Space Exploration Merit Badge – Space is about the future. The people who work in space-related projects-engineers and scientists, doctors and teachers, corporations, and entrepreneurs-are seeking to improve the future of humanity.
Once we are able to carry people and cargo cheaply into space, we could establish communities in space stations and on the Moon and Mars.
We could harness the Sun’s energy by using solar-powered satellites to provide clean, reliable electricity to everyone on Earth.
We could mine the Moon and asteroids for valuable minerals and metals rarely found on Earth. The far side of the Moon would be an excellent site for astronomical observatories.
Earth is only so big and there are only so many resources that our ever-growing population is using up. Spreading humanity among the stars is a magnificent dream.
After you read this pamphlet and earn the Space Exploration merit badge, perhaps you will do or discover something that could lead the way to the stars.
Space Exploration Merit Badge Requirement
- Tell the purpose of space exploration and include the following:
- Historical reasons
- Immediate goals in terms of specific knowledge
- Benefits related to Earth resources, technology, and new products
- International relations and cooperation
- Design a collector’s card, with a picture on the front and information on the back, about your favorite space pioneer. Share your card and discuss four other space pioneers with your counselor.
- Build, launch, and recover a model rocket.* Make a second launch to accomplish a specific objective. (Rocket must be built to meet the safety code of the National Association of Rocketry. See the “Model Rocketry” chapter of the Space Exploration merit badge pamphlet.) Identify and explain the following rocket parts.
- Body tube
- Engine mount
- Launch lug
- Nose cone
- Recovery system
- Rocket engine
- Discuss and demonstrate each of the following:
- The law of action-reaction
- How rocket engines work
- How satellites stay in orbit
- How satellite pictures of Earth and pictures of other planets are made and transmitted
- Do TWO of the following:
- Discuss with your counselor a robotic space exploration mission and a historic crewed mission. Tell about each mission’s major discoveries, its importance, and what was learned from it about the planets, moons, or regions of space explored.
- Using magazine photographs, news clippings, and electronic articles (such as from the internet), make a scrapbook about a current planetary mission.
- Design a robotic mission to another planet, moon, comet, or asteroid that will return samples of its surface to Earth. Name the planet, moon, comet, or asteroid your spacecraft will visit. Show how your design will cope with the conditions of the environments of the planet, moon, comet, or asteroid.
- Describe the purpose, operation, and components of ONE of the following:
- Space shuttle or any other crewed orbital vehicle, whether government-owned (U.S. or foreign) or commercial.
- International Space Station.
- Design an inhabited base located within our solar systems, such as Titan, asteroids, or other locations that humans might want to explore in person. Make drawings or a model of your base. In your design, consider and plan for the following:
- Source of energy
- How it will be constructed
- Life-support system
- Purpose and function
- Discuss with your counselor two possible careers in space exploration that interest you. Find out the qualifications, education, and preparation required and discuss the major responsibilities of those positions.
Model rocketry is a great way to learn about space exploration The rocket you build won’t reach space, but the science and technology that goes into your rocket is the same as NASA uses in launching giant rockets
Model rockets are made of paper, balsa wood, plastic, glue, and paint. You build them with simple tools such as a modeling knife, sandpaper, scissors, rulers, and paintbrushes.
Model rockets are powered by solid propellant rocket engines. Depending on the size and design of the rocket and the power of the engine, model rockets may fly only 50 feet high or up to a half-mile in altitude.
You can purchase model rocket kits and engines online, through mail-order catalogs, and in toy and hobby shops.
If you can borrow a rocket launcher, you can buy everything you need to complete requirement 3 for less than $15. If you buy or build your own launcher, the total cost for this requirement could be about $35 to $40.
1. Building Your Rocket
If you have never built a model rocket before, it is best to start with a simple kit. The kit will consist of a body tube, nose cone, fins, engine mount, and parachute or some other recovery system that will gently lower your rocket to the ground at the end of its flight.
Engines must be purchased separately from the rocket Be sure to buy the recommended engines for your kit. If you use engines that are too powerful, you may lose your rocket on its first flight.
Unless your rocket kit comes with preformed plastic fins, you will need to cut fins from sheets of balsa wood included in the kit. The instructions will tell you to sand the leading and trailing edges of the fins to look like the edge of a knife.
