Teacher Tools for the High Frontier: Big Moon edition


Howdy all! Your friendly Lunar Librarian is back, this time to share some of the many educational support materials that are to be found in the Lunar Library. Teachers have a tough job, made more difficult by the fact that many communities chronically underfund and overburden the teachers. Homeschoolers also bear the burden of paying taxes to support a school system in which their child(ren) are not enrolled, which taxes could be used to purchase expensive educational supplies. I’m not kidding when I say that this stuff is not cheap. Some of the children’s reference books in the Lunar Library, ones designed for use in schools, have been shockingly pricey even with any discounts I could scrounge up.

Luckily, the space advocacy community is well-stocked with people who believe in our space future, even if it doesn’t necessarily make a buck today. This means that there are also a lot of reasonably priced and even free resources available for teachers and educators.

My philosophy on education is that families have a self-interest in preparing their children to the fullest extent possible educationally in order that they may excel in their chosen fields, and thereby bring greater prosperity to the family from that success. I believe that communities have a vested self-interest in ensuring that they provide the most knowledgeable workforce possible from the schools in order to attract more business to the area looking for skilled workers. I believe that the states each have a vested interest in crafting a knowledgeable citizenry in order to effect good government. I believe that the Feds should be out of the education business entirely. My opinion is that we’ll get better results when states are more openly competing to provide the best educated citizenry in order to attract business, rather than when the Federal government way off in D.C. is trying to enforce the concept of No Child Gets Ahead. Oops, did I say that? I meant to say No Child Left Behind. As much of a complete ignoramus as I was in high school, I’ve come to understand the underappreciated value of vocational training and things like 4H and FFA. In the end I guess I’d rather have a farmer with a liberal arts education, than a Liberal Arts major trying to farm.

We’re going to need folks with all different kinds of backgrounds if we are truly going to develop space. When you’re assembling large solar arrays out at geosynchronous/geostationary orbit (GEO) for a Space-Based Solar Power system, you’re more likely to need experienced construction workers than PhDs. The guys who are servicing spacecraft at an EML-1 facility are going to be technicians, not PhDs. They might as well start designing a blue collar into the next round of spacesuits, because more people are learning that space is not just going to be about NASAnauts anymore.

The general strategy is to cover the Moon first, and then work our way into some of the other sections of the Lunar Library. No representation is made with regards to National Educational Standards, or the applicability of what follows thereto. As someone who does space outreach I do have educator experience, and I see firsthand what tools work and which ones don’t in conveying certain concepts.

For those who are a little uncertain about the whole going back to the Moon thing, I suggest a visit to 25 Good Reasons To Go To The Moon, followed by a serving of 181 Things To Do On The Moon

Maps & Globes


Phlare came out with an interesting product a few years ago, not just a map of the Moon but also a set of 25 science question-and-answer cards covering a variety of Lunar topics, from its creation to modern concerns like Helium-3. The map is two-sided, 61cm x 46cm (24″x18″), with one side featuring the front and back side of the Moon, statistics and terminology, places of particular interest, and some of the benefits of the Moon. The obverse side features a full list of missions to the Moon, and a feature on ‘Returning to the Moon – And Remaining’. The Lunar Science Cards are 7.5cm x 12.5cm (3″x5″) stiff cards with very nice illustrations of each of the concepts addressed. Examples can be seen at the Phlare website.


Firefly has also done a lot for popularizing Moon observing with a number of tools. The best all-in-one tool is their Moonwatch pack. This includes not only a large 1m 1.5cm x 68.5cm (40″x27″) Moon Map, but also a very nice glossy two-sided Moon-phase poster, and a copy of Peter Grego’s Moon Observer’s Guide, making this a beautiful not only for Moon observers, but also Moon educators.


A recent addition to the collection is the Moon Poster. This large poster on heavy stock provides the most colorful overview available of our Moon, how it came to be, and why it behaves the way it does.

The granddaddy of them all is the National Geographic Earth’s Moon. This map was originally included as a magazine insert back in 1969, and is available to this day through NatGeo. This was the map that I used when I created my Moon display for NSS of North Texas, seen here at the old Science Place at Fair Park.



The smallest globes available would have to be from Shasta Visions, who provide recycled-glass marbles in the form of the Earth, Moon, and Mars, notable for being to scale. The rendering of the Moon’s features is rather low fidelity, but Mars isn’t too bad. The Earth is quite well rendered, but it does have a lot more surface area to work with. These are useful for demonstrating not only the relative sizes of these three planetary bodies, but also the relative distances, which for Earth-Moon is a mere 26″, as compared with a range of 317′ – 2,269′ away for Mars. Or 2′ compared with 1-7 football fields.

One item that gets regular traffic in the Lunar Library is the inflatable Moon globe that can be seen in the photo above. I picked this up years ago whilst on a New Mexico space road trip right after the STAIF 2000 conference. After a morning visit to Socorro and the VLA I hustled down to the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo, crashed the space shuttle in their landing simulator, and found the inflatable Moon globe whilst trawling through their gift shop. I should have snapped up every single one, but I believe in sharing the opportunity, so only grabbed one. I haven’t seen these in a while, while all of the other inflatables (astronaut, shuttle, constellations globe, &c.) are everywhere.


Fear not, as there may be hope. Orbis Earthglobes, who do a phenomenal 1m inflatable Earth globe, is considering an inflatable Moon globe. They have the dataset and have done large Moon globes on the order of several meters, but it takes a lot of computing power to digest it down to the smaller size while retaining fidelity and accuracy of the details. They’re thinking about a proportional Earth-Moon set, but I just want a 1m inflatable Moon globe. Maybe if enough folks bug them, they’ll get the lead out and start selling what is a phenomenal Moon educational tool. Please note the Amazon link is to the 16″ retail size inflatable Earthball. You have to go to the Orbis website to get the 1m Earthball version shown.


Most schools should have a Replogle Moon globe, and if not one might ask why not? This is the de facto standard Moon globe, but not inexpensive at around $50. Luckily they’ve also come up with a smaller desktop globe that I found at my local Mapsco store for $10. For ease of discerning features, I do have to go with the Moon globe I picked up in Beijing. The details are much easier to see due to the stronger contrast than on the Replogle globe. I just wish I could read Chinese.


Observant readers might note a white globe in the back. This is part of my display to show the relative distance from the Earth to the Moon. Local crafts stores should be able to supply 8″ and 2″ styrofoam balls, which is close enough to the scale size for demonstration purposes. I marked these to show the equator to assist in explaining the differences in inclination of the axis of rotation, and a meridian to demonstrate how the Moon keeps the same face towards us (by rotating on its axis). Unfortunately, styrofoam doesn’t travel well.


Another item that can noted in the display, down in the lower right corner, is my 3-D illustration of the Earth’s Lagrange points, which works well with the marbles noted earlier. This is essentially a topographical map that shows gravipotential energy levels instead of altitude. Its main function is to demonstrate the Earth-Moon L-1 point, EML-1, or what I affectionately call Emily. I went to this website and printed out a copy of the image, and made about 40 copies of it. I then went to the local crafts store and bought about 40 of the sparkly black foam 8.5″x11″ thingees, which I used together with the photocopies to build a topographical map of cislunar space. It’s best used in conjunction with the first image from this PERMANENT webpage, which offers a cross-section to demonstrate the different energy requirements, and with this one from the Time-Life book Spacefarers, which offers a perspective view of EML-1 or Emily (click image to enlarge).


My favorite globe has to be my Hugg-a-Planet set of Earth-Moon to scale. These are so kid friendly it’s not funny. They’re so educational it’s unbelievable! The Moon is not terribly high fidelity, but does include a number of named features that one normally wouldn’t see. I can’t recommend this set highly enough.



There are really only a few top-notch books out there for learning about the features of the Moon. The default for pretty much everyone looking to find a crater on the near side is Antonin Rukl’s Atlas of the Moon. This was recently reissued by Sky & Telescope in a really pleasing blue ink for the maps. It’s notable for providing brief bio snapshots of the persons for whom the craters are named, humanizing the surface of the Moon and rewarding those who have worked to unlock its mysteries and those of the of the universe. The next best, and more comprehensive atlas would have to be The Clementine Atlas of the Moon by Ben Bussey and Paul Spudis. It breaks up the entire Moon into ~20° by ~16° pieces, and provides the imagery from the DoD’s Clementine spacecraft mission compared with a labeled drawing with all of the features noted.


