Sheer Dumb Luck
A Space Weather Emergency
Theiss Research/Chamblee Charter High School
This case study tells the story of a hypothetical future manned lunar mission threatened by exposure to extreme space weather. The protagonist struggles to find a course of action that will save the spacecraft and the lives of her crew. The case is used to examine the importance of a magnetic field in preventing a planetary atmosphere from being blown away by solar wind, and the importance of planetary properties, mostly mass and internal composition, for creating a magnetic field. This case can be used in a variety of courses dealing with astronomy, astrobiology, electricity and magnetism, modern physics, and plasma physics. It can also be used to prompt discussion of space exploration policy, specifically the relative benefits of manned versus robotic missions. Because of the story’s rich content and its applicability to a number of different courses, a variety of discussion questions is included from which teachers can choose in order to customize the case for their particular course.
- Define the concept of space weather and its main features.
- Describe Earth’s magnetic field.
- Describe issues related to the risks involved with space travel.
- Describe the solar cycle.
- Describe the Late Heavy Bombardment.
- Describe transfer orbits from Earth to the Moon.
KeywordsSpace weather; cosmic rays; geomagnetism; solar wind; magnetosphere; magnetic field; transfer orbit; late heavy bombardment; Moon; Hohmann transfer
Educational LevelHigh school, Undergraduate lower division
Type / MethodsDirected, Discussion
Subject HeadingsAstronomy | Physics |
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