Exploring Strange New Worlds

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This fun and simple hands-on astronomy activity lets learners explore model planets (that they or an educator will create), using methods NASA scientists use to explore our Solar System. Learners role play teams of scientists living on a planet orbiting a distant star, who must explore their planetary system for the first time. This activity encourages creative thinking—such as scenting a planet model with an aroma or freezing it, and creating a mission budget and radio message.The PDF contains step-by-step instructions, photos, presentation tips, and links to background information. Prep time will depend on learners' age and the extent of detail in their planet models.

Quick Guide

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - adult

Resource Types:
Activity, Game, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Model


Materials List (per group of students)

  • "Communication and Exploration" handout copies
  • suggested planet materials: 6-inch dylite ball, beach ball, round fruit, Play-Doh, or wrapped-up newspaper
  • suggested planet decorations: skewer sticks, bark, moss, rocks, cotton balls, paint
  • (Optional) Tweezers
  • (Optional) Rules of the Game
  • (Optional) "I Explored the Solar System" certificates


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Astronomy
      • Stars and Galaxies
      • Probes, Satellites and Spacecraft
    • Solar System
      • The Sun
      • The Moon
      • The Planets
      • Asteroids and Comets
  • Mathematics
    • Measurement
      • Size and Scale
  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Aerospace Engineering
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results
    • Science as a Career

Informal Categories

  • Arts and Crafts
  • Model Building
  • Outdoor Activity


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access