Oriented more towards observing, but nevertheless providing an excellent guide to the features on the face of the Moon is Firefly’s English language edition of New Atlas of the Moon by Legault & Brunier. It’s notable for the transparent overlays every few days to label the revealed features as the terminator creeps across the face of the Moon. It’s large size and crisp images may prove attractive to younger readers. The best book around for explaining just what those features are has to be The Modern Moon by Chuck Wood. He’s almost as well known for his worldwide-phenomenon LPOD, or Lunar Photo of the Day. I’m sure you already have it bookmarked, so you know about its new wiki address. We interviewed him here at Ootc back in the early days, and he was my prof for a grad-level online Moon class at Wheeling Jesuit University. This book also provides a nice bridge to our next section, Moon Rocks

For more Moon mapping materials, make a visit to the Selenography section of the Lunar Library.

Once you’ve got your basic knowledge of Moon features up to snuff, then it’s time to get yourself certified. The American Lunar Society offers a Lunar Study & Observing Certificate Program for those who want an up-close look at the Moon’s features and proof that they know what they’re talking about. They also offer a Lunar Navigator Certificate for Middle Schoolers. The Astronomical League has Lunar Club and Lunar II Club awards.

Moon Rocks


Scientists were amazed at what they learned from the Moon rocks returned to Earth by the Apollo missions, and what they learned fundamentally reshaped how we look at the Solar system and Earth’s history. The basic materials were remarkably similar to those found in the Earth’s crust. Too similar for some of the old theories of the Moon’s origins to make any sense, and advances in other areas led to the discarding of still other theories. Soon, only one thing seemed to make sense – the Moon and Earth were formed from the same parent body, a proto-Earth that seems to have been impacted by a Mars-sized planetoid, christened Thea, that fundamentally changed both, with the impactor being incorporated into the Earth and the debris sloshed into space from the crusts of both collected into a ring system around the new Earth, which eventually coalesced into the Moon. Using elemental half-life studies this event is guesstimated for about 4.5 billion years ago (GYa), give or take a few hundred million years because we are working from trace evidence. The Solar system was still a wild and woolly place, and intense bombardment continued for a long time. The Moon has faithfully kept the history of impactors in our local neighborhood, even as the Earth constantly seeks to make herself anew. Some scientists want to collect impact dates on the Moon so that hopefully we can disprove a theory that near-Earth space undergoes increased bombardment every 30-35 million years or so. This theory arises from the limited amount of crater dating and correlation with layering we’ve been able to undertake here on Earth (first we have to find the craters). The limited data set is showing clusters in about a 30-35 million year ranges. If crater dating on the Moon correlates with this cycle, then the next question is whereabouts are we in that cycle?


The rocks of the Moon can tell us this story, and many others. How about the life of the Sun? Clues can be unlocked from the Solar wind elements implanted in the regolith, which will also tell us of our voyage around the galactic core by studying the effects of galactic cosmic rays. Sure we can collect data with robots, but you also need selenologists on the ground to make sense of the data, and really unlock what the Moon’s record is telling us. The conditions on the Moon ensure that while most of the rocks are similar to those of Earth (only five completely new minerals were discovered), their state is sufficiently different that straight geology, or even planetary geology, isn’t going to cut it – we’re going to need to train scientists who have an in depth knowledge specifically in Moon rocks and how they might be exploitable, the selenologists of tomorrow.

Lunar SourcebookNew Views of the Moon

As noted, Chuck Woods’ The Modern Moon is a great bridge between the mapping of the Moon, and learning of its composition. The most advanced set out there right now is The Lunar Sourcebook coupled with New Views of the Moon. These are graduate level texts, so these are the ones that the wicked smart high schoolers are going to want to use. I don’t think they’ll entirely get it, but I wouldn’t dissuade them either, as even a skim of the text will reveal all of the variety of disciplines involved – chemistry, geology, geochemistry, &c, and hopefully induce a desire for deeper scientific understanding of the universe. Thanks to the Lunar & Planetary Institute for making the Lunar Sourcebook available in pdf format, as the original hardcover version from 1993 is very hard to find, and expensive when found. The only way you’re going to get better info than these two is to get access to archives of conference papers.

