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Astronomy Planetary Science Assignment

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ERSC 1P94 – Assignment 1

Preamble: In this assignment we will broadly cover topics relevant to the first two modules. Please answer all questions before entering your answers under the Tests & Quizzes section in Sakai. Points per question are given in square brackets [x].

Work through the assignment, then, when you have it complete, go to the Tests & Quizzes tab in Sakai to enter your answers and submit the assignment. Rules and guidelines for assignments are in your course syllabus. As always with online tools, save your work frequently while entering answers.

Part 1: Missions, Instrumentation and Discoveries

The following exercise will require you to do a little bit of research in order to answer these questions. All of the answers can be found on the NASA Solar System website Under the MORE tab you will find a Missions tab. You can search mission names and sort missions by name of launch date in either ascending or descending order. More information can be found by clicking on the mission name. In some cases we direct you to the Wikipedia page for more information. Searching for the mission name and wiki (e.g. Apollo 11 wiki) will usually get you there. While Wikipedia is not appropriate reference material for formal research, it is usually fairly reliable for space missions because the community is quick to point out erroneous information, so for your convenience we use it at times in these assignments.

Assignment 1 (ERSC 1P94, Planetary Science) 1

ERSC 1P94 – Assignment 1 (Summer 2019)

As an example, questions and answers for the currently active ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter would be:

Q – Launch Date?
A – March 14, 2016
Q – Mass of spacecraft?
A – 4,332 kilograms (including 113.8 kilograms of science payload and 577 kilograms Schiaparelli)

Q – Instruments on Spacecraft?

  1. NOMAD – Nadir and Occultation for MArs Discovery
  2. ACS – Atmospheric Chemistry Suite
  3. CaSSIS – Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System
  4. FREND – Fine Resolution Epithermal Neutron Detector

Part 1 Questions:

Let’s start at the beginning:
Question 1 [1] Pioneer 0 was our first attempt to launch a mission to the moon. When did it launch?

Question 2 [1] The Pioneer 0 mission was not successful. What happened?
Spaceflight is hard. The goal of some of the early missions was to simply hit the moon. You’ll notice that

many early missions were not successful; simply escaping Earth’s gravity was hard.

Question 3 [1] Luna 1 was the first mission to actually escape Earth’s gravity and was considered partially successful for that reason. It was only partially successful because it failed to hit its target, what was that target? This was a Soviet mission, so you will have to do some digging other than on the NASA Solar System Exploration site.

Question 4 [1] Later in the year of the first mission that escaped Earth’s gravity another man- made object, Luna 2, accomplished a remarkable step in space exploration. What was the date of this first human-made object impacting the moon?

Early Missions in rapid progression. If you scroll through the missions in chronological order, you’ll notice that it was a busy time with many missions not only directed towards the moon, but also to other planets. It was only about 5 years later that the first successful mission was launched that took close-up pictures of Mars.

Question 5 [1] The first mission that took close-up pictures of Mars was fill in the blank, watch your typing and include the mission number at the end (i.e., 1, 2, 3)]

Back to the moon, it is the only non-Earth body mankind has actually visited! Question 6 [2] What was the date of the first manned lunar landing?

Assignment 1 (ERSC 1P94, Planetary Science) 2

ERSC 1P94 – Assignment 1 (Summer 2019)

Question 7 [1] We did not spend many years exploring the moon with astronauts. What was the date of the last manned lunar landing?

Question 8 [2] Early astronauts were not generally scientists. Only one of the people who walked on the moon was a scientist. What was their name and in what science were they trained?

Leaving the inner solar system – is even more difficult and requires a lot of planning.
Question 9 [2] In what year did NASA launch the first probe to explore the outer solar system

and what was its name?

Way out there. Two missions (of a flyby type) were launched in 1977 to explore the outer Solar System and to take advantage of a rare planetary alignment.

Question 10 [1] What are the names of these two missions?
Question 11 [1] Only one of the missions targeted all 4 outer planets. Which one?

Question 12 [1] What is the name of the spacecraft that has gone further than any other and is currently exploring a transitional zone between our solar system and interstellar space?

13 and 14) Your turn; past present and future. We cannot possibly cover all missions (at the time this was written, the solar system exploration site lists 268 missions). So, pick two missions that you find interesting, one that is completed (past), one that is ongoing (present) and one future mission.

Please answer using the underlined subheadings at each point below.

