Space Pioneers

The beginnings of rocketry go way back to the Greeks.  People have been testing methods of propulsion for thousands of years, but it wasn’t until Isaac Newton wrote down his Laws of Motion that these principles were put into words and defined.  From there the science of rocketry really took off.

By the early 1900’s the basic science behind propulsion, trajectory, wind resistance, gravity, escape velocity and so on had been mathematically quantified and defined, but still no one had actually built a rocket that could leave the atmosphere of the Earth.  Some people thought it was impossible, if people were meant to travel into space they’d have been born with . . . what?  Not wings, for even the birds do not fly into the upper atmosphere.  Other people, like Jules Verne for one, thought it was only a matter of time and imagined what such a thing would be like.

Robert Goddard is considered the father of modern rocketry. He created the world’s first liquid fueled rocket which made space flight possible. During his lifetime he was ridiculed for his experiments and his dreams of space flight. But everything he dreamed and much more became true. Photo by NASA, public domain.

The thing that really got the burners under the bellies of the rockets was the space race, a competition between east and west, between communism and capitalism, between totalitarianism and freedom.  The USSR headed up the team for the east, while the United States headed up the team for the west.

Yuri Gagarin was a Russian Cosmonaut and the first man in space. He flew the Vostok I rocket into orbit and landed safely in 1961. Photo by SAS Scandinavian Airlines, public domain.

The Russians sent the first object into orbit, then the first rocket with a living creature, then the first manned space flight.  The Americans were a dismal second and second meant LOSER in this race.  So President Kennedy issued a challenge for Americans to put a man on the moon before the 1960’s ended.  Though Kennedy himself was not there to see it, Americans did put a man on the moon in 1969.

Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin flew the Apollo 11 mission to the moon in 1969.  Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon, preformed science experiments, planted a flag, and came back to Earth safely.  Photo by NASA, public domain.

The days of the Space Pioneers are not over, though space launches have become so common that we ignore them for the most part.  (At least until now, the last Space Shuttle launch was in 2011) .  But as far as exploring space goes, we have just begun.

Space Pioneer Trading Card

Have your kids choose a Space Pioneer to make a trading card of.  You will need an image of the pioneer and some card stock or other thick paper.  Glue the image to one side of the card, then on the back side write down several facts about the person.  Include things like when they were born, which country they were from (or worked for), what their major accomplishments were, and when they died.

Make these printable space pioneer trading cards when learning about space exploration.

Make these printable space pioneer trading cards when learning about space exploration.

We have provided a Space Pioneer Trading Cards template to use if you like.  Cut out the solid lines and then fold along the center dotted line, gluing the back to form the trading card.  You will need to print or draw your space pioneers portrait for the front of the card.

Make these printable space pioneer trading cards when learning about space exploration.

Though the card itself doesn’t hold much information, in order to find even that little bit the student will have to do quite a bit of reading and learning about their Space Pioneer.  Share the pioneers with one another.

Additional Layers

  • You can make trading cards for any topic.  It’s just one more method to make learning fun rather than writing a biography for every person you come across.
  • Learn about Newton’s Laws as you learn about rockets.
  • Build a model rocket or a PVC rocket.
  • Read From the Earth to the Moon & Around the Moon by Jules Verne
  • Write your own story about the future of humans in space.

Unit 1-1 Free



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