Mission Mastermind
Teacher Page: Lesson Plan



Desired Learning Outcomes
New Vocabulary
General Misconceptions
Preparation Time
Execution Time by Module
Physical Layout of Room
Procedure / Directions
Evaluation / Assessment
Follow-up Activities / Interdisciplinary Connections
One-Computer Classroom
Classrooms without Computers
Home Schooler



The goal of this lesson is to have students, through reading and visual clues, place the events of the 2002 servicing mission of the Hubble Space Telescope in the correct sequence. Students will increase their knowledge about technology and working in space by completing "Be the Mastermind Behind the Mission."

Desired Learning Outcomes:


Before attempting to complete this lesson, the student should:

New Vocabulary:

Acronym (n) -
A word formed from the initial letters of a name or compound term, such as WAC for Women's Army Corps or radar for radio detecting and ranging.

Altitude (n) -
The distance between an object and the earth's surface.

Cleanrooms (n) -
A room housing sensitive equipment that cannot be contaminated by dust, such as delicate optics and precision electronics. Cleanrooms are 10,000 times cleaner than a hospital operating room. Such cleanliness is incredibly hard to achieve and maintain. Huge air filtration systems completely change the air in cleanrooms about 10 times per minute. People working in cleanrooms must wear special dust-free clothing.

Cryocooler (n) -
A miniature refrigerator designed to cool spacecraft instruments to very low temperatures. The system's coolant is often a super-cooled gas, such as liquid nitrogen at 77.2 K or liquid helium at 4.2 K. The cryocooler installed in HST will reduce the temperature to about 70 K. (Mike?)

Cryogenic (adj) -
Of or relating to the production of very low temperatures.

Electromagnetic spectrum (n) -
The entire range of wavelengths of the electromagnetic radiation, from radio waves, to infrared, visible and ultraviolet light, to X-rays and gamma rays.

Field of view (n) -
The amount of sky visible through a telescope.

Infrared (IR) light (n) -
A region of the electromagnetic spectrum not visible to the human eye. This spectral region is analogous to sounds that are too low for the human ear to hear. Waves of IR light are slightly longer in length and slightly lower in frequency than those of visible light. IR light can be detected as the heat from a fire or light bulb.

Instruments (n) -
Any device that measures and records energy from astronomical objects.

Manifest (n) -
A list of activities to be accomplished, which are sometimes ranked in order of priority.

Nebula (n) -
A general term used in astronomy to indicate any light or dark patch of the night sky that is "fuzzy," or not sharply defined, as a star or planet would be.

Orbit (n) -
The path a satellite takes around a celestial body.

Radiation (n) -
All wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum, including radio, infrared, visible ultraviolet light, X-rays, and gamma rays.

Retrofit (v) -
To provide with new equipment or parts that were unavailable at the time of original manufacture or construction.

Spectrometer (n) -
An instrument that divides light into its rainbow of colors and records the information.

Switch-out (n) -
The process of replacing an old, outdated instrument or piece of equipment with an updated version.

Ultraviolet (UV) light (n) -
Situated beyond the visible region of the electromagnetic spectrum. Its location on the spectrum is analogous to sounds that are too high for the human ear to hear. Waves of UV light are slightly shorter in length and slightly higher in frequency than those of visible light. On Earth, too much UV light causes sunburns.

General Misconceptions:

Preparation Time:

    1. Time necessary to download computer software to support the lesson.
    2. Teachers should allow time to preview the lesson and to read the science background pages. These pages will provide additional content that will help teachers to answer questions posed by students.
    3. By previewing the lesson plan, teachers will be able to select an engagement activity, identify follow-up activities, allow time for gathering supplies such as the student travelogue (worksheet), and determine time needed by students to complete the lesson.

Execution Time by Module:

Physical Layout of Room:

Students can work in groups of two or individually in a computer lab. Adaptations can be made to accommodate classrooms with only a single computer with Internet access. This might include using an overhead projector with an LCD that projects the computer image on a screen or a hookup from a computer to a television monitor.

