Space Scoop: Lesson Plan

Check out a new device that High Point University students have designed to help astronauts study asteroids.

UNC-TV Media

Alignment to NC Essential Standards

  • 6.E.1.2 — Explain why Earth sustains life while other planets do not based on their properties (including types of surface, atmosphere and gravitational force) and proximity to the Sun.

Learning Outcomes

  • Students will compare and contrast the atmosphere, distance from the sun and gravitational pull of each of the solar system’s eight planets.
  • Students will infer why Earth sustains life while other planets in the solar system do not.
  • Students will describe two ways in which studying asteroids helps inform scientists about the history of Earth and its solar system.

Essential Vocabulary

  • Gas
  • Atmosphere
  • Gravity
  • Gravitational pull
  • Asteroid


Students will play the interactive game “Where, Oh Where Does That Little Object Go?” to get a sense of the Solar System and the bodies that define it.


Students will view the PBS LearningMedia video A Visit to Asteroid Vista.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why do scientists believe that Vesta had volcanoes early in its history?
  2. Why do you think Vesta’s gravitational pull is different across its surface?
  3. What are some features on Earth that are similar to those on Vesta?
  4. Why is Vesta considered a protoplanet rather than an asteroid?
  5. What role did Jupiter play in the formation of Vesta?


Students will view and/or listen to the following short lessons, to gather information about the atmosphere and characteristics of the Solar System and its major components.

  1. The Solar System
  2. The Sun
  3. The Moon
  4. The Planets and Dwarf Planets

After completing the short lessons, students will answer the following questions:

  1. Why can’t Mercury sustain human life?
  2. Is Mercury’s gravitational pull greater or less than that of Earth?
  3. What caused the holes in Mercury’s surface?
  4. Why is Venus known as Earth’s twin?
  5. Why does the surface of Venus get so hot?
  6. What two gases compose Earth’s atmosphere?
  7. What is responsible for Earth’s seasons?
  8. What is the Earth’s average distance from the sun?
  9. What is responsible for Mars’s red color?
  10. What do scientists believe is the history of Mars’s two moons?
  11. Does Mars or Earth have a longer day? (hint: check rotation periods for each planet)
  12. What is Jupiter’s atmosphere composed of?
  13. Is Jupiter’s gravitational pull greater or less than that of Earth?
  14. What composes Saturn’s rings, and how were those rings formed?
  15. How long does it take Saturn to revolve around the sun?
  16. What three gases compose Uranus’s atmosphere?
  17. How much larger than Earth is Uranus?
  18. Why is Neptune called “the blue planet”?
  19. How is Triton different from Neptune’s other moons?


Students will view the video Space Scoop.

Discussion Questions: 

  1. Describe the device designed by the High Point University students. What is its purpose?
  2. Why do NASA guidelines call for the device to be 15 pounds or lighter?
  3. One problem facing the High Point University students was designing a way for astronauts to manipulate the device while wearing bulky spacesuits. How did the students solve this issue?
  4. Why can studying the rocks of an asteroid help inform scientists about the history of the solar system?


Using the above websites, students will compose a chart that compares the atmospheres, gravitational pulls and distances from the sun of all eight planets in the solar system. At the bottom of the chart, students will write a five-sentence paragraph explaining why Earth is the only planet in the solar system that can sustain human life.