Pocket Guide
Moon Rocks Earth Rocks
Cosmic Materials
Moon Soils

But you’re probably going to want something a little more accessible for your young educational charges. One that I can easily recommend for young rockhounds is The Pocket Guide to Lunar Mineralogy, available (usually, sometimes they sell out and have to print up new ones) through Jensan Scientifics. This is a great sampler on Moon minerals, and is a perfect accompaniment to the many sets of Moon rock analogues that Jensan also produces for educators. I’ve got most all of their sets in the Lunar Library, and I use them actively at outreach events. They always garner attention, and provide a great intro for discussing some of the reasons we want to go back to the Moon. Used in conjunction with a Moon map it is easy to highlight the differences between the dark maria and the lighter ancient highlands. The stickiness, like talc, of the JSC-1 simulant as you roll it around in the vial leads to a discussion of the challenges of regolith, and some of the mitigants we’re discovering to overcome those challenges. Each box set comes with a pamphlet with basic information on the rocks, and why they’re analogues of Moon rocks. The deluxe set, my favorite, comes with the best info sheet, and when used in conjunction with the “Pocket Guide” will give you a greater understanding of Moon rocks than about 99% of the population, but you’d still have a ways to go in terms of context for that understanding. As an educational tool, these get the Lunar Librarian’s highest recommendation.

Exploring Moon

The de facto instructional guide for Moon rocks is NASA’s Exploring the Moon. Pieces of it, like the Teacher’s Guide, are found in Lunar Challenge, Kids to Space Mission Plans, the online Moon class (in that case as a teaching tool), and references to it are found throughout the literature. It was designed to accompany the Moon Rock Disks that NASA makes available to educators, and teachers get a copy when they go through the training. The training is not that bad, and you do get to handle the disks. I highly recommend that educators make the effort, as there is nothing like holding a piece of the Moon, even if it is encased in special lucite.


The main thing, absolutely serious here, is to be friends with your local police department. If you can get police supervision during the time the rocks are in town, to highlight that these are in fact national treasures, then work it. It makes an event of the Moon rock visit, which can be parlayed into a broader context, like a celebration. The main thing is that the police let you put them in their safe overnight. You can’t leave them in the (locked) trunk of your car. You can’t leave them in your (locked) house. They must be with you or absolutely secure at all times, so just make friends with your local PD. These are, like, Constitution-level national treasures, so absolutely zero monkeying around, but isn’t it amazing that you can get them from NASA to share with pupils?


One recent addition to the field tries to work the idea of Moon rocks that are mined and treated to do useful things, and that is Moon Base One by Galaxy Explorers. It uses a first-person shooter type interface for the player to interact with the simulation, gathering minerals for profit, working with robots, even doing ‘quests’. The creators, Federation of Galaxy Explorers, operate after school programs and summer camps in the Maryland/Virginia area, and are expanding the program into more states. FOGE uses this software as part of their summer camps.


The Scientific Context for Exploration of the Moon was published in 2007 by the National Academy of Sciences to try to provide a coherent research path to which we can design our future Moon probes. The topics are laid out in three areas:

-Science ON the Moon
-Science OF the Moon
-Science FROM the Moon

Science on the Moon encompasses things like materials sciences in 1/6th gravity, engineering challenges in vacuum, deep-cryo colds, lead-melting hots, and 1/6th gravity, biological sciences in 1/6th gee, &c. Science of the Moon is the intensive and exhaustive study of Selene herself, her composition, her trembling moods, the occasional violence she endures, the gases she vents. Science from the Moon is use of the Moon as a platform for science of other places. Lunar telescopes are an oft-noted example, especially radio telescopes on the far side of the Moon, an Eldorado of silence from the radio cacophony of chatterbox Earth. There was a large conference at the NASA Lunar Science Institute in July 2008 to explore these very issues


Getting more into projects and activities, there are a variety of programs to choose from, and of fairly recent vintage.


