MESSENGER: Cooling With Sunshades Guide [PDF 783 KB]
How can passive cooling methods keep an object at a comfortable temperature?
On March 18, 2011, MESSENGER became the first spacecraft to enter into orbit about Mercury, embarking on a year-long mission to study in depth the planet closest to the sun. The Cooling With Sunshades featured lesson uses design features built into the MESSENGER spacecraft to investigate some basic concepts associated with light, heat and energy. Cooling With Sunshades shows how spacecraft such as MESSENGER can be used to study planets without being damaged by the harsh high-radiation environment of space.
This lesson has three student activities. In the course of completing this lesson, students discuss some of the basic properties of temperature and heat, and learn different ways heat can affect substances. They construct a simple device based on the phase change of water from ice to liquid and investigate the effectiveness of different shading materials, as well as the cost-effectiveness of different shade designs. They also learn how the MESSENGER spacecraft uses a sunshade to keep scientific instruments comfortable and functional at Mercury's distance from the sun.
Lessons from the Staying Cool education unit:
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Per group of three: