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Technology Moves Science Forward

When Galileo looked into his elementary telescope, he became a pioneer in establishing the role technology would play in our exploration of the universe. Today we have many tools used to help gain a better understanding of the space that surrounds us. We have telescopes that can detect virtually every kind of radiation, from radio waves to X-rays.

You may have seen the movie Contact starring Jodie Foster, in which she is a radio astronomer working with what looks like a group of very large satellite dishes. Those dishes are actually a group of radio telescopes at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. Radio telescopes are used to detect radio waves, while an ultraviolet telescope detects ultraviolet waves. In 1990, the United States launched the Hubble Space Telescope about 600 kilometers into orbit around Earth.

The Hubble Space Telescope has precision instruments that allow it to look deep into space. It has helped scientists see the formation of new stars, objects that are over 10 billion light years away. It has instruments that allow us to determine a star's mass, composition, age, and distance. Since it lies above Earth's atmosphere, it eliminates distortions caused by Earth's atmosphere and provides spectacular views of the deep universe.
In 2004 NASA landed two space probes on our nearest planetary neighbor, Mars. While the Hubble is geared toward a study of deeper space, these two space probes were sent to study Mars to help us gain a better understanding of our solar system. They were equipped with cameras that allowed three-dimensional photographs to be taken of the Martian surface, a microscope that also serves as a camera, a grinder to cut into rock, a spectrometer, and other instruments. The space probes conducted experiments in the fields of microbiology, geology, and chemistry. One of the primary goals was to investigate signs of water on the surface of the Red Planet. With this data, we have found several minerals and rock formations that indicate that liquid water may have once been found on the surface.
Here is an awesome animation of the Mars Space Probe Exploration Mission.

These are just two examples of how technology has assisted us in learning more about the universe. We can use these advancements to gain a better appreciation of Earth and its surroundings.

To learn more about the Hubble Space Telescope and the Mars Rovers, visit the NASA website. (You may need to disable your pop-up ad blocker to allow this window to open.)


Design your own Space Technology



  • Pencil
  • Paper


What advances in technology do you predict may be developed to explore space in the future? Diagram one of these technology devices. It may seem that you are developing a science fiction device, but many advances in science have occurred after someone described them in a science fiction novel. Who knows, you may become famous for the development of an important technology!



  1. Sketch your device and label each unique specification that will help overcome the problems of space exploration.
  2. Refer to the list below for a list of potential problems.
    • Telescopes
      • How is it going to move through space?
      • What will make it travel farther than any other telescope?
      • How will it be able to “see” deeper into space?
      • What makes its lenses so powerful?
      • How will it transmit the images back to earth?
      • What if another stellar object gets in its path?
      • How will it overcome the coldness of space?
      • What other problems may exist?
    • Space Probes
      • How will it travel to its destination?
      • How will it handle rough terrain?
      • How will it handle wind and dust?
      • How will it handle frozen terrain?
      • How will it handle cold temperatures?
      • How will it take and transmit images back to earth?
      • How will it take and store samples of the atmosphere and soil?
Review science lab safety rules here.

Get the plug-ins: Get Adobe Acrobat Reader and Get Quicktime Player. (The QuickTime plug-in is needed to play sounds and movies correctly.)

Want to share photos of you or your friends doing this activity? Send it in an e-mail with the following information:

  1. The title of the activity
  2. The URL (Internet address)
  3. Your name.

Remember that no pictures can be used that show student faces or student names on it. 

Teachers should view the Teacher Site Map to relate Sci-ber text and the USOE Earth Systems Science core.


Updated October 24, 2008 by: Glen Westbroek

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