Survival Theme: Lost on the Moon

    Imagine you are an astronaut. You pilot your spaceship to the moon. It crashes! You are scheduled to meet up with the mother ship, which is 200 miles away.  You and the mother ship are on the light side of the moon. Your crash-landing has destroyed your ship, except for fifteen items. The survival of your crew depends on you reaching the mother ship.
    You must pick the most important items available for the 200 mile trip from the list below.
    Your mission is to rank the fifteen items. Put them in numerical order from the most important to the least important. Try to think of good reasons for your order.  Record your reasons.

Here are the fifteen items:
Box of matches
Food concentrate
50 feet of nylon rope
Parachute silk
Solar-powered heating unit
Two 45-calibre pistols
Stellar maps of the moon's contellation
Self-inflated raft
Magnetic compass
Five gallons of water
Signal flares
First-aid kit
Solar-powered FM walkie-talkie
One case of powdered milk
Two tanks of oxygen


Teacher Briefing:
    The purpose of this design brief is to demonstrate the "need" for library research to find answers to questions.

Materials for This Activity: (Optional)
Activity briefs, 2 per team

1. Orientation. Present students with the design brief, "Lost on the Moon." Read through the brief together. Allow students to work in teams of three or four to "rank order" the fifteen items onto the first design brief.

2. Background. How confident are they of their team's survival with their present background information? Remind students that in this problem-solving exercise their life depends on the
accuracy of their choices. How could they increase their chances of survival?

3. Additional Resources. Encourage students to discuss their priority of moon-survival items with others including their parents, community sources, and friends.

4. Library Resources. Have teams research all aspects of the moon including its temperature variation, day-night, light-dark side, gravity, atmosphere, resources, ... Seymour Simon's book,
The Moon, is an excellent source.

5. Collaboration. Have the group work together to solve their problem of survival on the moon. Have one member record the group's answers onto a second design brief. Compare and share individual answers with the group's conclusions. Did students' answers stay the same? Did the answers change? Can the group justify each answer? Record your reasons for each prioritized item. Groups must be willing to share answers with the class.

6. Class Presentations. Groups present their prioritized lists to the class. Each item is rank ordered, and the reason for its order is explained to the class by group members.

7. Facilitation. The teacher guides the groups through their presentations to the class. He/she clarifies questions the class might have. When groups have finished their presentations, the teacher displays NASA's findings.
    Groups record their findings before research and after
research next to NASA's.

8. Math Application. The class compiles a chart of before and after research results. The class compares the results. Did research help you survive on the moon? How could you have increased your survival odds even more?

Enhancing Other Concepts and Skills:

1. Relationships. Discuss what the relationship of "need" is to learning a skill. Use the analogy of a baby. Why does a baby learn to talk? People learn to do things because they "need" to.  Can students suggest other things that are learned out of "need."  List and discuss each.

2. Language Connection. Read Aesop's fable, The Crow and the Pitcher. What does it mean "necessity is the mother of invention?" How did the crow get the water out of the pitcher?  Write a modern-day version of this fable. Remember you must demonstrate a "need" in your story in order to justify your solution to the problem.

3. Inventions. List all the inventions that were stimulated by need. Look at the great inventions of the world: the wheel, the printing press, the assembly line, the cotton gin, the telephone, the computer... Give reasons each was needed.

4. Guidance. Throughout life students are faced with a series of choices. Most choices are not as "life threatening" as this design-brief activity. How do people make good choices? How can people be guided in making better choices?

5. Science Extension. Read books on other planets. What if you were lost on Jupiter, Uranus, or Neptune? What are your chances of survival? What choices would you change? What items would you need most?

Lost On The Moon

NASA's Your Group Error

Name NASA's Reasoning Ranks

-Box matches  (No oxygen on moon to sustain flame; virtually worthless) =15
-Food Concentrate (Efficient means of supplying energy requirements)=4
-Fifty feet of Nylon rope (Useful in scaling cliffs, tying injured together)=6
-Parachute silk (Protection from sun's rays)=8
-Solar-powered portable heating unit (Not needed unless on dark side)=13
-Two .45 caliber pistols (Possible means of propulsion)=11-
-One case of dehydrated milk (Bulkier duplication of food concentrate)=12
-Two 100 pound tanks of oxygen (Most pressing survival need)=1
-Stellar map (of moon's constellation) (Primary means of navigation)=3
-Self-inflating life raft (C02 bottle in military raft may be used for propulsion)=9-
-Magnetic compass (Magnetic field on moon is not polarized; worthless for navigation)=14
-Five gallons of water (Replacement for tremendous liquid loss on lighted side)=2
-Signal Flares (Distress signal when mother ship is sighted)=10
-First-aid kit (Contains needles that fit special aperture on NASA space suit)=7
-Solar-powered FM Walkie Talkie (For communication withmother ship but FM requires line-
of-sight transmission and short ranges)=5



Error points are the absolute difference between your ranks and NASA's.
Scoring for individuals: 0-25

Excellent, 26-32 Good, 33-45 Average, 46-55 Fair, 56-70 Poor, suggest possible faking or use of earth-bound logic.

Source: Dr. Jay Hall, Department of Strategy, Naval War College, Newport, R.I., and the Crew Equipment Research Department of NASA.