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NASA Exploration Design Challenge

The goal of the NASA Exploration Design Challenge is for students to research and design ways to protect astronauts from space radiation. NASA and Lockheed Martin are developing the Orion spacecraft that will carry astronauts beyond low Earth orbit and on to an asteroid or Mars. Radiation exposure is a serious concern for astronauts and officials within the space exploration community. The Exploration Design Challenge seeks to inspire students to create practical solutions for the issues facing astronauts through engaging in STEM learning experiences.

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Enduring Understanding

  • Nuclear fusion processes in the center of the sun release the energy that ultimately reaches Earth as radiation.
  • Damage to living tissue from electromagnetic radiation depends on the energy of the radiation.
  • The design process is a systematic, iterative approach to problem solving that yields design solutions.

Essential Questions

  • How does radiation positively and negatively impact living organisms?
  • How can living organisms be protected from the negative effects of radiation?
  • How does space radiation differ from terrestrial radiation?
  • How does elevation impact radiation exposure?
  • How can the engineering design process be used to design solutions to real-world problems?

Students will be able to:

  • analyze sources and types of radiation.
  • correlate the length of waves in the electromagnetic spectrum to biological dangers.
  • compare and contrast space and terrestrial radiation.
  • assess the impact of radiation on living organisms.
  • employ the engineering design process to develop solutions to protect astronauts from space radiation.
  • peer-review and self-assess design products.

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