A virtual space mission for students


The educational activities at Andøya Space benefits greatly from having access to the infrastructure and people of Andøya Space. What better way to learn about space than using real equipment and talking to the professionals in the field? But not all students can travel to Andøya, especially during a pandemic.

Andøya Space offers two online “space missions” for students in lower and upper secondary school in a project called Andøya Mission Control. These missions are performed in the students’ own classrooms over internet. A successful mission require teamwork and the ability to turn theoretical knowledge into practical solutions.

The educational simulations are called Mission: Solar Storm (Oppdrag: Solstorm) and Mission Mars (Oppdrag: Mars). In Mission: Solar Storm, the students act as ground control and must help repair a broken satellite before a solar storm reaches Earth, damage the satellite, and endanger the astronaut in space.

In Mission: Mars, the students are responsible for sending a rover to the red planet to search for signs of water and life. The students must work together with a mission pilot in order to program the rover for this task. After the mission, the students analyze the collected data from the Martian surface.

Illustration of mission patch for mission mars

Introductions for the teacher

– As a science teacher with a personal interest in space and space exploration, I was curious to see how “Mission: Mars” would work with our students, says Stine Skarshaug at Molde Videregående Skole.

Her students are aged 16 to 19, and she used “Mission: Mars” for her students in Technology and Research, one of the electable courses at the VG2 and VG3 level of Norwegian high school education.

The course gives practical insight into how academia and industry make use of science and technology, and includes software coding, working with electronics, and learning about research methods.

­– Before introducing “Mission: Mars” to their students, the teachers attend a half-day introductory training course which explains how to use and solve the mission, Skarshaug says.

Math, physics, and coding

Prior to the mission, the students were divided into specialized groups which all reported back to Mission Control.

The mission itself lasted about 70 minutes. Afterwards, the students worked with and analyzed the data from the rover, before writing their own reports from the mission covering the tasks of their group and the results.

– We spent about four weeks overall, from preparing the mission, to solving it, and completing the report. The mission includes side tasks and the teacher can adjust the number of these to fit the schedule and progression of their course, Skarshaug says.

The mission tasks are also adjustable according to the age of the students and their experience with math, physics, coding, geology, and other science subjects.

– “Mission: Mars” includes a large package of preparatory material for the teacher. With this the mission can be tailored to any class and level from ages 13 and up, Skarshaug says.

She recommends that the students have some experience with science, math and particularly software coding before embarking on the mission.

Illustration of mission patch for mission solar storm

A useful, flexible, and fun tool

– Several of the students were already interested in space and space exploration, but all students enjoyed the new and different way of learning in “Mission: Mars”, says Skarshaug.

She found it not only fun for students and teacher alike, but also a useful and flexible tool for education.

– I highly recommend Mission: Mars to other teachers, as it can easily be adjusted to different types of classes and subjects, covers multiple goals for the Technology and Research course at VG2, and demonstrates how science and technology are used in real life, says Skarshaug.

More information

Contact Andøya Space Education.