Have you ever dreamed of traveling in space? If you’re like most kids, gazing at the stars at one time or another has led to a daydream about what it would be like to be an astronaut. Not only would it be tons of fun to travel on a spaceship, just think about how awesome it would be to set foot on the moon or another planet!

Of course, becoming an astronaut isn’t easy. There aren’t many astronauts in the world, so you have to be very skilled in a number of different areas. Astronauts have special combinations of skills that make them suitable to be traveling scientists beyond Earth.

Although it sounds like it would be great fun to travel to outer space, it would be a lot of work, too. Traveling to outer space takes lots and lots of preparation. Everything has to be planned carefully in advance. Why? Because once you leave Earth’s surface, you’re on your own with what you have in your spaceship. There’s no store to go to in space!

Once you are in space, nothing can come on board the ship and nothing can go out. You must take everything you need to survive into outer space with you. Let’s call these items “inputs.” Inputs might include necessities such as food, water and oxygen.

Now let’s talk about “outputs.” Every input creates an output. Let’s say you open a box of Coco Comets cereal for breakfast. What will you do with the box when it is empty? You only have so much room to store outputs on your spaceship. Every piece of garbage you create while on tour will remain on the ship with you. Where will you store the garbage? Can you think of a way to reduce the amount of waste output you create during your time in space?

In order to survive, you must eat and drink, but this means your body will also process those food and water inputs and output them in the form of solid and liquid waste. Since nothing can leave the spaceship, you will need to think of a way to handle these bodily wastes. On Earth, we simply flush a toilet, but what happens after our bodily output leaves our homes and enters the sewer systems? Where does it go? It might seem icky, but this is an important question.

Even breathing creates an output — carbon dioxide! Can you think of a way to filter the carbon dioxide from the interior of your spaceship? And how will you replace it with the oxygen your crew needs to breathe? Hint: Plants love carbon dioxide and depend on it in the same way humans depend on oxygen to breathe.

Conveniently, plants output oxygen! However, plants also have other input needs, such as water and fertilizer. If you bring a banana tree on board, your ship you will need to bring enough water to sustain it for a year. You must also consider another type of output the bananas will leave behind after you have snacked on the fruit — the peel! The banana peel will become another output to add to your garbage output pile. Can you think of other varieties of plants or trees that may provide a tasty treat without leaving a rind or peel behind for your garbage output pile?

See how carefully you have to plan for a trip to outer space? Not only do you have to think about all the things you’ll need, you have to consider the consequences of those things in terms of the wastes they create.

Packing for a trip to outer space isn’t as simple as packing your bag for a week at camp. Considering the impact of all your actions takes time and energy. And you can start right now! All of your actions here on Earth have impacts just like they would in space. How can you plan your actions on Earth to have the least impact on the environment and your future?

45 Join the Discussion

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  1. To improve life on Earth we recycle paper products, could plant plants around the school, use re-usable water bottles, use classroom lights with sensors that turn them off when no one is in the room. We are also careful not to let the water run too long when washing our hands and only flush the toilet once when we use the restroom.We don’t waste paper, either.

  2. This is a totally cool website for middle-class parents with college educations who want to help their kids learn. But are they the ones that most need this help? I thought NCFL was focused on helping adults with low literacy levels… and low-income levels. The underlying assumptions, complexity of sentence structure, and the needed background knowledge of these writings do not match the skills and knowledge of the adult learners in most family literacy programs.e.g. “Try this game the next time your family is on a long road trip and the DVD player isn’t working. Strap on your eco-naut helmet, fasten your seat belt and prepare for lift off!” Low-income families in urban settings often do not have cars and often do not go on “road trips” – yet this writing assumes that taking a “road trip” is a regular, expected experience a child has. It further assumes that it is the norm to have a DVD player *in the car*! Re the writing itself, a low-level adult reader will look at “eco-naut” helmet and not be able to figure out what the heck this means. This is just one sentence, but I find it is typical of Wonderopolis writings. I do think each article could be re-written in simple, direct, concrete language – leaving out punny or abstract language and not making assumptions that everyone has a middle-class (or wealthy!) lifestyle. I’m not saying this to be politically correct. I’m saying it because the adults who most need this sort of support in helping their kids learn are the ones who would benefit from a different approach.

    • Betsy,

      Thank you for continuing to follow Wonderopolis and explore the site fully. NCFL’s mission is to inspire and engage families in the pursuit of education and learning together. Families across the socio-economic and educational spectrum want resources to support the parent/child relationship that help them learn and grow together. Wonderopolis is designed with a variety of diverse Wonders of the Day to do just that—meet families where they are and inspire them to learn on their terms. Most of the Wonders are written for mid-level readers and at the “fairly easy” readability level according to the Flesch Reading Ease Formula. Some are more suitable for parents that have low literacy skills and as these parents progress in their literacy development they will be able to experience and benefit from many more Wonders of the Day.

  3. OK, this will be my last posting, I promise! But I want to try once more to explain why I can’t accept the premise on which the readability of Wonderopolis is based and so I’m going to try to explain better.

    As I understand, the Flesch Reading Ease formula takes into account the numbers of syllables, words, and sentences in a passage. It does not account for the *background knowledge* that the reader needs in order to understand. It does not account for the *level of abstractness vs concreteness of the language* (even short simple words and short simple sentences can use language in a metaphorical or abstract way that is hard for low-level readers to understand). It furthermore does not take into account *whether the reader’s real life bears any resemblance to the assumptions that are made.*

    The example that I gave above on the “eco-nauts” and the families for whom it is normal to have DVD players in their cars(!) shows that a sentence full of short familiar words like “road” and “strap” and “fasten” can be utterly confusing to an adult who has a low level of education.