You can also complete "Be the Mastermind Behind the Mission" off-line. Various software programs provide off-line access to the Internet. Their programs allow you to save Web pages to your local hard drive. Using your Netscape browser, you can open the Web pages locally and experience the lesson as if you were viewing it on the Internet. Using this option, however, will deny students access to the references (identified in the Grab Bag pages) available on the World Wide Web.


This lesson requires a computer with a color monitor and an Internet connection. The Web browser must have at least the capability of Netscape's Navigator 4.0 or Internet Explorer 4.0. For additional information, see the Computer Needs section.

Teachers may want to use the student Mission Mastermind worksheet and Certificate of Achievement found in the Grab Bag section of this lesson, located under Downloadable Documents.

Procedure / Directions:

This lesson is a self-directed, interactive computer activity. Students may work independently or in small groups to complete the reading activity.

Suggested Engagement Activities:

1. Engage the students by asking them to identify an image of the Hubble Space Telescope and write down what they know about it.


An image of the Hubble Space Telescope printed from the Grab Bag

Instructions to the Teacher:

Engage the students by asking them to identify an image of the Hubble Space Telescope and write down what they know about it. Compile a list of the student responses. Ask students what happens when the telescope needs new equipment and instruments, and lead the discussion toward the topic of servicing missions.

Instructions to the Student:

Write down the name of the object in the picture and what you know about it. Be ready to share your ideas with the class and participate in a discussion.

2. Using Hubble Space Telescope images, spark a discussion about how the orbiting observatory has changed our view of the world. Ask them to talk about the cutting-edge technology that allows the telescope to snap the stunning images.


  • Images taken by HST. They can be printed from the "Decade of Discovery," http://hubblesite.org/discoveries/10th/photos/indexspace.shtml. Each of the 20 images contains a short caption with an option to read a longer version. The longer caption provides a link to the full press release. The image also can be enlarged so that it can be printed and used in the classroom.
  • Alternate materials: computer with Internet access

Instructions to the Teacher:

Show students one or more images of celestial objects taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and explain how these images have changed how view the world. Choose images that are relevant to your students' background. The image captions provide some information on the objects, along with an explanation on the picture's importance to the advancement to science. Ask students to identify the technology necessary to produce these images. Explain how advancements in technology have allowed us to continuously update the equipment and instruments on Hubble, which has led to new discoveries.

An alternative method is to ask students to use the Hubble telescope Website to study one or more images. You can either specify the image or images, or allow the students to choose. Ask students to "bookmark" the Website so that they can get back to the original site if they wander too far. This site has many links within HubbleSite, and the students can easily wander out of this area. If students "get lost," tell them to use the bookmark to get back to the site. Have them explain how the images have added to the advancement of science, and ask them to identify the technology needed to make this advancement.

Instructions to the Student:

After viewing the images and learning about their importance to the advancement of science, identify the technology astronomers used to make the images.

If the alternative method is used: Go to the bookmarked Website, and study one or more images from the 20 provided there. For each image, explain how it has added to the advancement of science, and identify the technology needed to make this advancement.

3. The teacher can create an activity that simulates how astronauts wearing cumbersome space suits manipulate objects in space so that students can understand the difficulties of working in space. The example included here is to construct a simple structure using unwieldy gloves.


  • Two matching sets of building blocks (10 pairs of blocks)
  • Ski gloves, oven mitts, or gardener's gloves
  • A partition sufficient enough to visually obstruct the partners' view of the construction

Instructions to the Teacher:

Select a pair of students (student A and student B), and place a partition between them. Ask student A to construct a structure using all ten of his/her blocks. Student A will then provide student B, who will be wearing the gloves, with oral step-by-step directions on how to construct the same simple block structure. You can place a time limit on this activity, or you can tailor it to your needs. If classmates are present, they should not critique the construction until the end of the activity. Discuss the difficulty each student experiences during the activity and how it relates to space missions, particularly with the Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission. You can alter the activity by using real tools, nuts, and bolts, or other toys from which structures can be built (such as Duplos or Legos).

Instructions to the Student:

Watch as one of your classmates, wearing cumbersome gloves, tries to construct a structure similar to his/her partner's building. A partition hides the structure built by his/her partner. The gloves simulate what it's like to work in space while wearing a space suit. When the task is completed, be ready to discuss the difficulties encountered by your classmate. Do not comment on the construction until the end of the activity.

