To the moon and back: Best resources for space and solar-system study

Solar system and space unit study guide for homeschoolers and unschoolers

One of the “learning kicks” we’ve been on for more than six months now has been outer space.

Sarah’s been a longtime Star Wars fan (and recently became interested in Star Trek). Then, when a church we attended for a while showed a clip of Buzz Aldrin taking communion on the moon (which I wrote about back in July), she started wanting to know more and more about lunar exploration.

So on one of our trips to the library, we checked out a Neil Armstrong biography and read it cover-to-cover together. That was over the span of a couple months, but Sarah’s interest didn’t wane.

Disclosure: This post does have some affiliate links, which will make me a little bit of money if you choose to purchase any of the products I’ve mentioned through them. I only link to things we legitimately use and recommend, so if you see such a link, it’s because we really do believe in the book or item!

So we started digging around for more solar system stuff, but Sarah kept beating us to the punch! The Mars Rover Curiosity’s trip was news to me – but not to Sarah, who’d started following the rover on Twitter. The same was true for the SpaceX Dragon mission – Sarah was the one who told me about it!

But with some help from Homeschool AV Guy, aka my wonderful husband, Chris, we found some great space resources, especially related to the U.S. moon missions.

We’re still pursuing this topic, so I fully expect our list of resources to grow. But here’s a look at some of the many highlights of our study so far. I hope this will prove a great starting point – or diving-deeper point – for anyone interested in learning more about our solar system!

Books

Movies/TV

  • From the Earth to the Moon – This is the HBO miniseries documenting the U.S. missions into space and particularly those surrounding the moon landings. It is phenomenal. Tom Hanks is executive producer and episode-intro narrator. (Also interesting: The episode intro for each includes audio of John F. Kennedy’s speech Sept. 12, 1962 speech promising we will go to the moon in that decade, which Sarah absolutely loves and has memorized parts of.) 
  • Apollo 13 – I had never seen this from start to finish, believe it or not, but I’m incredibly glad I did. While there are a few notable liberties – like, you know, “Houston, we have a problem,” this is pretty close to the story of what actually happened. Watching this and then watching the accompanying episode of From the Earth to the Moon was a neat study in comparisons.
  • The Right Stuff – This film is based upon the first astronauts, the Mercury Seven team (including Gus Grissom, Deke Slayton and John Glenn). We’re slated to watch this next!
  • In the Shadow of the Moon – We picked up a copy of this incredibly cheaply at a book and movie outlet on our Rehoboth Beach vacation. It includes interviews with most of the astronauts who walked on the moon, though notably not Neil Armstrong. Seeing these men later in life is fascinating in its own right!
  • For All Mankind – This film from the Criterion series is a documentary about all 24 men ever to land on the moon, told in their own voices. We haven’t watched this yet, but Chris raves about it and it’s in our queue!
  • Cosmos – This is the Carl Sagan miniseries originally broadcast on PBS, probably one of the most noted pieces of space television ever aired.
  • The Planets – This is one of the BBC Films documentary series, and if you’ve never seen those, you’re missing out. We have several of their box sets and they’re fantastic; this one included.
  • A Trip to the Moon – This early science-fiction silent film imaged what it would be like to travel from the earth to the moon. Amazing to compare what was and wasn’t accurate!
  • Spacecraft Films – Here, you can literally get every minute of footage taken on the various space missions in DVD form here. GREAT for aficionados! 

Toys and games

Sarah is saving up to try to buy some of the larger space Lego sets. Some of her favorites:

Another just-for-fun favorite has been I Spy Universe, a Nintendo DS game Sarah bought when she first got her 3DS.

Music

Many thanks to the Christian Unschooling group on Facebook for a TON of great suggestions here! NOT all of these are appropriate for all ages, though Sarah has heard them all. Some are loosely about space, some use space as a metaphor for other topics, and some are factually-based “learning songs.” If you have 45 minutes or so, I really do recommend listening to the Holst orchestral suite, as that’s one I played several movements from in high school band and it really does speak to you about the nature of each planet as you hear them.

Places to visit

NASA Wallops Island Flight Facility

Online resources

Have you studied outer space? Any ideas for good resources? Please comment and share; I’d love to add them to the list!

Read more

This post is part of an occasional series of “Family Field Trip” posts, combining our own adventures with resources we’ve found helpful. Many of these will work even if you can’t visit in person!

Earlier in the series, we shared free resources to help you learn about Philadelphia, Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell and others to help you learn about and make the most of a visit to Assateague, Md., and Chincoteague, Va. We also took a family field trip to Jim Thorpe, PA, and shared our favorite resources for that!

I’ve also been doing a loose series of posts good for unit studies. An earlier post in that series shared our favorite Phantom of the Opera learning resources!

I’m linking up today to Homeschooling on the Cheap, Look What We Did and Money Saving Monday!

22 thoughts on “To the moon and back: Best resources for space and solar-system study

  1. What a fun study! I love that Sarah enjoys biographies. I do, too! We are reading some about the business tycoons now. You are so kind so share all the work you have done finding resources.

    • Phyllis, thank you so much! We are really enjoying biographies more and more as we go. It’s a fascinating way to learn. I can’t wait to hear more about the business tycoons – that sounds like right up MY alley!

  2. We live on the same road as The Johnson Space Center (NASA). Here outside Houston. We love to go there often. We got a great view of the shuttle as it flew over OUR APARTMENT BUILDING!!

    The church that I attend has a bible that was read from in space. It is really interesting to see. We have lots of NASA people that attend the church. Even one lady who piloted the Space Shuttle and was to the International Space Station. My daughter nearly cried to shake the woman’s hand. LOL We also enjoy watching the planes from the training base. They do lots of banks and loops. We even lucked out to see the Blue Angels.

    NASA is a great site for lots of science. Not just space travel. They have a wonderful program at the Houston Space Center. You can even get tiles from the Space Shuttle. Very cool. They are really good about lending stuff to local schools also.

    • Amy, I am IMMENSELY jealous!!!! That must be amazing! I would love to get a chance to spend some more time in their facilities – really dig in. Their educator program is insanely cool.

      Sarah says maybe she’d like to be on the astronaut crew that is tentatively set to go to Mars around 2035. I said, well, you never know! You might see her flying over your house!

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