I would like to share a piece of curriculum we recently developed for NASA, though I think the project for which it was supposed to apply was paused.
The story is of a Mars expedition in the year 2033 (when there is a good launch window). Five young people are starting the first human settlement on the planet. The materials we developed consisted of short videos introducing each topic; interactive models; brief math and science questions to follow up; and supplemental NASA articles.
While many of the interactives were open source work by others, we also developed quite a few specifically for the project. I designed all of them, with several based on current topics in space research:
- “Psychological testing” is based on the occupation preference scales published in 2010.
- “Frequency of exercise” follows 2000-2011 vibration exercise research used by NASA, and all numbers in it are real and accurate (e.g., 5-20Hz does resonate with the spine or other organs and should be avoided)
- “Mental coherence,” while qualitative, uses data and recommendations from several studies done in 2000s, and the new (summer 2011) NASA history book “Psychology of Space Exploration.”
- “Albedo, insolation, and atmospheric composition” is based on a terraforming calculator developed on the basis of a mathematical model created at NASA Ames Research Center. The interactive “Terraforma” makes the model more visual and accessible for students.
- “A room with a view” approximates the trip’s Hohmann orbit and real star and planet positions, as seen from the orbit. It is done with the astronomy software Celestia, and contains observation notes such as “Do you know why the lunar eclipse on April 14th, 2033 looks different than it would from the Earth?”
- “Wind in your solar sails,” which is based on the 2010-11 solar sail experiments, shows correct calculations and solar pressure parameters for the orbits of Earth and Mars. The interactive can be used to investigate solar power.
- While accurate radiation protection models are beyond the high school level of mathematics, “Is the shelter holding up?” provides qualitatively realistic descriptions of various materials in a solar flare situation. It refers to the protection materials currently (2011) under development in NASA.