The Challenger Centers offer a number of EdVenture programs, including a Return to the Moon, but individual centers can develop unique missions, such as Houston’s Operation: LEAPFROG, or the Next Generation Challenger Simulator’s “Journey to Jupiter”. The network of Challenger Centers has grown significantly, so check with your closest one to see what specifically they offer for programs. The ones in Houston are 1-2 hours, coupled with a museum visit. If your local Challenger Center offers the Return to the Moon, it is described as:

The year is 2015. For the first time since 1972, a crew of astronauts is returning to the Moon. This time, they plan to stay.

Their mission is to establish a permanent base on the Moon to observe and explore, as well as test the feasibility of off-Earth settlements. Navigating their way into lunar orbit, students must construct and launch a probe, and analyze a variety of data gathered from the lunar surface to select a site for establishing the permanent Moon base.


NASA recently signed a cooperative agreement with the Challenger Centers, so look forward to even more great stuff from them in the future. NASA, of course, already provides lots of Moon-related educational materials.


Published late last year, and implemented at the American Museum of Natural History earlier this year, Field Trip to the Moon was developed in conjunction with Marshall Space Flight Center, and provides students with a ‘virtual’ trip to the Moon. The classroom activity involves six teams addressing the areas of Ecosystem, Geology, Habitat, Engineering, Navigation, and Medical requirements for a Lunar station. Over four ~40 min. class periods the students will proceed with Investigations, leading to a complete Lunar station at the end. The support materials are impressive on this one, and NASA provides downloads of a Companion Guide, an Educator’s Guide, and even an Informal Educator’s Guide, and a DVD with some good support materials. I like the way the projects are structured in this one, especially for the guys who have to pack the rocket (they might want to refer to Packing Up For The Moon). This one is well worth a look.


Another recent addition is Lunar-nautics: Designing a Mission to Live and Work on the Moon, from Discovery Place and again, Marshall SFC. It doesn’t have the toolkits that ‘Field Trip’ does, but it does have 40 activities centered around a corporate project themed structure.

Students assume roles of workers at Lunar Nautics Space Systems, Inc., a fictional aerospace company specializing in mission management, lunar habitat and exploration design, and scientific research.

This guide features lessons that address the basics of Newton’s Laws of Motion, rocket design, microgravity, and the moon. Students will design, test and analyze a model lunar lander, a robot, and a soda bottle rocket. Other activities include building edible models of spacecraft and a solar oven to cook hot dogs. Students can also build a microgravity sled as part of an underwater activity.

Educators can use this guide in a variety of settings or formats, such as week-long day camps, after-school programs, a classroom unit or as supporting curriculum.

Students get their own Employment Handbook (pdf) that supplements the Educator’s Guide (pdf), and there is also a CD-ROM available.


In a similar vein is Lunar Challenge, which is notable for being organized around parent-child pairs and stresses a ‘systems’ approach. The handbook features extensive support materials on how to find mentors in the community to help with the activity, as well as how to get materials for the activity. The emphasis is less on the Moon than on the systems integration of the Moonbase. How the computer system needs inputs from other systems to do its job, and how the lab isn’t going to get much work done if they don’t accurately convey their oxygen needs to the life support guys. This one is for a larger group, 10-15 parent/child pairs, and takes a fair amount of time to implement. However, if used in conjunction with some of the other projects noted, then a really superior product can be result. The editors have some Challenger Center work in their backgrounds, so you know there’s some solid pedagogy behind this project.

ilio.jpgthemoonrfds.jpgLunar Base Handbook

There are a couple of graduate level texts that more talented high schoolers will want to make use of. The International Lunar Initiative Organization was not only the kick-off project for International Space University (ISU), but is also an amazingly comprehensive look at the design requirements for a Moon base. A number of well-known names in the industry have been associated with ISU, including the authors of the other two titles shown, which are generally considered the references at space settlement design competitions.

Additional Resources

This article should not be considered in any way exhaustive. Not even the Lunar Library has everything that’s out there, although it is well along the way. Still, there are additional resources that merit attention, even if this article is going into double overtime.


A really fun game that conveys Lunar knowledge while requiring cooperation to succeed is Moon Mission, a FamilyASTRO project underwritten by the National Science Foundation and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. I’ve used it at a couple of Kids Programs at ISDCs, and they always want to play it again, I think because of the cooperative strategizing involved.

