The solar radiation bombardment began as the shuttle astronauts were on their way to rendezvous with the International Space Station.
Over the 20-hour solar storm, condensed to 90 minutes of classroom time, a team of experts at the Learning Enrichment Center had to decide the best courses of action to keep the space station astronauts alive.
About a dozen LEC students of Team Amazing in grades seven through 12 broke into groups and monitored the data, tracked the dangers, and utilized resources.
Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry
Life support crisis
During an eMission event — Space Station Alpha — at the Learning Enrichment Center, Branden Lake passes information regarding the status of life support on the space station to Adam McCoy of the crisis management team.
Information was transmitted from mission control, the Challenger Learning Center at Wheeling Jesuit University, throughout the mission to computers at LEC. Commander Jordan was on screen asking the students for data and recommended actions.
Oxygen levels had to be kept up; carbon dioxide levels down.
The astronauts had limited items and actions they could take to protect themselves from the radiation.
The batteries in the station reached dangerously low levels when the craft passed into the shadow of the earth and the solar panels could not gather light.
Storm team members kept their eyes on the x-rays and protons being thrown off by the solar flare and made predictions as to when conditions would worsen.
The radiation team tracked levels and judged when it was time for astronauts to leave certain areas of the ship. They had the ship rotated and pointed toward the sun so the astronauts were shielded by the other parts of the craft.
The life support team monitored oxygen and carbon dioxide levels and decided the proper moments to create more oxygen or scrub the existing atmosphere.
Crisis management prioritized the problems and expended supplemental power resources to keep the batteries alive.
It was the job of the communications team to assimilate the information and provide it to mission control.
No lives were lost during the solar flare event, described as the worst ever recorded, and during the briefing, Jordan congratulated the students for jobs well done.
The eMission series includes eight different scenarios that help students "use team work, communication, and problem solving skills to avoid disasters and save lives," according to information from Challenger Learning Center. "Research indicates that this way of learning leads to improved critical-thinking skills. The impact of this fast-paced, engaged learning environment will help you create life-long learners in your classroom."
The lessons focus on computer use, math, science, and communications.