We Have Liftoff: Math and the Space Program (Grade Levels: 7-10)

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NASA On October 29, 1998, John Glenn blasted off as a payload specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery. This marked Glennís second voyage into space: his first was on February 20, 1962, when Glenn, one of the seven astronauts in the Mercury Program, piloted the United Statesí first manned orbital mission aboard the Friendship 7. In these activities, you'll examine the development of the United States manned space program by comparing information about the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and Space Shuttle programs.

Using the Manned Space Program Data Sheet for information from selected flights from Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and the Space Shuttle, answer the following questions.

1. The Apollo mission with the Saturn V rocket had the tallest launch vehicle because it was used to send three men to the moon. How many times taller than the other launch vehicles was Apollo?

2. For the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions, the capsule was the shape of a cone. The volume of a cone is 1/3 x (pi) x radius2 x height.

a) Calculate the volume of the Mercury capsule. This space held the astronaut, his chair, and all of his equipment and instruments.

b) Calculate the volume of the capsule for the Gemini mission.. Since there were two people, how much space was there per person?

c) On the Apollo missions, the astronauts also brought along an LEM (Lunar Excursion Module) for landing on the moon. Consider just the Apollo capsule: what was its volume? How much space was there per person?

3. How much space per person will there be on the Space Shuttle mission?

4. How many times longer should John Glennís Space Shuttle mission be than his original Mercury mission?

Photo from NASA