Step-by-step Instructions:

This is a self-directed activity. If possible, each student should work independently. However, the lesson is flexible enough to fit any computer configuration at school or at home.

Students are presented with 10 images and scenarios from the Hubble Space Telescope's Servicing Mission 3B. Based on the images and reading selections, they must decide the correct order of mission events. The first page of the lesson explains the goal of the activity. The next page contains 10 images and specific instructions for the student. Students should click on an image to view the information about the image. The information provides more clues that will help students decide on the correct order of the images and therefore the correct sequence of events for the mission. The "BACK" button will return the students to this instruction page. On each of the pages identified with a letter from A to J, the students will find an image or two that they can enlarge by clicking on either the image or the words under the image. Those images identified as having more information. The "BACK" button will return the student to the page from which it was accessed. You may wish to ask your students to record clues and to explain their order sequence on their Mission Mastermind worksheet. Once the students have decided on the correct order, they move on to "Fix the Mission," where they will use pull-down menus to place the lettered images in their proper order.

An alternative is to ask the students to move directly to "Fix the Mission." Students can access the reading selections from this page by clicking on the images. In this case, the "BACK" button will return the students to the "Fix the Mission" page. This allows the students to place the images in order as they work.

When the students are satisfied that the order is correct, they can click on the "SUBMIT ANSWERS" button. The computer will check their sequence and place a checkmark next to the correctly placed step and on the image itself. When they have the correct sequence, a congratulations page pops up, and they have the option to print a Certificate of Achievement. The teacher can print certificates in advance for students from a PDF file in the "Grab Bag."

Who are the four astronauts displayed on the Certificate of Achievement? They are Takao Doi on the upper left, Susan Helms on the upper right, Winston Scott on the lower left, and Steven Smith on the lower right.

Evaluation / Assessment:

The primary activity of "sequencing" is for students to check their own work on the computer. However, the teacher can award points for arriving at the correct sequence on the first trial and fewer points for the second trial, etc. This would require the teacher to closely observe the students. The worksheet "Mission Mastermind" can be used as an additional evaluation tool. Points can be awarded, in rubric style, for the rational used by the students to select the position of each image. This is particularly appropriate if the teacher wants to stress the importance of evaluating information and using it to arrive at a well-supported answer.

A Suggested Rubric for Evaluating Mission Mastermind Worksheets:

This rubric can be used to evaluate the Mission Mastermind worksheets and should be shared with the students prior to their completion of the lesson. Each of the 10 steps in the sequence is worth three points, based on the students' response, as shown below. Students can earn a total of 30 possible points for the entire worksheet.

Solutions: Answers to "The Final Astronaut Challenge":

Sequence Rationale
D Astronaut Training in Water Tanks — Practice in simulated environment is used to determine time allotment for schedule.
F Preparing the EVA Schedule and Mission Priorities — The mission schedule is determined before launch.
G Launching the Shuttle — Shuttle launches from a vertical position. The mission schedule must be set before launch.
C Capturing the Telescope — The telescope needs to be captured before it can be serviced.
J Solar Array Installation — This is the first piece of equipment to be replaced on the telescope.
E Hubble Gets a New Heart: The Power Control Unit — According to the EVA schedule, the PCU is replaced after the solar arrays.
B A New Camera and a Boost — The ACS is scheduled for installation after the PCU.
I NICMOS Cryocooler — This is the last piece of equipment added to the telescope.
A Redeployment — The telescope is redeployed after the repairs are completed.
H Landing the Shuttle — The last step in the mission is the safe return of the astronauts to Earth.

Follow-up Activities / Interdisciplinary Connections:

1. Based on experience gained from "Be the Mastermind Behind the Mission," decide the order for the EVA schedule for Servicing Mission 3A based on a description of the equipment and the estimated time for replacement.


HST SM3A fact sheet: Service Call to Hubble - This two-page PDF file can be printed from http://sm3a.gsfc.nasa.gov/hst_fact_sheet.html, copied, and given to the students.

There are several fact sheets listed at this site. The teacher may want to read the ones on the pieces of equipment so that he/she can provide more information to the students. Or, the teacher can make "reference copies" available to the students.