• Question 13: For a past (complete) mission: [total 6]
o Link: Provide the link to the mission (either Solar system exploration or Wikipedia) [2]
o Mission:Statetheoverallmissionobjective(yourownwords,1sentence)[2]
o Interest: In your own words (1-3 sentences), what makes the mission interesting to you?

[2] Note: Try to convince the TA marking the assignment why that mission is of interest

to you so that reason cannot be a restatement of the mission objective. • Question 14: For an ongoing mission or a future (planned) mission:

Link: Provide the link to the mission (either Solar system exploration or Wikipedia)

[2] Mission: State the overall mission objective (your own words,1 sentence)

[2] Interest: In your own words (1-3 sentences), what makes the mission interesting to you?

[2] Note: Try to convince the TA marking the assignment why that mission is of interest to you so that reason cannot be a restatement of the mission objective

Assignment 1 (ERSC 1P94, Planetary Science) 3

ERSC 1P94 – Assignment 1 (Summer 2019) Part 2 Size, Composition, and Density

In the following exercise, you will examine the densities of a variety of materials and bodies in the solar system. To begin, we’ll provide a bit of background on density and because some very large numbers are involved, we’ll also briefly go over scientific notation.


An object’s density ρ (the Greek letter rho, not the letter P) relates its mass (m) to its size (volume, V). If you know these two variables, you can calculate density using the formula:

If you want to determine the density of that special pebble you picked up on the beach, you could weigh it on your scale to obtain its mass (please use your scale on Earth) and you could measure the volume by immersing it in a full glass of water and measure the volume of water the spills out of the glass. Measuring the mass of a planet is more complex and really beyond the scope of this exercise. So, we’ll provide you with the mass. But if you’re interested, check this link:

Scientific Notation – some background and examples

In science, we often deal with very large and very small numbers. Scientific notation is a simple way that scientists can deal with such large or small numbers without having to write out what could end up being tens to hundreds or more zeros within a single calculation.

Scientific notation consists of a digit term and an exponential term. The digit term can be any number (e.g., 9, 5.89), and is always multiplied by 10 with an exponent (exponential term). The exponent determines how many places the decimal would have to move if you were to write out the entire number.

Example 1

Scientific notation: 1.34 x 102

Actual number: 134 The digit term (1.34) is multiplied by the exponential term 102. The exponent (2) means that the decimal place in (1.34) would need to move 2 places to the right. If you move the decimal 2 places to the right, you get 134. The positive exponent (2, which is +2) indicates that the decimal moves to the right, whereas if the exponent was negative as in (10-2), the decimal would need to move to the left (see example 2 below).

Assignment 1 (ERSC 1P94, Planetary Science) 4

Example 2

ERSC 1P94 – Assignment 1 (Summer 2019)

Scientific notation: 1.34 x 10-2

Actual number: 0.0134

Example 3

Actual Number (Earth’s Mass): 5 980 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 g • That’s 598 followed by 25 zeros!

Scientific Notation: 5.98 x 1027g
You can see why scientific notation can be useful.
Before we go any further, let’s make sure that you’re comfortable with scientific notation.

Convert the following values to scientific notation and make sure you get the same answers we give, you will need to use this notation later:

▪ 1989000000000000000000=1.989×1021 ▪ 0.000000000005632 =5.632 × 10-12
▪ 1410000000000000000 = 1.41 × 1018

Back to densities:

Let’s calculate some densities. Rather than handing you a bunch of pebbles and having you trying to measure the volume, we’ll assume that you are given perfect spheres of a given radius. To get the volume you simply need to use the equation for the volume of a sphere with a known radius. That equation is Volume= (4/3) x π x radius3.

Please recall that π=3.1459 and that radius3 = radius x radius x radius
We only need to see the final volume, so you can even google for sphere calculators.

Once you have the volume you can use it and the mass to calculate the density. An example of the calculation is shown for granite.

Assignment 1 (ERSC 1P94, Planetary Science) 5

ERSC 1P94 – Assignment 1 (Summer 2019)
Questions 15 [8 points] and 16 [8 points]: Granite has been completed as an example.

Question 15: Calculate the volume for each sample material in Table 1 with the provided sphere radius, then you will be able to match the material and volume in Sakai. (Compute your answers to TWO decimal places) [8 pts]

Question 16-23: Calculate the Density of each material provided in Table 1 using the volume and mass, then you will be able to enter the values in Sakai. (Compute your answers to TWO decimal places) [8 pts]

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