Do a good job on this step, because sharp edges on the fins help the rocket slice cleanly through the air as it flies upward. Blunt fin edges cause turbulence (rough air) that robs your rocket of altitude.
Also, do a good job painting the fins, and sanding and painting the nose cone if it, too. is made of balsa wood. Very smooth surfaces reduce friction with the air.
2. Stability-Checking Your Rocket
Check every rocket for stability before flying it. Stability checks before launch assure you that your rocket will fly properly. Unstable rockets tumble in the air and may head back toward the launchpad at high speed.
Stability checks are simple and require only a long piece of string, a piece of tape, and a few minutes of your time. To check a new model rocket, prepare the rocket for flight and insert a live engine.
Tie a slipknot around the body of the rocket and slide it to the point where the rocket is perfectly balanced on the string. Hold the string in one hand over your head, and begin to twirl your rocket as though you were spinning a lariat.
As the rocket picks up speed, gradually play out the string until the rocket is about 6 to 8 feet away. If you are not tall, you may want to stand on a chair at this point.
If your rocket is stable, it will travel around you without tumbling. The nose cone will point into the air and the tail end will follow. If the tail end goes first or if the rocket tumbles, your rocket may be dangerous to fly.
You can correct this situation by putting on larger fins or adding weight to the rocket’s nose with a lump of clay.
3. Launching Your Rocket
When your rocket is ready for its first flight, you must choose a proper launching site.
Your launching site should be a large field that is free of power and telephone lines, trees, buildings, or any other structures that might snag a returning rocket. Choose a field away from airports.
You will need a launch pad. Perhaps you can borrow a launchpad from a local model-rocket club, or join the members on a day when they are launching rockets. If not, you can either buy a launch pad kit or build your own.
A simple launchpad can be built from a block of wood, a blast deflector made from a flattened metal can, and a straight rod. Rods made specifically for rocket launchers are best and inexpensive. Buy one where you get your rocket supplies.
Your launch system should be electric. It must have a switch that closes only when you press it and then opens again automatically. It also should have a master switch, or you should be able to disconnect the batteries while you se: up your next flight.
The wires from your batteries (about 6 volts) should extend about 15 feet to small “alligator” clips at the ends. These clips will be attached to the wires of the igniter. Never use fuses or matches to ignite your rocket.
Some kits may come with payload sections for carrying raw eggs or insects. Never send up animals other than insects in your rockets.
An insect’s strong outer skeleton protects it from launch stresses, but mammals and other animals with backbones will feel much discomfort and possibly die from the experience.
4. Accomplishing a Launch Objective
After you have made your first launch, make a second launch with a specific objective in mind. You might try to spot-land the rocket within a 50-foot circle. That isn’t as easy as it sounds. You must make allowances for wind drift and aim your rocket accordingly.
Another objective might be to carry a payload aloft and recover it safely. Several rocket kits come with payload sections for carrying raw eggs or insects,
Still another objective would be to launch a small camera on your rocket to take a picture of the launch site from a high altitude. Specially designed cameras are available for model rockets.
The body tube is the barrel of the rocket. It holds the engine, the recovery device, and the payload. The rocket’s fins and launch lug are mounted to the body tube.
The engine mount is a small tube that is glued to the inside of the body tube. The engine mount provides a sturdy place for inserting the rocket engine, Rocket fins are the main stability device of the rocket.
Their function is similar to that of feathers on an arrow. Igniters are small wires that are inserted into the nozzle of a rocket engine. When electricity is passed through the wire, the wire heats, and chemicals coating the wire ignite.
This, in turn, ignites the rocket engine. The igniter wires are blasted out the nozzle when the engine propellants start burning.
Before fins can stabilize a rocket, the rocket must be moving through the air. The launch lug is a small drawer mounted to the side of the body tube.
The lug slides over the rod on the launchpad, and the rod stabilizes the rocket until the fins are able to take over (which happens in a fraction cí a second).
The nose cone is fitted at the upper end of the rocket. Its purpose is to divide the air smoothly so the rocket can travel through the air with little turbulence. Nose cones are usually tapered to a point.
Payloads that can be carried on model-rocket flights include small cameras, radio transmitters, and raw eggs.
Payloads carried on space rockets include satellites, spacecraft bound for other planets, scientific experiments, and astronauts. Model rockets can be recovered in many ways.
