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Space Shuttle Glider Activity - Teacher Information

In this activity the students will achieve a greater understanding of glide slope by manipulating the measurements that affect the landing of the shuttle orbiter. The students will construct a space shuttle glider (that you can download from the Web) which is a 1cm:300cm scale of the actual U.S. Space Shuttle orbiter. Teachers: You may want to draw the actual size of the cockpit window or the tip of the nose to give the students an idea of the actual size of the orbiter.

The cockpit window on the side of
the orbiter would have the following
actual size measurements:
drawing of cockpit window with given dimentions
The nose of the orbiter would
have the following actual size
line drawing of nose of orbiter

Then, they will have the opportunity to reenact the landing procedure by controlling glide slope and piloting the glider in for a smooth landing. They will record their results to further explore the meaning of glide slope, flight time and distance, and compare their data to the glide slope, flight time and distance of NASA's space shuttle orbiter landings (see table below).

Landing Data Collection Sheet: Space Shuttle
data collection sheet

This entire activity is done in conjunction with other activities under Space Shuttle Aeronautics found on NASA Quest's Female Frontiers Web Site at: http://www.quest.arc.nasa.gov/space/frontiers

Key Questions

  • Why does the orbiter reenter the atmosphere at such a high velocity?
  • Why is it necessary for the orbiter to reenter the atmosphere at such a steep angle of attack?
  • What strategies does the orbiter take to slow down before landing?
  • Does glide slope affect the speed of the glider?

    Time Frame

    Five to Seven class sessions of 45 to 60 minutes each.

    Getting Ready

    1. Run all multiple copies of each student handout.
    2. Read through the lesson plan.
    3. Review Math Worksheets and other math concepts needed for this activity.
    4. Assemble a glider for yourself.
    5. Decide where the landings will take place.
    6. Prepare the area for glider landings.
    7. Try a few practice runs yourself on each landing site.
    8. Place students into groups of 3-4 for each landing site.
    9. Be sure each group has the necessary materials: gliders, pencils, watch or clock with second-hand, tape measure, rulers, calculators, student handouts

    Prerequisite Knowledge for Students

  • Using tape measures or rulers to measure distances
  • Reading a second-hand on a watch or clock
  • Converting a fraction to a decimal using long-hand or a calculator
  • Rounding to the nearest ten-thousandths place (possibly with repeating decimals)
  • Estimating
  • Reading a table to determine the value of the glide slope
  • Subtracting decimals
  • Understanding the concept of the x-axis and y-axis
  • Graphing a scatter plot and line of best fit

    Back to Teacher Overview Outline


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