    I would recommend Wonderopolis to parents at urban private schools or public schools in well-to-do suburban areas – parents there will “get it” and will greatly enjoy sharing the daily Wonderopolis updates. As it is currently presented, I can not recommend Wonderopolis for family literacy progams, Head Start programs, and the like that serve families who most need the help in engaging in extended conversations with their children on a variety of topics.

    Wonderopolis has such rich possibilities! I hope you will consider adapting the readability level, taking into account the readability factors I mentioned. Then it would truly be useful for parents at varied reading levels… and would truly meet families “where they are.”

    Again, I promise not to continue posting on the topic as I do not want to become a nuisance! Thank you for listening!

    • We appreciate your comments, Betsy! You are always welcome to share your thoughts and opinions here in Wonderopolis. We are developing kits for schools and literacy programs to introduce Wonderopolis and Wonders of the Day to parents. The kits will provide a variety of ways to encourage and engage families with Wonders of the Day. Your feedback is valuable to us and we’d like to work with you offline as we develop the kits.

  4. To Wonderopolis,

    Thanks for your thoughtful response. I would be delighted to be in touch with you offline. I believe you must have my email address as the online response form requires it. Thanks again!

  5. this was very interesting and now I have some things I can think about. I have also have had an interest in working at mission control at NASA so if I come up with some things I can tell them there.

  6. Burning Questions: How did they video outer space?

    text connection: I’m reading a book about space and this reminds me of my book I’m reading.

    an ah ha moment: When they were talking about where does the trash go to.

  7. Why don’t you have outlet plugs and do you need food and water in space.
    And I would bring a space suite and a helmet. I would have rocket and I would bring food just in case.

    • Hello, Amaria. Thanks for visiting us today! Outer space doesn’t have electricity, so there isn’t a need for outlets. You need food and water to survive, so you would need food and water in outer space. We think bringing a space suite and helmet is a MUST if you were to visit outer space! :)

    • We’re SO GLAD you’re spending time with us WONDERing today, Lawrence! We think a pillow and cover would be a GREAT idea to take to outer space! :)

  8. I think if I go to outer space I will probably need food, drink, oxygen, clothes like Astronaut clothes and good thing you needs.

    • Hi, Wonder Friend Hemanta! We are so HAPPY you shared some of the things you think you would need in outer space with us today! We hope you WONDER with us again soon! :)

    • Way to go, Lyrik! Those are some WONDERful things to take with you to outer space. Do you have anything special that you would want to take? Thanks for stopping by Wonderopolis today! :)

  9. You would need to be trained you also need to be prepared. You have to plan the space trip carefully because once you get out there there can be no going out or going in. Once you get out there you would need input, input is what you need for space like food water and oxygen, and you would have a output like trash and waste you would need to reduce that.

    • Those are some interesting choices, Bryce. Who would you call from outer space? We hope you join us to WONDER again tomorrow! :)

    • We think you’d have LOTS of things to do to keep you busy in outer space, Daivionne! We’re WONDERing what kinds of foods you would want to take to eat? Happy WONDERing! :)

    • We’re sorry you didn’t like this Wonder! We’d LOVE to have you stop by and read a few other Wonders. :)

  10. I really enjoyed reading this Wonder. It really helped for a lab I had in science class. Thanks!

    -Cole Richards

    • Great, Cole Richards! We love when we are learning and having fun at the same time! Thanks for visiting WONDERopolis, today! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What would you pack for a trip to outer space?
  • What do you need to survive in outer space?
  • Why is recycling important?

Wonder Gallery

spacekid02June-13-astronautsVimeo Video

Try It Out

Ready for a tour of outer space? Find a friend or family member to help you check out one or more of the following activities:

  • Curious about what actual astronauts take with them into space? Do some research on the International Space Station, where astronauts stay for weeks and months at a time. You can learn more about the space station and even see a video that will take you on a tour. Do you think you’d want to spend months at the International Space Station? Why or why not? What would be fun? What would you miss about Earth?
  • Fasten your seat belt and prepare for lift off! Close your eyes for a moment and imagine that your car is a spaceship and you and your family are preparing to blast off and tour a far, faraway galaxy. Once in space, your crew will not be able to communicate with planet Earth, nor will you be able to receive any extra supplies from home. Whatever you pack in your spaceship is all you will have for one year. Thinking carefully about what you learned in today’s Wonder of the Day about inputs and outputs, what items would you pack with you? Make a list and discuss it with your friends and family members. What do they think of your list? What would they add? Is there anything they’d leave behind? Make sure you evaluate your list carefully to make sure you have a plan to satisfy all of your inputs and to deal successfully with the outputs that will be created!
  • Welcome home! We hope you enjoyed your trip! Now that you have returned from your galaxy tour, discuss with your friends and family members how inputs and outputs affect Earth. Much like your spaceship, Earth must carry everything it needs to sustain itself and its many ecosystems and life forms. Nothing can come in and nothing can go out. There is no way to communicate with another planet to ask for help or supplies. If Earth doesn’t have enough water or oxygen, what will we do? We can’t order it from Neptune! If our landfills begin to overflow, we can’t send our garbage into a black hole. The survival of “Spaceship Earth” depends on the choices, actions and behaviors of the crew who inhabit it. That’s me and you! Discuss simple changes your family can make to help conserve the resources on “Spaceship Earth” and reduce the amount of output you contribute to Earth’s garbage output pile. These can be as basic as turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth or carrying water in a reusable thermos instead of drinking from disposable plastic bottles. When you’re done, come back to Wonderopolis and share the ways your family is improving life on our spaceship. We’d love to hear your ideas!

Still Wondering

Science NetLinks’ Exploring the Solar System activity will guide you through preparing a proposal to explore one of the planets in our solar system.

Test Your Knowledge

Wonder What’s Next?

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