Mystery Bag

Out of this world

Out of this world

Start a conversation with these everyday objects that have been taken to the ISS

Activity overview

15 mins
Ages 9 – 11

Science topics:

Materials , Space

You will need:

Opaque bags filled with a selection of items taken to the International Space Station. For example, a teacup, book, football, rugby ball, Santa hat, Lego bricks, seeds and velcro, teddy bear.

Start a conversation about the ISS. A tried-and-tested favourite with teachers, spark curiosity and debate with a selection of everyday objects.

Run the activity

1. Several parcels of mystery items have been delivered! How can they tell what’s inside without looking? Some methods they could use:

  • feeling
  • observing
  • listening
  • smelling

2. All the objects have something in common. They've all been taken to the International Space Station! Has this changed what they think is in the bag and if so, why? Reveal the items in each bag one at a time. 

Background science

Each of the items in our list has been taken to the International Space Station by astronauts. Some personal items taken to the ISS are commemorative items that show the path the astronaut took to acheive their goal, others are purely for enjoyment.  Each crew member is allowed to take some mementos on their flight, but usually they must fit in a comparatively tiny area and not have too big a mass. This is because the total mass of the rocket and what it's carrying determines the amount of fuel needed to get the space rocket to the ISS. 


Take it further

Thinking about the items that astronauts took into space, explore what would your pupils choose to take with them and why? Remind them that the astronauts will be away from families and friends for anything from six to nine months. 

The low gravity in the International Space Station means items have to be designed in a special way. Ask the class what sorts of problems the astronauts might face while doing everyday things in space. Then show the class this image of a coffee cup specially designed for the station, and ask them to guess why it’s been designed that way.

This interactive BBC article explains what a typical day on the ISS is like and further resources are available for free from the European Space Agency.

Image credits: NASA JSC  BY-NC