What If...

You worked at NASA but weren’t an astronaut?

What if you worked at NASA but weren’t an astronaut?

Classroom view

Activity overview

15 mins
Ages 9 – 11

Science topics:

Space , Celebrating scientists

Get your class thinking and talking with this fun question! Having a broad question means you'll get a wide range of ideas coming from your pupils.

Run the activity

1. In pairs, discuss what might be a Plus, Minus and Interesting way to think about the question. Stuck for ideas? They could think about:

  • Which jobs would be needed at a space agency?
  • Who would make the rockets, equipment and space suits?
  • Who would train the astronauts?
  • Think of the people who work in your school. Would any of their roles be needed?

2. Ask the children to share their partner's ideas then encourage a broader discussion as a class, remember there is no wrong or right answer!

Background science

It takes a lot of people to run a space agency, more than 18,000 people work for NASA alone. A lot of them are scientists and engineers. Other roles are lawyers, accountants, teachers, cleaners, therapists and personal trainers. When President John F. Kennedy visited the NASA Space Centre in 1962, he noticed a caretaker carrying a broom. The President went over to the caretaker and said “Hi, I’m Jack Kennedy, what are you doing?” The caretaker replied: “Well, Mr President. I’m helping put a man on the moon.”

Your class might be interested to find out about the first British person in space, a woman named Helen Sharman. The Science Museum has created a brilliant video in which you can find out more about her.    

Take it further

Your children could write applications to space agencies such as the European Space Agency (ESA) for a job which is not an astronaut. Get them to explain why they want the job and what skills they have. These 'Careers in space'  resources from the European Space Education Resource Office highlight the variety of roles at ESA from space lawyer to software engineer.

It hasn’t always been easy for some people working at NASA. The true story of Hidden Figures tells the story of Katherine Johnson and other African-American women who were critical to the success of the first and subsequent US-manned space flights.

Image credit: Frame Stock Footages via Shutterstock