We Love Rockets!
We Love Rockets!
In a series of blog posts we will explore the important elements and challenges of designing our Moon Mission. One of the most important (and costly) challenge of the mission is getting off the surface of our planet and into space. To escape the Earth’s gravity requires a great force be applied in the proper direction to allow us to ‘blast off’ the surface of our planet. We use rockets to accomplish this phenomenal and monumental task. Rockets are very powerful and complicated. This fact makes rocketry a very dangerous and risky business (as we shall see). For this very reason, some still consider rocketry to be more of a 'black art' than a 'science'. Therefore, we must always adhere to strict safety measures when firing a rocket (even a model rocket). Today we will learn a little bit about why we love (and need) rockets to accomplish our mission.
We can learn a great deal about the key engineering principles of rocketry from studying the design of each of the rocket's main parts and ‘experimenting’ with model rockets. Let’s ‘blast off’ with a couple of young ‘Rocket Scientists’ as they explore how to improve the performance of their model rockets to get the optimum flight to meet their goal (maximum altitude). They will also introduce us to the ‘Scientific Method’. Here is a brief overview of the Scientific Method:
The scientific method is a process for experimentation that is used to explore observations and answer questions. Scientists use the scientific method to search for ‘cause and effect’ relationships in nature. In other words, they design an experiment so that changes to one item cause something else to vary in a predictable way. Just as it does for a professional scientist, the scientific method will help us to focus the project’s questions, construct a hypothesis, design, execute, and evaluate our experiment.
The scientific method is a way to ask and answer scientific questions by making observations and doing experiments.
The steps of the scientific method are to:
o Ask a Question
o Do Background Research
o Construct a Hypothesis
o Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment
o Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion
o Communicate Your Results
It is important for your experiment to be a fair test. A "fair test" occurs when you change only one factor (variable) and keep all other conditions the same.
When consistency is obtained the hypothesis becomes a theory and provides a coherent set of propositions which explain a class of phenomena. A theory is then a framework within which observations are explained and predictions are made. A theory is accepted not based on the prestige or convincing powers of the proponent, but on the results obtained through observations and/or experiments which ANYONE can reproduce: the results obtained using the scientific method are repeatable. In fact, most experiments and observations are repeated many times. If the original claims are not verified the origin of such discrepancies is hunted down and exhaustively studied. Here is the video of our young 'Rocket Scientists' demonstrating the ‘Scientific Method’:
Now that we know a little bit about rockets, let’s learn something about the history of rockets and take a short space journey to explore one of the ‘mysteries’ of our universe. We will also take a look at some of our greatest technological achievements in space (thanks to our ability to ‘blast off’ our planet). Everything that has ever been accomplished in space has begun right here on the ground with a powerful rocket. Finally, we will end with a little mystery right here at home.
Please let us know your ‘hypotheses’ about crop circles and their formation. Next week we will discuss the surface of the Moon and its turbulent formation.
In a future blog post we will provide you a detailed blueprint to build and launch your own model rocket with everyday household parts (at a reasonable cost, too). Then you can use the ‘Scientific Method’ to optimize its performance and report back to us on the results.
So, stay tuned and get ready to blast off . . .