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Have a loved one or friend, who is a space enthusiast or aspiring astronaut? Check out these space-related books, games and room decor, and awesome online courses for kids!
Are you familiar with orreries? They’re super-cool gadgets that show the positions, motions and phases of planets, satellites, etc. Here are examples in various sizes, styles and materials.
Some are to scale; others are more decorative in nature. For more details, view each product’s description.
Aspiring engineers will love this wooden kit, too. So much fun to make it yourself and watch gears! 🙂
Interactive, online courses for kids
Outschool.com courses, which take place via Zoom meetings, are an excellent way to not only learn about a wide range of topics, but to also interact with instructors and other kids who have similar interests. (My children have been taking Outschool courses for three months and love them!)
Here are several astronaut and space-related classes that the site’s independent instructors currently offer:
- NASA Virtual Field Trip: Kennedy Space Center, Florida – Join teacher Sharon Spencer as she walks kids through her trip to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. With a combination of her personal footage and an external website, she and the class will explore Kennedy Space Center together and watch a shuttle launch! She’ll also: give students a closer look at the area where shuttles take off, show them space crafts that are on display, and discuss a bit of science and physics.
- Bone Density and Muscle Stress in Space – In this one-time class, kids learn what happens to astronauts in space and how it affects the human body in various ways.
- NASA Escape Room – Students in this class will work together as they attempt to unlock NASA, using their knowledge about space and flight, as well as their critical-thinking skills! It’s a great course for kids who love logic puzzles and thinking challenges.
- Where is the International Space Station? – In this one-time, intermediate Python programming course, students will build a Python program to determine: where the International Space Station (ISS) is currently located, when it’s passing nearby, and who is presently in space using NASA and NORAD data. How’s that for hands-on learning! This instructor has a lot of highly-rated coding courses, including some that are Harry Potter-themed.
- Women of NASA – In this interactive, multi-day course, an engineer who also loves to teach, will introduce students to female mathematicians, scientists and engineers who left their imprints on NASA. In addition, classmates will complete their own math, science and engineering challenges, including designing their own tools to view stars, completing logic puzzles related to spaceflight, and more. This instructor offers several highly-rated engineering courses!
- Life on Mars STEAM challenge – The challenge for this class is to design a prototype that enables NASA to support human life on the Red Planet. Students will read and discuss one of NASA’s kid-friendly research articles about life on Mars, design their own prototype, and present their creations to the class.
- Explore Space with NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope – In this five-day online summer camp, participants will explore resources from NASA to: discover the Hubble Space Telescope, understand the importance of its 30-year mission, appreciate the beauty of space, and more.
Search for additional courses related outer space on Outschool. There also are several classes that focus on Mars.
Orion makes great telescopes and binoculars. These kits are great because they come with so many extras.
Their StarBlast 4.5 Astro Reflector telescope MAX kit is a compact grab-and-go telescope designed for entry-level & intermediate astronomy enthusiasts. It includes:
- two eyepieces (17 mm & 6 mm)
- EZ Finder II reflex sight
- eyepiece rack
- collimation cap
- astronomy software
- moon filter
- Moon Map 260
- Star Target planisphere
- Barlow lens
- observer’s guide
- red-beam flashlight
Orion’s StarBlast II 4.5 EQ Reflector kit has a general-purpose telescope with a wide-field reflector.
It also includes:
- a Shorty 2x Barlow lens
- Moon Map 260
- Star Target planisphere
- observer’s guide
- red-beam flashlight
There are so many space books! I love these two pictured below because of how beautiful they are (the covers and the content inside). They’re definitely worthy of displaying on a coffee table.
Infinite Wonder: an Astronaut’s Photographs from a Year in Space, pictured above on the right, is by Scott Kelly. He and his brother Mark are both astronauts and, between them, they’ve written several books. Here are a few others:
- Astrotwins: Project Blastoff is a true story about how they developed a love of space in middle school, while they were visiting their uncle for the summer. As the cover image implies, the story is for kids. Mark also wrote a book called Astrotwins: Project Rescue.
- For a more grown-up story about their experiences, you can’t go wrong with New York Times bestseller Endurance: My Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery.
- Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope has a completely different slant to it, but it’s a great book, too. Mark is married to former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, and the story describes their journey after a man tried to assassinate her. As Gabby fought to recover from her traumatic brain injury, Mark spent every possible moment by her side. And all the while, he also was preparing for his final mission as commander of space shuttle Endeavour. Talk about remarkable, right? It’s an amazing story.
Make: Rockets is great for book kids and adults alike, who love to build things. It’s step-by-step guide that explains everything from aerodynamic principles and building techniques, to how to recover the rockets and determine their height and speed!
Want a fun way to display your books? There are some seriously amazing bookends, too, no matter your taste or your room’s color scheme. I love this one, below. It’s so unique and colorful!
This set of astronaut bookends by MokuShop is cool, too.
And these rocket ship bookends, by Knob Creek Metal Art, are fun as well!
Other display-worthy pieces
Although this planet marble collection with pewter space shuttle & rocket, by West End Collectables, is an artistic representation that isn’t to scale, it would be beautiful to display.
These moon and planet night lights are awesome, too!
Games and activities
Also, here are some highly-rated, space-themed games that are really fun to play.
This 3D-printed, augmented-reality planetary set by AstroReality is really cool, too. It was built using NASA data to ensure scientific accuracy!
Experience space up close
If you really want to blow your aspiring astronaut’s mind, schedule a trip to coincide with a shuttle launch, or where you can visit a space museum or NASA center during your stay. For example:
- The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum and the Hayden Planetarium (at the American Museum of Natural History) are both in New York City.
- In the metro D.C. area, space shuttle Discovery and other artifacts are on display at the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center (in Chantilly, Va). In addition, the Smithsonian’s main campus in Washington, D.C.
- On the west coast, you can see the space shuttle Endeavor on display at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. There also are IMAX movies there, and other spaceflight artifacts, such as the Mercury-Redstone 2 capsule, which took Ham the chimpanzee into space!
- And, of course, Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral, located near Orlando, Fla.
You can make a simple “gift certificate” using an image of one of the cool things that person will enjoy seeing when they get there. I’ve done this before with my kids for extra-special summer camps and other experiences I know they’ll love.