Instructions to the Teacher:

Explain to your students that they are going to set up the EVA schedule for Servicing Mission 3A based on a description of the equipment and the estimated time for replacement. (No new science instruments were added on this mission because the failing gyroscopes made it imperative that the telescope be serviced early.) They have three six-hour-long EVAs on this mission, and the estimated time for replacement of the equipment is listed below. Remind students that the replacement times are only estimates. They are based on the astronauts practicing the EVAs in the neutral buoyancy tank. The astronauts may encounter unforeseen difficulties while actually replacing the equipment. So they must decide which equipment is most needed. You also can give them a last-minute update that the fourth gyroscope has failed. The telescope has been put into safe mode and is no longer making observations. (This announcement could be made after the students have read the fact sheet about the gyroscopes.) You also can ask the students to write a paragraph to justify the order they chose.

Estimated Replacement times:

  1. Rate Sensor Units - 3 hours
  2. Fine Guidance Sensor - 3 hours
  3. New Spacecraft Computer -2 hours
  4. Voltage/Temperature Improvement Kits - 1.25 hours
  5. Spare S-Band Single-Access Transmitter - 1.5 hours
  6. Spare Solid State Recorder - 1 hour
  7. New Outer Blanket Layer - 2 hours
  8. Shell/Shield Replacement Fabric - 1 hour
  9. Aft-Shroud Latch Repair Kit - 0.25 hrs
  10. Handrail Covers - 0.30 hrs
  11. Time to set up and close out each day - 1 hour or more (An additional half hour is needed on the first day to set up and on the last day to close out.)

Instructions to the Student:

Read the HST SM3A fact sheet Service Call to Hubble and decide which pieces of equipment are the most critical for the continued operation of the telescope. Then, based on the estimated replacement times provided by your teacher, set up an EVA schedule for the mission: You have three six-hour-long EVAs. Remember: the times are only estimates. Include the setup and closeout times each day. Then write a paragraph justifying your order of events.

2. Use news articles to improve the students' reading and writing skills and to update the information found in textbooks.


Instructions for the Teacher:

HubbleSite "News & Views" (http://hubblesite.org/) provides teachers and students with content reading selections not found in most classroom textbooks. These Hubble Space Telescope news stories feature a wide variety of topics ranging from the solar system to black holes. This updated information is easy to find: "News & Views" features the most recent news releases and allows access to archives organized by topic and year.

This content reading activity is very flexible. If you are a social studies teacher, you might choose current event articles from the newspaper rather than HubbleSite. Choose a topic - such as the solar system or stars and stellar evolution - and assign a different news release to each student or allow students to choose one.

After reading the full scoop, which is accessed from the news article in the "News & Views" section (lower left corner of the screen), the students can identify facts by underlining them. If students are using computers, they can jot down the facts on a sheet of paper. This activity will help them identify the important points of the news release. They will then write a one-minute overview of the latest discoveries on their chosen topic. The students will present their overviews to the class. Teachers also can print the image that accompanies the news release and make transparencies to aid the student's presentation. As each student presents his/her talk, the other students can take notes.

Instructions for the Student:

You are being assigned a news article concerning recent findings by the Hubble Space Telescope. Your job is to identify and jot down the key points in the article. Then, prepare a one-minute talk about the article's topic. You should read the initial information and then "Get the Full Scoop" by clicking on the box at the lower left of the screen. Your teacher will ask you to present your talk to the class and take notes on the talks given by your classmates.

3. Students build simple spectroscopes and telescopes using paper towel rolls and lenses. The publication listed below contains a list of materials, instructions, and illustrations for constructing a simple spectroscope and a telescope.

NASA publication "Space-Based Astronomy: Teacher's Guide with Activities," EG-102, August 1994. "Build a Simple Spectroscope Activity" is in unit 2 (pages 27-30), while information on building telescopes is found in unit 3 (pages 57 - 61). This publication is available on the Web as a PDF file through Spacelinks. The simple spectroscopes activity is on pages 30-33, and the telescope activity is on pages 60-64. http://spacelink.nasa.gov/Instructional.Materials/Curriculum.Support/Space.Science/Educator.Guides.and.Activities/Space.Based.Astronomy/.index.html

4. Use clues to identify the section of land that is visible behind the astronaut in the image entitled "Astronaut Hangs Out on Shuttle Arm."


