Linear Regression: Exploring Space Through Math -- Space Shuttle Ascent
STS-135 launching from Kennedy Space Center

Featured Lesson(s)

  -- Dog Days or Dog Years (for use with TI-Nspire. TI-83 or TI-84 handheld calculators).
  -- Multiple Representations (TI-Nspire handheld calculator only).
  -- Rate of Change (TI-Nspire handheld calculator only).
  -- Space Shuttle Ascent (for use with TI-Nspire. TI-83 or TI-84 handheld calculators).


Essential Question

How can linear and quadratic equations be used to model the propellant burn rate of a NASA space shuttle?


In this featured lesson, students work with real NASA data from a space shuttle launch. The Exploring Space Through Math: Space Shuttle Ascent featured lesson includes four lessons using the TI-Nspire handheld calculator. The lesson has two activities that can also be used with Ti-83 or TI-84 handheld calculators: Dog Days or Dog Years and Space Shuttle Ascent. Student and educator documents are available for each activity, and the educator editions include answer keys.


The activities are to be implemented in sequential order to build understanding. The first three, Dog Days or Dog Nights, Multiple Representations, and Rate of Change, strengthen student knowledge of ordered pairs, linear equations and slope. Middle school students will be able to relate to the situations in these engaging activities. The group of activities culminates with Space Shuttle Ascent, where students analyze authentic NASA space shuttle launch data with linear and quadratic regression equations.


As an extension for those using TI-Nspire calculators, students compare the mass of a space shuttle to other objects they see every day.


Each activity has a handheld (calculator) document that needs to be transferred to student handheld calculators. Directions for teachers to access those handheld documents are below. 

All activity documents can be added to the TI-Nspire handheld calculators using the free TI Computer Link software.

All activity documents can be added to the TI-3 andTI-84 plus handheld calculators using the free TI Connect software.


Additional Resources

  Classroom Resources:


  • Videos for Students:
    • Space Shuttle Launch: This is an excerpt of the space shuttle launch video narrated by George Hatcher from the NASA Connection segment. This is an excellent video for getting students excited about the activity set; it makes the connection between mathematics and a space shuttle’s ascent.

  Related NASA Now Events:

  Connection to NASA:

  Extension Activities:

Ascent: 50 Seconds to MECO:
Students interpret velocity and acceleration graphs from the ascent phase of a space shuttle flight (8.5 minutes) and focus on the last 50 seconds before Main Engine Cut-Off, or MECO, to identify a linear function.

Professional Development

Live ePD

Click here to find the live web seminars scheduled for this featured lesson. Web seminars are led remotely by NASA subject matter experts and education specialists.

Access to video gallery

Click here to access the teacher video collection for this featured lesson.

  Related Professional Development:

Lesson Information

Subject(s) Covered:


Topic(s) Covered:

 Algebra 1

Activity Type:

 Student Investigation

Grade Level:

 5-8, 9-12

Instructional Objective:

 Students will be able to model real NASA space shuttle launch data with linear regression equations.

Time to Complete the Activity:

 • Dog Days or Dog Years: 15-30 minutes. • Multiple Representations: 45-60 minutes. • Rate of Change: 45-60 minutes. • Space Shuttle Ascent: 60-90 minutes.

  Materials Needed:

  • TI-Nspire Version

-- TI-Nspire handheld calculators (class set).
-- Student editions and educator guides for all four activities.
-- TI-Nspire files.
-- Space Shuttle Launch video (Titled Excerpt 1 on the e-PD video web page).


  • TI-83 or TI-84 Version

-- TI-83 family or TI-84 family (class set).
-- Any spreadsheet program.
-- Student editions and educator guides for both lessons.
-- Space Shuttle Launch video (Titled Excerpt 1 on the e-PD video Web page).

   National Content Standards:

  • 21st Century Outcome: Information, Media and Technology Skills:
    • Apply Technology Effectively
    • Use and Manage Information

  • 21st Century Outcome: Learning and Innovation Skills:
    • Communication and Collaboration: Collaborate with Others
    • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving: Solve Problems
  • Mathematics Standards: 
    • Algebra
    • Connections
    • Data Analysis and Probability
    • Problem Solving:
      • Apply and adapt a variety of appropriate strategies to solve problems
      • Solve problems that arise in mathematics and in other contexts