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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or share them on the News 6 Do Your Part page.
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