Hitting The Target
The comet landing
by Gordon Lamont
Suitable for Key Stage 2
To celebrate the European Space Agency’s successful mission to land a probe on a comet, and to consider the importance of teamwork.
Preparation and materials
- Please check for the latest updates to this story on the BBC News or other reputable news site.
- Prepare to show the film from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/science-environment-29985988, entitled ‘Fantastic, fantastic it’s landed’, which shows the reaction in the control centre.
- You will need a large sheet of paper and some soft balls for throwing.
- Hold up the large sheet of paper and ask who thinks they’re good at hitting a target like this. Choose some volunteers. The number will depend on the time you have, but two or three should be plenty.
- Invite the volunteers to stand in front of you, about two or three metres away. Ask them to throw the soft balls, one by one, at the target that you are holding.
- Invite them to try hitting the sheet of paper from further away and repeat.
- Then suggest that they go a bit further away still, and move them as far from you as possible. Do they think they could hit the target now? Before they throw, say ‘There’s just one thing,’ and turn the target so that the edge of the sheet of paper faces them. Then say, ‘Oh, by the way, you have to close your eyes, too!’ Enjoy the spectacle of whether they hit or, more likely, miss.
- Ask the volunteers to sit down as you applaud them. Ask if anyone knows about a recent, big event in space exploration. Talk about the Rosetta/Philae (‘feelay’) mission and briefly recap the key facts as follows:
The lander probe Philae touched down on Comet 67P after a 10-year, 6.4 billion-kilometre journey.
The landing took place at 16.05 GMT on 12 November 2014.
The probe was carried to the comet on its ‘mother ship’ Rosetta, which it uses to relay its messages to Earth.
The mission was designed and engineered by the European Space Agency, which has its control centre in Germany.
After separating from Rosetta and seven hours of careful manoeuvring, Philae reached the surface.
Then the anchors that were supposed to fire into the surface to make the probe secure didn’t work; it bounced twice before settling and really getting to work
- Explain that landing a probe on a comet so far away is much, much harder than trying to hit the edge of a piece of paper here today. The feat could be achieved only by a brilliant team of space scientists and engineers working together. Each person on the team brought their skills and knowledge to the project. In the end it paid off.
Show the film of the space scientists celebrating.
Time for reflection
When people work together they can achieve amazing things.
Which teams or groups are you part of?
How can you play your part to help the whole team be successful?
What incredible things will you achieve in your life by working with other people?