77ºF

How to make like an astronaut and stay busy while social distancing

Free materials from NASA, virtual lessons and space games can make self-isolation go by in no time

FILE - In this Wednesday, March 4, 2015 photo provided by NASA, astronaut Scott Kelly sits inside a Soyuz simulator at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC) in Star City, Russia. Astronaut wannabe Rachel Zimmerman-Brachman, a public engagement specialist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, says that isolation is a lot like astronaut training. On Thursday, March 19, 2020, she wrote on Facebook,Attitude is everything: I'm on an adventure in a confined space with a small crew for a long duration mission, with occasional space walks and resupply missions. Sounds like astronaut training to me.(Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)
FILE - In this Wednesday, March 4, 2015 photo provided by NASA, astronaut Scott Kelly sits inside a Soyuz simulator at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC) in Star City, Russia. Astronaut wannabe Rachel Zimmerman-Brachman, a public engagement specialist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, says that isolation is a lot like astronaut training. On Thursday, March 19, 2020, she wrote on Facebook,Attitude is everything: I'm on an adventure in a confined space with a small crew for a long duration mission, with occasional space walks and resupply missions. Sounds like astronaut training to me.(Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)

Going for days with only seeing a few other people in person or self-quarantining after returning home from a trip sounds like life as we know it during the coronavirus pandemic but do you know what else it sounds like? The life of an astronaut living and working on the International Space Station, a moon walker -- or one day the first Martians.

Astronauts go weeks or months living on the space station and when they land back on Earth their health is closely monitored. The first astronauts to walk on the moon spent three weeks in isolation after returning to Earth just in case they brought something back with them, and that was in 1969-- no Netflix or iPhones.

That kind of isolation can be hard if you’re not used to it and right now we’re in the thick of it.

If you are staying home awaiting a 14-day quarantine to be over after an international trip or maybe you find yourself searching for things to keep your small roommates (children) entertained, try and look at it like an astronaut would: it’s your mission.

Many of these are designed for the younger space explorers but there’s no reason grown-ups can’t look at self-isolation like a mission to the moon, too.

Educational material: Build a spacecraft, conduct a moon-mining mission

The U.S., European and Canadian space agencies all offer interactive educational materials and activities for all ages from toddlers to teens.

NASA’s STEM Engagement office has fun activities to do at home by age group. Click here for options for Kindergarten to 4th grades and here to find resources for educators and all student age groups.

Build an exoplanet-studying spacecraft with the ESA’s print out kit here.

Click here for a full list of ESA activities and ideas.

The Canadian Space Agency has information to build a small rocket or learn how to build a lunar water recovery system. See more ideas here.

Aerospace group American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics also has a full list of at home activities, including building paper airplanes and a full set of “micro lessons” about space-related topics.

[MORE IDEAS: Field trips from home: All the places your kids can ‘visit’ virtually]

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is offering free, online content designed for elementary through high school students.

Since the Visitor Complex is closed, the education team is sharing daily Facebook Live video experiences as well as shorter segments that will each pair with an at-home activity, according to a spokesperson. Topics include: living in space and on Mars, tours of Space Shuttle Atlantis and the Astronaut Training Experience.

Those presentations happen Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 9:30 a.m. ET for younger children, and 1 p.m. for young adults. There will also be a Q&A portion at the end of each presentation on Facebook at @KennedySpaceCenterVisitorComplex.

The Visitor Complex also has downloadable activities that can be found here.


Take a field-trip to the Air and Space Museum -- virtually

Like all Smithsonian museums, the Air and Space Museum is physically closed due to coronavirus but you can still explore the museum through online virtual tours with Google Street Views and explore artifacts in 3D.

The Air And Space Museum website also has games and activities to keep young explorers engaged.


Wake up early, or stay up late and do some sky gazing

This Thursday is a good opportunity to go planet spotting in your back or front yard.

Look southeast and you’ll be able to spot the three bodies, Jupiter being the brightest. Mars will be in the middle of Jupiter, to the right and Saturn, to the left.

If you are new to astronomy try an app like Stellarium to help you identify planets, stars and spacecraft in the sky.

[RELATED: Stuck at home? Try these science experiments with your kids]


Build a planet

TerraGenesis: Recently, a fellow space enthusiast recommended this game to me, it’s available on IOS devices in the App Store and allows users to cultivate life on planets, using NASA data.

“Think you have what it takes to bring a dead planet to life?" the game asks. Challenge accepted.

Users can build an entire world, creating habitats and terraforming planets to support life, finding resources and more.

This one is likely for middle schoolers and older and it does cost $19. Click here for more information.


Pretend you are an astronaut on the ISS

In this June 2019 photo made available by NASA, astronaut Christina Koch poses for a portrait inside of the vestibule between a SpaceX Dragon cargo craft and the Harmony module of the International Space Station. Still fresh from space, NASA's new record-setting astronaut says that aside from sore muscles and feelings of off-balance, she's readjusting well to gravity after nearly 11 months in space. Koch met with reporters on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020, six days after returning from the International Space Station. Her 328-day mission was the longest ever by a woman. (NASA via AP)
In this June 2019 photo made available by NASA, astronaut Christina Koch poses for a portrait inside of the vestibule between a SpaceX Dragon cargo craft and the Harmony module of the International Space Station. Still fresh from space, NASA's new record-setting astronaut says that aside from sore muscles and feelings of off-balance, she's readjusting well to gravity after nearly 11 months in space. Koch met with reporters on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020, six days after returning from the International Space Station. Her 328-day mission was the longest ever by a woman. (NASA via AP)

Your mission: You are living and working on the space station. What resources do you have in your station (house)? Make a list, including food and tools you might need.

Next, take a spacewalk or an extravehicular activity. You’ll need a spacesuit so get crafty. What will the mission be once you are outside the station?

Are you doing your part by staying home and pretending to be an astronaut? Send me pictures at especk@wkmg.com or share them on the News 6 Do Your Part page.


About the Author: