Space Challenge

“NASA is on a journey to Mars, with a goal of sending humans to the Red Planet in the 2030s. That journey is already well under way.” Based on this goal, Virginia Air & Space Center is well under way with engineering the Space Challenge Exhibit—an exhibit that will educate the next generation of NASA engineers, that may very well go to Mars.

The Virginia Air & Space Center’s Space Challenge exhibit, anticipated to open in April 2017, encourages visitors to become a NASA rocket engineer. This interactive exhibit will take learners of all ages on a journey through the world of space exploration by giving them the opportunity to learn about the history and future of space flight, explore our solar system, and ultimately, learn what it takes to get from pen and paper to launching the Orion Capsule on the NASA Space Launch System (SLS) – the NASA system that will take humans to Mars in the 2030s.

Space Challenge is uniquely designed to provide visitors with an individualized learning experience by providing them a variety of different strategies and opportunities to explore the exhibit and learn at their own pace. By doing this, Space Challenge will be able to captivate all ages and all learning styles.

Based on the three module approach, Space Challenge gives visitors the chance to:

(1) LEARN about our solar system, the fundamentals and importance of rocketry, and the past and future of space travel

(2) BUILD and design their very own rocket while learning rocket dynamics, and

(3) EXPLORE what it takes to travel on a mission by preparing for one and collecting necessary supplies while being challenged to answer subject-relevant questions.

The LEARN module is a touchscreen, free-choice learning application that gives visitors a variety of different space exploration topics, such as: the dynamics of our complex solar system and the missions crafted to explore it, the basics of rocketry and how they work, and the history of space travel.

The EXPLORE module transports visitors to the ground floor of a 3-dimensinal launching facility. Once in the facility, they have to track down the payload needed for their mission. Once each payload portion is found, they have to answer a subject-relevant questions in order to load the payload onto the rocket. All of the questions in this module are based on content learned during the LEARN module and they adhere to Virginia Standard of Learning (SOL) guidelines. There are multiple levels of difficulty in the EXPLORE module to allow for learners of all ages to succeed.

The BUILD module, presents visitors with the challenge of choosing their mission objective and engineering the rocket necessary to accomplish the mission. This module is completely hands-on and allows visitors to be creative and craft their rocket themselves. When the visitor pushes the red launch button, their rocket will take off. The application then performs live physics calculations to determine the rocket’s path. If it was built correctly it’s ready for launch! 5…4…3…2…1… Blast-off! The entire building of visitors can watch in amazement as the rocket climbs up the big screen!