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Teacher's Desk

Shuttle Aeronautics

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    Cmdr Collins

    drawing of shuttle launching

  • Student Science Activity: Everything's Under Control

    Teacher Overview Outline

    1. Overview
      1. Time Frame
      2. Key Questions
      3. Materials
      4. Getting Ready
      5. Teacher Background
      6. Vocabulary
      7. Prerequisite Knowledge
      8. Skills
      9. Concepts
      10. Processes
    2. Classroom Activity
      1. Session 1
      2. Session 2
      3. Session 3
    3. Teacher Section
      1. Overhead Transparencies
        1. Axes and Orbiter Motion
        2. Orbiter Control Surfaces with Descriptions
        3. Orbiter Control Surfaces Experiment Procedure List
        4. Orbiter Control Surfaces Experiment
        5. Experiment Procedure: Experiment #1
        6. Experiment Procedure: Experiment #2
        7. Experiment Procedure: Experiment #3
      2. Answer Keys
        1. Control Surface Experiment Data Sheet #1 - Key
        2. Control Surface Experiment Data Sheet #2 - Key
        3. Control Surface Experiment Data Sheet #3 - Key
        4. Experiment Conclusion Report - Key
        5. Student Worksheet: Orbiter Control - Key
        6. Student Worksheet: Descent Control - Key
    4. Student Handouts
      1. Control Surface Experiment Data Sheet #1
      2. Control Surface Experiment Data Sheet #2
      3. Control Surface Experiment Data Sheet #3
      4. Experiment Conclusion Report
      5. Student Informational Reading: Orbiter Control
      6. Student Worksheet: Orbiter Control
      7. Student Worksheet: Descent Control
      8. Self-Evaluation Check-Up


    This activity is designed to allow students to explore the basic control surfaces of the orbiter and the motions they affect by having the students perform a hands-on experiment that will demonstrate the orbiter's movement during flight. This 2 - 3 session activity is designed for students in grades 4 - 8. It is primarily a hands-on experiment complemented by a student informational reading, comprehension worksheet, experiment guidesheet and a series of photos displaying the experiment's set-up. Students will construct pre-fabricated space shuttle orbiters with movable control surfaces that will be used to demonstrate the motions of roll, pitch and yaw. The students will manipulate each control surface (rudder, elevons: elevators/ailerons) on the glider and determine which motion each affects. They will observe, and record their findings. From this data they will determine that the rudder affects yaw, the outer elevons (acting as ailerons) affect roll, and the inside elevons (acting as elevators) affect pitch. They will also demonstrate that the outer elevons (ailerons) act in opposition (one in the up position and the other in the down position). While the inner elevons (elevators) act in tandem (both in the up position or both in the down position).

    Grade Levels

    Grades: 4 - 8

    Time Frame

    2 - 3 class sessions of 45 - 60 minutes

    Key Questions

    1. What are the motions of the orbiter?
    2. How is the orbiter controlled?
    3. What control surfaces are used on the orbiter?
    4. What motions are affected by each control surface?


    1. Control Surface Experiment Data Sheet #1
    Control Surface Experiment Data Sheet #2
    Control Surface Experiment Data Sheet #3
    2. Student Informational Reading: Orbiter Control
    3. Student Comprehension Worksheet: Orbiter Control
    4. Pre-fabricated Space Shuttle Glider (recommended commercially-made glider with movable control surfaces: White Wings Space Shuttle.

    Getting Ready

    1. Run multiple copies of student handouts.
    2. Decide where the "fly zone" will be located.
    3. Purchase pre-fabricated gliders (Recommended White Wings Space Shuttle)



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