Search form

Astronauts Finish Building Space Station Addition



  • Science
    --Space Science
  • Social Studies
    --Current Events


Grades 2-up

News Content

Atlantis astronauts put in place solar panels that provide power for the space station.

Anticipation Guide

Before reading, write International Space Station on a board or chart. Ask students to share what they know about the International Space Station (ISS). Depending on the grade you teach, students might know little or a lot. Write on the board or chart the information that students share. If your students have no prior knowledge of the space station, share that the ISS is being built in space. When finished, the space station will enable teams of astronauts to live in space for long periods of time. The ISS is an experiment that might someday lead to many people living in space.

News Words

Introduce these words from the News Word box on the students' printable page: gravity, energy, mission, storage, collect, and robotic. Ask students to identify the word in the list that means

  • a place where something is kept until it is needed. (storage)
  • power from coal, electricity, or another source that makes machines work. (energy)
  • to gather together. (collect)
  • an unseen force that pulls things down toward the surface of the Earth and keeps them from floating away into space. (gravity)
  • a mechanical structure that does tasks often done by humans. (robotic)
  • a special job or task. (mission)

Read the News

Click for a printable version of this week's news story Astronauts Finish Building Space Station Addition.

Reading the News

You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:

* Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.

* Students might first read the news story to themselves; then call on individual students to read the news aloud for the class.

* Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write a note in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.

More Facts to Share

You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this week's news story.

  • Atlantis' 11-day mission included three scheduled spacewalks to hook up a new $372 million addition to the space station.
  • During the Atlantis mission, astronauts Steve MacLean and Joe Tanner encountered problems. As they were attaching new parts, bolts floated away from them. It can be difficult to handle small bolts while wearing bulky space gloves. The bolts are not the first "junk" to be lost in space. For example, on the last mission a 14-inch spatula floated away from spacewalkers aboard the space shuttle Discovery.
  • Floating space junk can create a danger in space. Junk such as those bolts could puncture an astronaut's spacesuit or the walls of the space station.
  • The work of spacewalkers is very demanding. For example, spacewalkers Joe Tanner and Heidemarie M. Stefanyshyn-Piper pushed two sets of solar panels into position. They had to work quickly to connect wiring and cables in order to ensure that the electronic components did not get too cold.
  • In preparation for the space mission, astronauts practiced their tasks in a swimming pool. Doing the tasks in water most closely mirrors what it might be like to do them in space. "This is a lot harder than it was in the water," said Joe Tanner as he hooked up a power cable during the mission.
  • On a 7-hour spacewalk, astronauts Dan Burbank and Steve MacLean prepared the solar arrays for their first rotation. The solar panels will move with the sun in order to maximize the amount of power that can be generated.

Comprehension Check

Revisit the Anticipation Guide at the top of this lesson. Ask students to add new facts they learned by reading this news story to the list of things they knew before reading it.

You might follow-up that activity by asking some of these questions:

Recalling Detail

  • For how many days were the astronauts in space? (11 days)
  • How many astronauts traveled aboard the shuttle Atlantis? (six astronauts)
  • How big was the new addition that astronauts attached to the International Space Station? (It was 45 feet long and weighed more than 17 tons.)
  • How was the new addition removed from the space shuttle Atlantis? (Robotic arms transferred it from the shuttle to the space station.)
  • How long did the astronauts' spacewalks last? 6 to 7 hours)
  • How far above Earth were the astronauts as they "built" the space station? (220 miles)
  • Why do tools and other things sometimes float away from astronauts in space? (There is no gravity in space; no force pulls at things to keep them from floating away.)
  • How do astronauts train on Earth for tasks they will need to complete in space? (Sometimes they train underwater. Training underwater most closely mirrors what it might be like to complete a task in space.)
  • How many countries are participating in the construction of the International Space Station? (16 countries)

Think About the News

Discuss the Think About the News question that appears on the students' news page.

In addition, you might ask these questions.

  • Would you like to have an opportunity to be an astronaut who works aboard the International Space Station? Why or why not?

Follow-Up Activities

Cooperative group activity. Arrange students into pairs. Pose this task: Make a list of the skills an astronaut might need to have to do the job. Give students a few minutes to create a list. Then merge two pairs of students together to create groups of four students. Have them discuss and add to the ideas they generated in their pairs; create a new combined list of skills. Next, merge two groups of four students to form groups of eight students. Have students create a new combined list of skills. Finally, bring all students together for a class discussion about astronaut's skills.

Build a model space station. Use the scale model drawing package on the NASA Web site to "build" a model of the space station.

Make a photo timeline. Challenge students to use the images on the International Space Station Assembly Web page to create a photo timeline of the project.

Research. Copy the activity below onto a board or a sheet of chart paper. Have students use the astronaut biographies on the STS-115 Mission Web page to match each astronaut's name to his or her home state or province. (Answers: 1.d, 2.e, 3.b, 4.f, 5.a, 6.c.)

1. Brent Jett Jr. a. Ontario (Canada)
2. Chris Ferguson b. Illinois
3. Joe Tanner c. Minnesota
4. Dan Burbank d. Michigan
5. Steve MacLean e. Pennsylvania
6. Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper f. Connecticut


Use the Comprehension Check (above) as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News questions on the news story page or in the Comprehension Check section.

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

National Standards

National Standards

NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
NL-ENG.K-12.8 Developing Research Skills
NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

NS.K-4.4 Earth and Space Science
NS.K-4.5 Science and Technology
GRADES 5 - 8
NS.5-8.4 Earth and Space Science
NS.5-8.5 Science and Technology
GRADES 9 - 12
NS.9-12.4 Earth and Space Science
NS.9-12.5 Science and Technology

See recent news stories in Education World's News Story of the Week Archive.

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World®
Copyright © 2006 Education World