Little time for warning of Mir crash disaster

The ideas presented for this article could be used with middle school or secondary students. This article contains two sections (the main text and an insert) which could be used together or separately.

One approach that could be used would be to present the articles with the numbers (30 minutes, car-size, three times, 33-1, 700kg, etc) removed. Students could be asked to determine if any sense can be made without this information and hence describe the importance of numeracy for this type of article. Further, students could be asked to fill in the blanks in groups with discussions on way they could work out estimates.

Another approach could be within the Chance and Data Curriculum. The statement of a 33-1 chance of chunks hitting Australia could be discussed with questions such as: "What do these numbers mean?" "How were these odds determined?" Within the inset it is stated that the likelihood of a city being hit is 0.02%. Is this the same as a 33-1 chance?

This article would also enable a discussion on the different uses for numbers, for example, time, weight, velocity, probability, and percentages.

From a Science perspective, this article could provide a basis for looking into the factors that make space travel possible. How much power is needed to launch a rocket into space? Why isn't much power needed when ships leave the Earth's atmosphere? How do people in space breathe, eat or go to the toilet? The orbit of Mir around the Earth could also be investigated and how it compares with the moon's orbit. How many sunsets and sunrises would the astronauts see in 24 hours?

An approach that connects SOSE could be to review the impacts if Mir did crash into Australia. Impacts could be discussed in terms whether Mir crashed into high or low population areas. Also the possibilities of people living in space could be discussed. What are the positives/negatives? What are some of the limiting factors of why we are presently unable to live in space for any length of time? What would the impact on our society be, if people were able to live in space or on other planets?

As this event has already taken place, it may also be interesting to compare the estimates given for Mir's re-entry site and where it actually came down.

(Written by Karen Scriven, BTeach student, University of Tasmania, 2001)

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