Earth and Space | Forces and Motion

Satellites in the news

Classroom Activity for 11-14 Supporting Physics Teaching

What the Activity is for

To explore the range and variety of the uses of satellites.

What to Prepare

  • a collection of web site addresses (the ESA and NASA sites will lead to many others) and clippings to get started
  • a large chart for recording the results of the pupils' researches

What Happens During this Activity

Find examples of how satellites are used now in communications, weather forecasting, business, agriculture, resource management, transport, and science by clipping relevant articles in magazines and newspapers.

Start a satellite wall display. You might like to prepare a grid, using the headings given above for the rows, and an example per column. Different groups of pupils can be given different areas to research, to achieve some kind of balance.

We suggest using this populated grid to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using satellites rather than old technologies, such as communications satellites compared to telephone wires.

Amongst other things that you can discuss, satellites stop working for various reasons. Depending on the orbit of the satellite one of two things occurs. Satellites in low Earth orbit will eventually burn up in the Earth's atmosphere. Satellites in geostationary orbit can be moved farther out into a less desirable orbit.

Discuss why satellites are not brought back to Earth (cost). Consider the analogy to the world's oceans that were once considered a limitless area to discard waste. Do you think the same thing will happen to outer space? How can that be avoided? What consequences does this have for our planning for using satellites?

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