Wednesday, July 13, 2011

3, 2, 1: Blastoff to an Astronaut Afternoon!

Inspired by watching the last shuttle launch over the weekend, we stocked up on library books and planned space travel activities to do with friends at the park. The best books we picked up were What Do Astronauts Do, by Carmen Bredeson, World Book's Human Space Exploration and Exploring the Solar System; A History with 22 Activities, by Mary Kay Carson. A lot of activities in the latter were a little on the bland side, except they did give a recipe for creating your own comet with kitchen ingredients, which we tried. In addition to making our meteorite, we dressed the kids up like little astronauts with tin-foil space suits and sponge space shoes. We made foam-paper-cup rockets and enjoyed launching a real rocket model that shot up over 500 feet in the sky and parachuted down. The kids had a blast, especially mixing up the comet/dry-ice concoction and yelling their countdown before chasing down the rocket after it started it's descent back to earth.

Kitchen Comet Recipe: *(Please remember dry ice is dangerous and adult supervision is extremely required so the kids don't touch it! Only handle with protective gloves)

2-3 pounds dry ice
3 plastic trash bags
Protective gloves
Old towel
Large plastic mixing bowl
2 cups water
2 tablespoons dirt (or more)
Ammonia-based window cleaner
2 tablespoons honey or syrup
Large mixing spoon
Shallow pan

Directions: Keep the dry-ice well wrapped in a freezer or cooler filled with water ice. Make a two-layered bag with 2 of the trash bags and carefully move the dry ice into it, fold it over and set it back in the cooler. Cover with a towel and crush the ice with a hammer until you have about 2 cups of well-crushed dry ice.
Line the mixing bowl with the third bag, mix all the ingredients in and stir until well mixed. Mix in the dry-ice. It will be slushy at first but keep stirring until it's nearly frozen solid.
Wrap the bag around and shape the comet like a snowball through the bag. When ready, place it carefully out of the bag and onto the shallow pan. Enjoy watching it sublimate and steam just like a real comet in outer space!

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