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CAROLYN RIDSDALE (Astronaut and rocket); Zakharchuk/Shutterstock.com (Background)
Would You Take a Trip to Space?

Ordinary people might soon be able to shoot into space. Is this a dream come true—or a disaster waiting to happen? 

By Talia Cowen
From the October/November 2019 Issue
Lexile: 600L-700L, 700L-800L
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3. . . 2 . . . 1 . . . blastoff! With a burst of rocket fire, you rush toward the sky. The spaceship rattles like the bumpiest roller-coaster ride ever. As you speed faster and faster, it feels like a giant hand is pressing you into your seat.

Then the rocket engine shuts off . . . and you’re instantly weightless. Unbuckling your seat belt, you float around the ship. Through the window, Earth looks like a watery marble hovering in the darkness of space.

Usually, astronauts study and train for years before they get this experience. But regular people might travel to space as soon as this year.

Some rocket companies are letting any adult buy a spot on a future space trip. And NASA, the government space agency, will soon let people visit the International Space Station—a science lab that circles high above Earth.

But you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to wonder: Are space vacations a good idea?

3. . . 2 . . . 1 . . . blastoff! With a burst of rocket fire, you rush toward the sky. The spaceship rattles like a bumpy roller-coaster ride. You speed faster and faster. It feels like a giant hand is pressing you into your seat. 

Then the rocket engine shuts off. All of a sudden, you’re weightless. You unbuckle your seat belt and float around the ship. Through the window, Earth looks like a watery marble floating in the darkness of space.

Usually, astronauts study and train for years before they get to be in space. But regular people might travel there as soon as this year. 

Some rocket companies are letting people buy a spot on a future space trip. And NASA, the government space agency, will soon let people visit the International Space Station. That’s a science lab that circles high above Earth. 

But are space vacations a good idea?

The Trip of a Lifetime

Space travel would be an out-of-this-world opportunity. So far, only about 600 humans have visited space. You’d join a small club of people who’ve done something truly extraordinary.

It would also be fun. Gravity—the natural force keeping you on the ground—mostly disappears in space. You could do spectacular midair somersaults that would make any gymnast jealous.

And the view! It’d be unbeatable. How cool would it be to take a selfie with the whole planet?

You’re not the only one who thinks this would be the trip of a lifetime. Hundreds of people have already reserved spots on future trips, including Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, and Justin Bieber. Who knows—maybe one of these superstars would be your spaceshipmate!

Space travel would be an out-of-this-world opportunity. So far, only about 600 humans have visited space. You would join a small club of people who have done something truly special.

It would be fun too. Gravity—the natural force that keeps you on the ground—mostly disappears in space. You could do midair backflips that would make any gymnast jealous.

And think of the view! You could take a selfie with the whole planet!

Many people want to visit space. Hundreds have already reserved spots on future trips. Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, and Justin Bieber are among them. You might get to travel with one of these superstars! 

Just Not Worth It 

OK, come back to Earth. Space travel might not be as thrilling as it sounds.

First of all, it’s expensive. The cheapest ticket is $250,000—for just a few minutes in space! And that space station visit? It will cost almost $60 million. You could take thousands of amazing Earth vacations with that cash.

Plus, just because space travel is expensive doesn’t mean it’s comfortable. You’d be crammed into a small cabin. And having no gravity would make daily activities tricky. Imagine eating lunch while your food tumbles through the air. Some astronauts even strap themselves to the toilet so they don’t drift away mid-pee. Ew!

Finally, space travel can be dangerous. Even a tiny problem with a ship can cause a serious accident. And mistakes do happen. Nearly 20 astronauts have died on space missions since the 1960s.

So, what do you think? Would you rather shoot for the stars or stay on Earth? 

OK, come back to Earth. 

Space travel might not be as great as it sounds.

First of all, it’s expensive. The cheapest ticket is $250,000. That’s for just a few minutes in space! And that space station visit? It will cost almost $60 million. You could take thousands of Earth vacations with that cash.

Plus, space travel isn’t comfortable. You’d be crammed into a small cabin. And having no gravity would be hard. Imagine eating while your food tumbles through the air. Some astronauts strap themselves to the toilet so they don’t drift away mid-pee. Ew!

And space travel can be dangerous. Even a tiny problem with a ship can cause a serious accident. Nearly 20 astronauts have died on space missions since the 1960s.

So, what do you think? Would you rather shoot for the stars or stay on Earth?

This article was originally published in the October/November 2019 issue.

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Can't-Miss Teaching Extras

Virgin Galactic, one of the companies working to offer space tourism, has a VR experience to explore their spacecraft and learn more about their trips to space. Don’t worry if you don’t have virtual reality equipment – you can view it in 360 mode on a computer. 

For the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, the New York Times created an immersive story using the real transcripts and photos from the first moon landing.Use it to ignite student’s curiosity about space, and make a history connection too! 

Curious about daily life in space? Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield explains how astronauts sleep on the International Space Station in this video. And what about eating? Show the first segment, up until 3:51, of this fun video in which NASA astronaut Mike Massimino talks about how eating is different in space.

More About the Story

Complexity Factors

Purpose

The debate presents pros and cons of traveling to space as a tourist.  

Structure

The text consists of an introduction followed by two sections, one that argues in favor of space travel and one that argues against it.    

Language

The language is mainly conversational but includes the words hovering and international as well as similes, a rhetorical question, and other figures of speech.

Knowledge Demands 

The text mentions that a trip to space costs at least $250,000; some knowledge of what else that could buy (a home, multiple cars) will help students to see how expensive that is. 

Step-by-Step Lesson Plan

1. Preparing to Read

Have students preview the text features. Ask:

  • What is the topic of the debate? (Prompt students to use the debate title and the heading on the chart as clues.)
  • What do you think are the two sides of the issue?

2. Reading the Debate 

Read the debate as a class or in small groups. A lower-Lexile version is available. 

Have students read the debate a second time. Prompt them to mark the types of support the author presents to back up each side, including:

  • Facts and statistics (F/S)
  • Quotes from experts (Q)
  • Stories or examples (EX)

3. Discussing

As a class or in groups, have students discuss:

  • Which evidence is most effective in supporting each side?
  • Is one side stronger than the other? Why?
  • What is your opinion? What evidence do you find the most convincing?
  • For more-advanced students: Do you think the author has a preferred point of view on this issue? What is your evidence?

4. Writing

Have students complete the chart in the magazine.

Distribute the activity “Write an Opinion Essay.” The lower-level version guides students to write a three-paragraph essay on the debate topic. The higher-level version prompts them to bring in additional evidence and write six paragraphs, including a rebuttal of the other side. With either version, hand out our Opinion Writing Toolkit, which offers writing tips and transition words.