources section.) If not, you can either buy a launchpad kit or build your own. A simple launchpad can be built from a block of wood, a blast deflector made from a flattened metal can, and a straight rod. Rods made specifically for rocket launchers are best and inexpensive. Buy one where you get your rocket supplies.

INSTRUCTIONS TO BUILD

While your model rocket will come with instructions, follow these instructions for a safe launch. Not all cities and towns permit model rocket launches. Check with your local fire department or police to find out about local regulations governing model rocket launches. You may have to travel to a rural area to find a launch site. Or you may choose to make an alternative rocket. 

 

Your launch system should be electric. It must have a switch that closes only when you press it and then opens again automatically. It also should have a master switch, or you should be able to disconnect the batteries while you set up your next flight. The wires from your batteries (about 6 volts) should extend about 15 feet to small “alligator” clips at the ends. These clips will be attached to the wires of the igniter. Never use fuses or matches to ignite your rocket .

 

ACCOMPLISHING A LAUNCH OBJECTIVE

After you have made your first launch, make a second launch with a specific objective in mind. You might try to spot-land the rocket within a 50-foot circle. That isn’t as easy as it sounds. You must make allowances for wind drift and aim your rocket accordingly.

Another objective might be to carry a payload aloft and recover it safely. Several rocket kits come with payload sections for carrying hard-boiled eggs or other cargo. Still another objective would be to launch a small camera on your rocket to take a picture of the launch site from high altitude. Specially designed cameras are available for model rockets.

Learn how to build an Estes Gnome Rocket with Scoutmaster Robbie White from Billings, Montana!

MODEL ROCKET SAFETY CODE

  1. Materials. I will use only lightweight, nonmetal parts for the nose, body, and fins of my rocket.

  2. Motors. I will use only certified, commercially made model rocket motors, and will not tamper with these motors or use them for any purposes except those recommended by the manufacturer.

  3. Ignition System. I will launch my rockets with an electrical launch system and electrical motor igniters. My launch system will have a safety interlock in series with the launch switch, and will use a launch switch that returns to the “off” position when released.

  4. Misfires. If my rocket does not launch when I press the button of my electrical launch system, I will remove the launcher’s safety interlock or disconnect its battery, and will wait 60 seconds after the last launch attempt before allowing anyone to approach the rocket.

  5. Launch Safety. I will use a countdown before launch, and will ensure that everyone is paying attention and is a safe distance of at least 15 feet away when I launch rockets with D motors or smaller, and 30 feet when I launch larger rockets. If I am uncertain about the safety or stability of an untested rocket, I will check the stability before flight and will fly it only after warning spectators and clearing them away to a safe distance. When conducting a simultaneous launch of more than 10 rockets I will observe a safe distance of 1.5 times the maximum expected altitude of any launched rocket.

  6. Launcher. I will launch my rocket from a launch rod, tower, or rail that is pointed to within 30 degrees of the vertical to ensure that the rocket flies nearly straight up, and I will use a blast deflector to prevent the motor’s exhaust from hitting the ground. To prevent accidental eye injury, I will place launchers so that the end of the launch rod is above eye level or will cap the end of the rod when it is not in use.

  7. Size. My model rocket will not weigh more than 1,500 grams (53 ounces) at liftoff and will not contain more than 125 grams (4.4 ounces) of propellant or 320 N-sec (71.9 pound-seconds) of total impulse.

  8. Flight Safety. I will not launch my rocket at targets, into clouds, or near airplanes, and will not put any flammable or explosive payload in my rocket.

  9. Launch Site. I will launch my rocket outdoors, in an open area at least as large as shown in the accompanying table, and in safe weather conditions with wind speeds no greater than 20 miles per hour. I will ensure that there is no dry grass close to the launch pad, and that the launch site does not present risk of grass fires.

  10. Recovery System. I will use a recovery system such as a streamer or parachute in my rocket so that it returns safely and undamaged and can be flown again, and I will use only flame-resistant or fireproof recovery system wadding in my rocket.

  11. Recovery Safety. I will not attempt to recover my rocket from power lines, tall trees, or other dangerous places.

 

ROCKET PARTS

The body tube is the barrel of the rocket. It holds the engine, the recovery device, and the payload. The rocket’s fins and launch lug are mounted to the body tube.

 

The engine mount is a small tube that is glued to the inside of the body tube. The engine mount provides a sturdy place for inserting the rocket engine.

 

Rocket fins are the main stability device of the rocket. Their function is similar to that of feathers on an arrow.

 

Igniters are small wires that are inserted into the nozzle of a rocket engine. When electricity is passed through the wire, the wire heats, and chemicals coating the wire ignite. This, in turn, ignites the rocket engine. The igniter wires are blasted out the nozzle when the engine propellants start burning.

