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Galileo: Thinking about Space

To think about space and God, the maker of the universe

by S. Morton

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To think about space and God, the maker of the universe.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a ball to represent the Earth and a much larger ball to represent Jupiter.
  • Music: 'Jupiter' from the Planets Suite by Gustav Holst.


  1. Play 'Jupiter' from the Planets Suite as the children enter, to create a listening mood.

  2. Ask the children to think about space, and what it would be like to be in space alone. Then say that you have a true story for them about something that spent 14 years travelling alone in space.

  3. Fade out the music and choose a child to 'be' the Galileo space probe, and another to hold the ball representing the Earth. Tell 'Galileo' to set off from Earth, and keep walking around the hall until told to stop. As the child sets off, tell everyone how the probe was launched from Earth and travelled for 14 years to reach Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system. Explain that Galileo was sent to try to discover more about the planet, and it succeeded brilliantly.

  4. Ask another child to hold up a large ball to represent Jupiter. When 'Galileo' reaches Jupiter have him/her pretend to take photos. Explain that, as part of its scientific mission, the probe took 14,000 photos.

    Bring out two children to be NASA controllers. Tell the audience that the controllers are very pleased with the probe. Explain that the NASA controllers had a difficult decision to make: the probe would eventually run out of power and crash, and there was a danger it could hit one of Jupiter's moons.

    Explain about the possibilities of micro-organisms being taken from Earth on the probe. These micro-organisms could damage any life that might possibly exist on Jupiter's moons.

    Make sure that the children understand that the space probe carried no astronauts - it was a robot and it was never designed to come back to Earth. Also point out that we know that there are no people on Jupiter. NASA knew that they would have to control Galileo's crash landing. What do the children think is the correct thing to do? Why?

    Explain that the controllers decided to use the last of Galileo's power to send it into the giant planet Jupiter. The probe would be crushed by the high pressures in the atmosphere and so destroyed. Ask the NASA controllers to mime pressing the right buttons and watch as 'Galileo' heads towards Jupiter.

    Thank the children for their participation and ask them to sit down.

  5. Remind the children that when God made the earth he also made space and all the planets. Ask the children if they think God only put life on the planet earth, or do they think that, in time, we will find life on other planets in space?

Time for reflection

Close the assembly by reading a space poem (e.g. John Foster Space Poems) and by listening to the music again.


'God who made the earth' (Come and Praise, 10)

Publication date: December 2003   (Vol.5 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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