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September 12, 2013

Voyager becomes first spacecraft to enter interstellar space – Lesson Plan

by Katie Gould, Teacher Resource Producer for NewsHour Extra


Math, Science, Physics

Estimated Time

45 minutes

Grade Level

Middle and High School

Warm Up Activity

How far is the moon from the earth?

  1. Pose this question to students- How far away is the moon from the earth?- and give them four answers to choose from (write answers on the board):
    1. 73,870 miles
    2. 157,550 miles
    3. 238,900 miles
    4. 370,250 miles
  2. Go through each answer and ask students to vote (by raising their hand) for the answer they think is correct.
  3. Once everyone has voted, tell them the correct answer is “C”. To help the students understand the distance better show them the video clip How far away is the moon from the earth.
  4. Pass out the “Earth to Moon Scale” handout and let students solve the problems in pairs.
  5. Go over the answers and explain how to arrive at the correct answer (see answer key).
  6. Now show students the “Scale of the Universe” infographic  and explore it as either a class together or, if computers are available, on their own.

Main Activity

  1. Now that students have an appreciation for the scale of the universe and a firm grounding in how far away the moon is, introduce them to the Voyager 1 Spacecraft by showing this video clip ScienceCasts: Voyager 1 at the Final Frontier.
  2. Now have students read the article “Voyager Spacecraft Reaches Interstellar Space”
  3. Help students looking for more depth on the topic understand the “how it works” by sharing this helpful Voyager resource
  4. End the activity with a video from Neil deGrasse Tyson that examines how we, as humans, are related to the larger universe in “The Most Astounding Fact”.

Special thanks to Rebecca Jacobson for her help on this lesson.

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