Recovery systems may be parachutes that are stored inside the body tube and ejected automatically by the rocket engine near the time the rocket reaches its maximum altitude. Streamers also are used for recovery.
They slow the rocket as it falls back. Other recovery systems are helicopter-type rotors or wings for gliding landings.
The rocket engine is the power plant of your model rocket. An engine consists of a cylinder, called the casing, that holds the solid propellant.
The upper end of the casing usually has a plug and the lower end has a nozzle. The nozzle is a small opening through which the burning gases escape.
The nozzle makes the gases travel at high speeds when they exit. much the same way the nozzle on a garden hose makes water squirt farther where the hole is smaller. Inside the engine are the solid propellants. The propellants have oxygen built into their chemistry.
This enables them to burn even in outer space, where there is no outside oxygen. (Rocket engines are different from jet engines. Jet engines must take in air from the atmosphere to burn their fuel.)
Careers in Space Exploration
A career in space exploration makes you think of being an astronaut. Since 64 percent of the present and former astronauts were Boy Scouts, you have a good head start.
But astronautics is only one occupation among the many that will be needed to explore and settle our solar system and beyond.
Many positions at NASA, at educational facilities, and in private businesses involve space exploration and research.
To prepare for a space career, you must study math and science. Take all the high-school math you can-algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus. Also take biology, chemistry, physics, and computer science.
You must be able to write and speak clearly. Being bilingual and having good people skills are vital in this age of the International Space Station.
Study English and at least one foreign language. You will also need social studies including history, geography, international studies, art, drama, and music. All of these will widen your world and make you a
better communicator. To get into college, you will need good grades and high scores on standardized exams such as the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) or ACT (American College Test).
In college, choose a technical or science major-physics, chemistry, biology, geology. mathematics, engineering, computer science, or pre-medicine. Round out your education with Humanities courses such as Languages, history, economics, art, and public speaking.
1. Aerospace Operation Technicians
Aerospace engineering and operations technicians work with systems used to test, launch, or track aircraft and space vehicles.
Like all engineering technicians, those who specialize in aerospace apply science, math, and engineering principles to solve technical problems.
They may assist engineers and scientists with research, by building or setting up equipment, preparing and conducting experiments, collecting data, and calculating the results.
Engineering technicians need creativity to help with design work, often using computer-aided design (CAD) software or making prototypes of newly designed equipment.
They must be able to work with their hands to build and repair small, detailed items without making errors.
Most positions for engineering technicians require at least a two-year associate degree in engineering technology.
Training is available at technical institutes, community colleges, and Vocational-technical schools and in the Armed Forces. Engineering technicians often work as part of a team of engineers and other specialists.
2. Aerospace Engineers
Aerospace engineers design, develop, and test aircraft, spacecraft, and missiles. They develop new technologies for space exploration, often specializing in areas such as structural design, propulsion systems, navigation and control, instrumentation, and communications.
Aerospace engineers who work with spacecraft are also called astronautical engineers.
A bachelor’s degree in engineering is required for almost all entry-level engineering positions. Most engineers earn their degrees in electrical, electronics, mechanical, or civil engineering. Many aerospace engineers are trained in mechanical engineering.
Engineering students typically spend their first two years of college studying math, basic sciences, introductory engineering, humanities, and social sciences. Courses in their last two years are mostly in engineering, usually concentrating on one branch.
The last two years of an aerospace program might include courses in fluid mechanics, heat transfer, applied aerodynamics, flight vehicle design, trajectory dynamics, and aerospace propulsion systems.
3. Research associates
Research associates may take part in experiments or help analyze data for research projects such as mapping the planets and their moons.
This work generally requires a master’s degree, which takes two to three years of study beyond a bachelor’s degree.
4. Space scientists
Space scientists must have at least a Ph.D. degree, which usually takes four to six years of study beyond a bachelor’s degree.
Scientists work with existing projects and are also expected to use their creativity to develop future missions. Space scientists need a broad base of knowledge.
A scientist whose major field is chemistry, for instance, also needs a good grounding in physics, mathematics, and engineering.
In the future, space-related careers will be varied and indescribable in today’s terms. Some occupations could take you into space; others could help someone else get there.
We stand on the shore of a great sea and can only imagine what lies beyond the horizon. Perhaps your career will allow you to find out!