Learn About Important Women in Space & Build Your Own Straw Rocket
In honor of March being Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating some of the women whose contributions have played a crucial role in advancing the exploration of space. These scientists, engineers, mathematicians and astronauts impacted the science of space travel in untold ways and helped build and shape NASA into what it is today.
• Kitty O’Brien Joyner – Not only was O’Brien Joyner the first woman to graduate from the University of Virginia’s esteemed engineering program, but she was the first female engineer at NASA.
• Katherine Johnson – Working as a “human computer” for the space program, Johnson was a mathematician that calculated complicated trajectories for Alan Shepard, John Glenn and Apollo 11’s flight to the moon. Two NASA facilities have been named in her honor, including the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility in Hampton, Virginia.
• Dorothy Vaughan – As the head of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics’ segregated West Area Computing Unit, Vaughan was both an accomplished mathematician and NASA’s first Black manager.
• Mary Jackson – In 1958, Jackson became NASA’s first Black female engineer. She was instrumental in calculating trajectories for Apollo 11’s flight to the moon and had a significant impact in NASA’s hiring and promotion of female mathematicians, engineers and scientists.
• Sally Ride – Ride was the first American woman in space, making her first journey to space on June 18, 1983, on the Space Shuttle Challenger.
• Mae Jemison – Jemison was the first Black woman in space, flying on the Space Shuttle Endeavor in 1992 where she performed experiments on bone cell research.
• Ellen Ochoa – Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman in space when she served as mission specialist on the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1993. She returned to space three more times over the next decade.
• Jessica Meir and Christina Koch – These two astronauts made history when they performed the very first all-female space walk in NASA history in October 2019.
These woman (and so many more) pioneered modern spaceflight and continue to inspire kids to explore the sciences. If you have a young astronaut or engineer in your life, get their mind going with this space-themed STEM activity you can do at home.
Build Your Own Straw Rocket
What You’ll Need
• Markers or crayons
What You’ll Do
- Cut out a 3”x2” strip of paper. Fold in half lengthwise.
- Use tape to seal the long edge closed, then tape to seal one short end of the rectangle. Be sure the other short end remains open.
- Add some creativity by drawing a rocket, spaceship or anything else you want to launch into space on the paper.
- Insert the straw into the open end of the paper.
- Blow into the straw and watch your rocket take off!
Tip: If your rocket isn’t launching off the straw easily, try using tape to make the open end slightly smaller. The activity works best when air is not able to escape when blowing.
Try launching your straw rocket at different angles.
• How far does it fly?
• Do certain angles make it fly farther or shorter?
• Why do you think the rocket flies differently at different angles?
Add weight to your straw rocket by adding paper clips.
• How does the weight affect how the rocket flies?
• What will happen if you add more weight to the rocket?
Try to make your straw rocket land on a specific target.
• How do you need to aim to make your rocket land in the right place?
• If you move your landing target around, how do you need to change your aim?
What Kids Learn
How to Support the Play
- Remember: There is often more than one “right way” of doing things.
- When a child asks for help, guide without taking over. Nudge them along with suggestions framed as questions. “What would happen if…?”
- View mistakes and bumps in the road for what they really are – opportunities to learn.
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