Lost on the Moon

See the Sourcebook for Teaching Science, section 5.4

“You are members of a scientific team bound for a permanent research station on the surface of the Moon. Unfortunately, your lunar craft malfunctions, forcing an emergency landing in Mare Crisium, approximately 300 km from the research station at Mare Serenitatis. Both you and the research station are currently on the lighted surface of the Moon. During the landing process, much of the equipment aboard has been damaged, and since survival depends on reaching the research station, only the most critical items must be chosen for the trek. Below you will find a list of the 15 items left intact following the emergency landing. As a group, you must reach consensus regarding the relative importance of these items in your mission to reach help at the research station.”

box of matches

10 kg dehydrated food

50m of nylon rope

parachute silk

portable heating unit

two 45 caliber pistols

case of dehydrated milk

two 100kg tanks of oxygen

stellar map

life raft

magnetic compass

traditional signal flares

first aid kit

solar-powered FM radio

10 liters of water

(1) Brainstorming: Write down as many ideas as possible regarding the potential use of the 15 items for your trek to the research station. At this time, do not discuss or evaluate the merit of these ideas.

(2) Analysis: Review the maps, photos, movies and data on the Moon. Record the similarities and differences between the Earth and the Moon with respect to gravity, atmosphere, lighting, radiation, magnetic field, visibility, surface, etc.

(3) Evaluation and consensus building: Discuss the merits of the ideas presented during the brainstorming session and develop a consensus within your group regarding the relative value of each of the items. Place a “1” by the item you value most, and a “15” by the item you value least, recording the rationale for your ranking. Post your team's rankings.

(4) Discussion and defense of position: Compare your ranking with that of other groups. If there are differences, discuss them, presenting reasoned arguments for your ranking. The instructor will lead this discussion.