One of my favorites is Home on the Moon by Marianne Dyson. Excellent for homeschoolers, it should nevertheless be found in most middle school libraries (and if not ask why not). It brings to mind a rhyme:


Home, home on the Moon
Where the dust and the Solar winds play
Where never is heard
Any kinda word
And the skies are all starry all day

The book features a number of activities that help to explain Moon concepts, and has a good bibliography for further research.


The NSTA likes this one, so you know it’s good. Max goes to the Moon tells the story of a very lucky Rottweiler that gets to accompany a major return to the Moon effort. My favorite image is of Max trying to catch a frisbee whilst in his spacesuit. Sidebars on pretty much every page convey Moon data, and the author’s website provides additional materials.

Once Future Moon

The Once and Future Moon poster (or wallsheet) is a large 65cm x 84cm double-side resource that you’re going to need a big printer for. The face is a chaotic overlay of a number of significant images, from mineral maps to sun exposure time at the Lunar South Pole. The obverse is a set of nine panels touching on what we learned from Apollo, the Top Ten Moon Discoveries by the Apollo missions, a geological mapping activity, a cratering activity, a Clementine and Lunar Prospector update, an explanation of the poster images, and some basic almanac facts and a short (and very good) bibliography.


One of the things I vaguely remember from my childhood is the anticipation of the monthly magazines one would get in school. I don’t know if it was Odyssey: Adventures in Science in particular, but we certainly didn’t have Back to the Moon issues with regoboarding on the cover. Regoboarding is one of the many Moon sports visited in the recent OotC article Rollerblading on the Moon. This issue of Odyssey can be found here, look for Moon, Back to. It would make a nice addition to a packet of Moon materials for a project.


Really not suitable below high school level, and possibly even a bit long for them, GaiaSelene is nevertheless an important documentary, as it ties the ecological challenges of this coming century to solutions that can be found through development of the Moon. The first part outlines the ecological and energy challenges that the world faces, and can come across as a bit overbearing or alarmist at times. Which is fine, this is a serious topic and someone needs to be talking seriously about it, and for more than 30-second soundbites. The second half offers some proposals for how the challenge of developing habitable space on the Moon can help us deal with our degradation of the biosphere here on Earth. There’s no ‘downstream’ from a Moonbase, and solutions for the Lunar inhabitants might have applications back here on Earth. The Director, Chip Proser, is active with the Moon Society, and they host a number of videos relating to developing the Moon.



A particularly popular link has been NASA’s Lunar Plant Growth Chamber Challenge, which uses space-flown seeds to inspire students to address an actual design challenge. Wheeling Jesuit University offers Bio-Blast, software that explores this very issue. Plants in space is a topic which seems to resonate with kids, and plants on the Moon are explored in the OotC three-part article Of a Garden on the Moon.

Little Moon Phase Book

I was stunned when I first looked through The Little Moon Phase Book. It’s a print and illustrated book, but with Braille. It’s quite cleverly done, and can be used to teach Braille as well as provide vision-impaired individuals with a tactile glimpse of the face of the Moon. Each of the phases is rendered tactile by something like a line of hardened glue. See-thru, but obvious to the touch. A crescent Moon will have the dark side portion outlined in a dashed line. Craters will be a raised bump conforming to the relative size of the crater. The only thing I can’t figure out is why the Spanish language edition is so popular, though it does seem related to some kind of dieta de la luna, which presumably tries to tie food intake to the phase of the Moon.

Lunar Prospector Model

For those who want to provide a model of a real spacecraft to illustrate how they’ll search for the resources of the Moon can always turn to SciKit’s Lunar Prospector paper model. Paper models are quite popular given the dearth of plastic models for anything other than the space shuttle or Apollo stuff. NASA offers some alternatives, as does Sven in Austin with a thorough round-up.

Folks wanting more info on specific Lunar missions should stop by the weblink round-up from the LPSC educator sessions.


And that wraps up this Big Moon edition of Teacher Tools for the High Frontier. We still have lots of material to cover, like space biology, big rocks from space, space facilities, space navigation, and more, so stay tuned to this channel for all of the latest chronicles of the new space age.

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