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    Cernan Earth and Space Center

    Rusty Rocket's Last Blast

    Grade Level: Preschool through 2nd grade
    Length: 36 minutes

    This multimedia planetarium program features an imaginary character named Rusty Rocket, a friendly rocket whose job is to train astronauts preparing to go into space. Rusty is near retirement, and he is beginning to think of what he'll do once he's finished his last class. Rusty's Boogie, a little song about the famous rocket instructor, is sung to the audience and to Rusty.

    In class, Rusty's job is to transform "rocket rookies" into full-fledged "space cadets." He begins by describing a typical mission into space, from the long wait aboard the spacecraft to the excitement of the final countdown. Rusty explains that the loud noises that the rocket makes is necessary to overcome the pull of gravity, the invisible force that holds everything down on the Earth. He explains that once the rocket is in orbit, the speed of the spacecraft balances the pull of the Earth's gravity, and the spacecraft maintains its orbit.

    If the rocket were to go faster, it could escape the pull of Earth's gravity and travel out into space -- perhaps to the moon. The distance to the moon (250,000 miles) is explained by the time it would take a rocket, jet plane or automobile to get there. The Apollo missions to explore the moon between 1969 and 1972 are then described, with the help of Rusty's uncle Lem (a play on words. LEM = lunar module). Lem describes what it was like to be on the moon.

    If a rocket were to travel even farther into space, it could visit the Earth's nearest planetary neighbor, Venus. The planet Venus -- covered with a thick carbon dioxide atmosphere and 900 degrees on the surface -- was explored by an unmanned Soviet spacecraft named Venera in the 1980's. Rusty then continues his voyage away from Venus and on to the next planet, Mercury. Slightly larger than the Earth's moon, Mercury is another hot planet covered with craters.

    At the center of the solar system is the sun, which Rusty describes next. Its immense size (a jet plane would take two months to fly from one side of the sun to the other) and heat (10,000 degrees at the surface) are described, along with the dangers of looking at the sun or getting sunburned at the beach.

    Rusty Rocket continues his travels through the solar system by first returning to Earth en route to the outer planets. Rusty brings the audience to Mars (with its reddish surface), Jupiter (with its colorful cloud bands, rings and moons), Saturn (with its beautiful rings), Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Pluto is so far from the sun that it would take 15 years for a rocket to get there and 648 years for a jet plane to get there.

    Finally, Rusty Rocket returns to Earth and bids his space cadets a fond farewell. Rusty's Boogie is sung again and concludes the program.

    The following space-related words are used in Rusty Rocket's Last Blast:

    Air Astronaut Gravity Orbit Rocket
    Asteroid Atmosphere Microgravity Rings Radiation

    A brief question-and-answer period follows the presentation.