 

Before fins can stabilize a rocket, the rocket must be moving through the air. The launch lug is a small straw mounted to the side of the body tube. The lug slides over the rod on the launchpad, and the rod stabilizes the rocket until the fins are able to take over (which happens in a fraction of a second).

 

The nose cone is fitted at the upper end of the rocket. Its purpose is to divide the air smoothly so the rocket can travel through the air with little turbulence. Nose cones are usually tapered to a point.

 

Payloads that can be carried on model-rocket flights include small cameras, radio transmitters, and raw eggs. Payloads carried on space rockets include satellites, spacecraft bound for other planets, scientific experiments, and astronauts.

 

Model rockets can be recovered in many ways. Recovery systems may be parachutes that are stored inside the body tube and ejected automatically by the rocket engine near the time the rocket reaches its maximum altitude. Streamers also are used for recovery. They slow the rocket as it falls back to Earth. Other recovery systems are helicopter-type rotors or wings for gliding landings.

 

The rocket engine is the power plant of your model rocket. An engine consists of a

cylinder, called the casing , that holds the solid propellant. The upper end of the casing

usually has a plug and the lower end has a nozzle . The nozzle is a small opening through

which the burning gases escape. The nozzle makes the gases travel at high speeds when

they exit, much the same way the nozzle on a garden hose makes water squirt farther

when the hole is smaller.

 

Inside the engine are the solid propellants. The propellants have oxygen built into their

chemistry. This enables them to burn even in outer space, where there is no outside

oxygen. (Rocket engines are different from jet engines. Jet engines must take in air from

the atmosphere to burn their fuel.)

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THE WAY THINGS WORK

Space exploration has been a reality since the late 1950s. Space-age words such as rocket, satellite , and orbit have become part of nearly everyone’s vocabulary. While many people use these words, few really understand the important concepts behind them, such as how a rocket works, how a satellite stays in orbit, or how pictures taken of other planets arrive on Earth.

PHYSICAL LAWS OF SPACE FLIGHT

In the 17th century, a great English mathematician and scientist named Sir Isaac Newton developed the basics of modern physics. He formed the theories of gravitation when he was only 23 years old. Some 20 years later, he presented his three laws of motion. These three laws explain how a rocket is able to work and how satellites and spacecraft are able to get into orbit and stay there.

 

NEWTON'S THREE LAWS OF MOTION

  1. An object in motion tends to stay in motion, and an object at rest tends to stay at rest, unless the object is acted upon by an outside unbalanced force.

  2. Force equals mass times acceleration.

  3. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
     

These three laws of motion help make it easier to understand how rockets, satellites, and spacecraft work. For Scouts BSA/Venturing youth, learn more about each law in the Space Exploration Merit Badge pamphlet or online. 

HOW ROCKETS ARE PROPELLED

Rockets are driven by engines that obey Newton’s three laws of motion. While a rocket sits on the launchpad, it is in a state of rest because all forces are balanced. When the rocket engine fires, forces become unbalanced (first law). As exhaust rushes downward out of the engine, an upward thrust is produced because of action-reaction (third law). The strength of that thrust is determined by the amount of matter expelled by the engine and how fast the matter is expelled (second law). Forcing the exhaust through a small opening called a nozzle increases the speed of the exhaust, producing more thrust. Imagine using a garden hose with a nozzle attachment. With the nozzle wide open, the water streams out and lands a few feet away. By shrinking the nozzle opening, you force the water to move faster and it lands farther away. The greater the velocity, the greater the thrust. You can feel the thrust of the garden hose if you hold it. The same principle applies to rocket engines, which come in many varieties based on the type of fuel used. Some types of engines used on today’s spacecraft include solid propellant engines, liquid propellant engines, hybrid engines, and ion engines. Nuclear engines, solar sails, mass drivers, and other kinds of “futuristic” engines are being studied or developed. For Scouts BSA/Venturing youth, learn more about engines in the Space Exploration Merit Badge Pamphlet. 

MERIT BADGE / STEM EXPLORATION TIP

To fully complete the Space Exploration Merit Badge/STEM Exploration, Scouts must:​

  1. Launch a model rocket OR make a model of a NASA rocket. Explain the functions of the parts. Give the history of the rocket.

  2. Build a Space Habitat

HEAD TO THE FITNESS CENTER!

Take the suggested route to the Fitness Center to train like an astronaut or head back to the virtual campground to continue exploring at your own pace.

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YOU ARE HERE

The Lab

Go back to the campground

Explore The Fitness Center

Resources:

Robotics Merit Badge Pamphlet, NASA

Created by the Buckeye Council, Boy Scouts of America

info@homescouting.org  |  2301 13th St NW, Canton, OH 44708