Instructions to the Teacher:

This is an optional activity that some students may enjoy, particularly those interested in geography. There are several ways to approach this activity. Here are two suggestions: as a small group research activity or as a class activity.

Small group (three to five students) research project: The teacher gives the image to the students with instructions to identify the section of land pictured in the image. If students have access to the media center and/or a good atlas, they should be able to complete the activity during a class period. To prevent the students from sharing research information, the teacher can turn the activity into a competition among the groups. The winners can receive extra credit. If a group is struggling, the teacher can give them one or two of the clues listed below.

In the classroom, this activity can be used as a 15- to 20-minute introduction to a unit on Australia. The teacher can call out the clues to help the students to zero in on the area. The following is a list of clues the teacher may give to students to help them identify the section of land pictured in the image. (The answer to the identification: the northwest section of the Australian coastline from the Tropic of Cancer to Broom, Australia.)

Instructions to the Student:

Group Activity: Your teacher will give your group an image of an astronaut on the robotic arm of the space shuttle. Your job is to identify the area of Earth that is visible behind the astronaut. You may use the resources available to you in the media center to do this. The first group to specifically identify the section of land will receive bonus points.

Class Activity: You are about to begin studying another area of the world. As an introduction to the new unit, your teacher will project an image of an astronaut on the robotic arm of the space shuttle. Your job is to identify the area of Earth that is visible behind the astronaut. Your teacher will give you clues. You are to decide which Earthly location the astronaut is flying over. You may use the materials your teacher supplies.

5. For team teachers looking for a theme: "Be the Mastermind Behind the Mission" could be used in language arts classes. Science teachers could use the activity outlined in number two above. Social studies teachers could use the group activity in number four above. Math teachers could teach proportions using the solar system charts found in the "Grab Bag" for Galaxies Galore (http://amazing-space.stsci.edu/galaxies-galore/teacher/grabbag.html#activities), under the section "Activities and Charts" (scroll down to the yellow charts). And music teachers could create a short unit using music associated with space/astronomy. Suggested composers and their works are: Gustav Holst, The Planets, Richard Stauss, Zarathustra, and John Williams' "Star Wars Trilogy."

One-Computer Classroom:

It is recommended that teachers project the images from the computer onto a classroom screen using an overhead LCD or a television screen. Here are two suggestions to facilitate a large group presentation and to avoid last-minute glitches, which can always occur when using the Internet. Bookmark the part of the lesson you wish to use and download it onto your hard disk. This will eliminate the inconvenience of the Internet unexpectedly going off-line. Another way to prepare is to go the "Grab Bag," print selected parts of the lesson, and distribute them to the students.

Hardcopy versions of images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and other NASA missions are also available at your closest NASA Educator Resource Center at http://spacelink.nasa.gov/Instructional.Materials/NASA.Educational.Products/, or they may be downloaded from the Space Science Education Resource Directory (http://teachspacescience.org).

Classrooms without Computers:

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Print hard copies of the lesson from the PDF file. Visit the "Grab Bag," where you will find the "Mission Mastermind" worksheets needed for this activity as well as the printed version of the lesson.
  2. If your school has one or more computers located outside your classroom - for example, a library or a computer lab - students, either independently or in small groups, may experience the lesson as a learning station or as a supplement to your solar system unit.
  3. Some students may have computers at home with access to the Internet. If that's the case, you might consider assigning "Be the Mastermind Behind the Mission" lesson as homework or as extra credit.
  4. Your closest NASA Educator Resource Center offers free NASA lithographs and posters on the space shuttle and the Hubble Space Telescope. They can be used as teaching tools in the classroom.

Home Schooler:

This lesson is easily followed without additional teacher support if the prerequisites are met. Parents can preview the lesson and examine the teacher pages ahead of time. A wealth of information can be found at Hubblesite, the Hubble Space Telescope's website at the Space Telescope Science Institute. Here you can find background information on the telescope, pictures and news releases of past and present stories, education activities, and other science resources.

More information for the home-schooled can be found at:

Send your comments related to this page to: amazing-space@stsci.edu