Cool Space Stuff for Older Kids

by CruiseReady

Information for teens and parents of tweens, about the International Space Station and space camps. Also Gift ideas, including books & astronaut costumes for space minded kids

Did you know that the International Space Station has been occupied by humans from earth for about 15 years? It has! If you want an example of people from different countries working together, just look at the ISS. It was built by several nations, and the astronauts living there at any given time are from different countries.

It's a place where research to benefit all of mankind is carried out. Some of those experiments are in the fields of biology, microbiology, space medicine, physics, astronomy, and meteorology. These are all fields related to things teens are beginning to study in school, and they may be excited to know that an interest in these fields can carry them into space.

Would you like to be one of the scientists living and working on the International Space Station one day? If you would like to find out a little bit about what it's like, you might consider attending a session of Space Camp, where young people can learn a lot about what NASA does, and even experience what some of the astronaut training is like.

Image Source

The International Space Station

The Longest Ever Human Presence in Space

International Space Station above Earth

 The ISS as seen from the Space Shuttle Atlantis in 2005, with planet Earth in the background

Today, 15 different countries participate in the ISS project.  But, it wasn't always that way.

It started out as the brainchild of U.S. President Ronald Regan, in 1984.  It was built in pieces, or modules.  The first module was set in orbit in 1988.  And other modules were added as they were built.  Each time a new module was built, it was  then  taken up into space by either an American space shuttle or a Russian rocket.  Modules were then attached to the existing modules already in orbit.

The first human inhabitants arrived in November of 2000 and there has been someone living there ever since.  Not the same person the whole time, of course!  Astronauts usually stay for around six months or so before their replacement arrives.

Spacecraft from several nations take supplies up. But, since the retirement of the shuttle fleet, astronauts can only get there (and return to earth) in the crew capsule of a Russian Soyuz rocket. 

The ISS Orbits the Earth

Over 15 Times a Day

he International Space Station continually orbits the earth.  In fact, it rounds our globe 15.7 times each day. 

These are the five agencies that cooperate in keeping the project going:    

  • NASA (America)
  • Russian Federal Space Agency (Russia)
  • JAXA (Japan)
  • ESA, (Europe)
  • CSA (Canada)


Astronauts from 15 nations have visited and lived on the orbiting science laboratory.


International Space Station

Print for Your Wall

Hanging Out on the Space Station

In the video that follows, Expedition Commander Suni Williams shows you some views out into space ant of the earth through the windows on the ISS, and shows you how astronauts there get some exercise in space. That's very important, because of the effect that prolonged weightlessness can have on your muscles. Watch her have a lot of fun doing some things we can't do on earth.

See the Moon, Stars, and Planets Up Close

Examine the surface of the moon, see the rings of Saturn, Jupiter's moons, or even watch the ISS move across the sky!  You can look at things on earth, too, like ships at sea, or just view a beautiful desert vista. 

Not just a 'kiddie toy!'  With this telescope, the whole family will enjoy exploring the wonders of the universe high above their heads. This is a good 'starter' model, meaning you don't have to be an expert astronomer to be able to set it up and start using it.


For those who are just beginning their astronomical adventures, 50 Things to See with a Small Telescope makes a nice companion book for your telescope.  It's available in paperback, or for your Kindle.

A Celestron Telescope

Is a Good Choice

You Can Go to Space Camp

For Five Days of Astronaut Training!

 Space Camp Entrance in Huntsville

By Ke4roh (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons  -  The entrance to Space Camp, in Hunstville, AL.  At left is the Habitat, the living quarters for campers.  


Space Camp is a wonderful experience for youngsters interested in science in general, or in career with NASA in particular.  I know, because my grandson went one year when he was young, and it was the absolute high point of his summer.  He had a fabulous time, and learned a great deal.

My grandson got to be part of mission control, and oh, my goodness, was that ever exciting for him.  He had such incredible stories to tell when he returned, that it made me wish I could have been there, too.  With the family program, I could have been.  I missed that, but you don't have to!

Although the program he enjoyed is not currently being offered, there are other options available, at both the Huntsville facility and at Kennedy Space Center in Florida

SPACE CAMP in Huntsville, Alabama

For Kids and Families

Multi Axis Trainer

  Space Camp Multi Axis Trainer



Family Space Camp will be a memorable family experience for everyone.  

At the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, the  visitor center for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, your family will spend three or four days of unforgettable mission training, rocket construction and on-site space history.  This one is for families with children ages seven and up.  You'll get to see and use some of the actual astronaut training equipment, including the 1/16 gravity chair.  



There are programs at three different levels, designed for age groups:

To see what is involved in each, just click on one of the three links in the above list.

The programs are absolutely out of this world!




at Kennedy Space Center in Florida

Astronaut Hall of Fame

 U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame


Camp Kennedy Space Center is a day camp  that lasts five days, and takes place at the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame, just outside the gates of Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

 See space shuttle Atlantis, meet a real astronaut, and do hands on learning about space travel, including a simulated shuttle mission.  

 This day programs is open to kids entering grades two through eleven.  There are half a dozen space themed teams, each for a specific age group.



KSC also offers its Overnight Adventure at various times throughout the year, for children aged 7 - 14, with special sessions for boy scouts and home schooled students.  Overnight Adventures are held at either Space Shuttle Atlantis or the Apollo/SaturnV Center.


Books About Space

for Eight to Twelve Year Olds
To Space and Back

Much has been written about the vast scientific importance of space exploration, but very little about the human side of being a member of an astronaut crew. In this book, with ...

View on Amazon

Space (Insiders)

INSIDERS -- a visually groundbreaking, state-of-the-art nonfiction series that outshines Eyewitness and Discoveries. This stunning new series offers an inside look into twelve r...

View on Amazon

Space Station Science

In Space Station Science, former NASA mission controller Marianne Dyson explains all the systems needed to keep the International Space Station up and running. She shows how the...

View on Amazon

Family Space Camp Video

A Father and Daughter Attend Together

Interested in the Family Space Camp mentioned above?  Here's a video, showing some of the highlights. 

 In this video, you can see some of the things that a father and daughter team got to do during their time at the facility in Huntsville.  It looks like they had one awesome time!

Would you love to go to Space Camp?

I sure would!

Watch the ISS from Your Own Back Yard

As It Crosses the Sky


You can watch the International Space Station move across the sky, if you know its schedule and where to  look.  You don't even need a telescope! 

The Moon, Jupitr, and the ISS


 It will look like a bright white dot going across the sky. But, how will you know when and where to watch for it?


NASA has a web site, Spot the Station , that will tell you.  Here's how it works:

1 - Go to the site and click on the blue LOCATION LOOKUP button.  

2 - Choose your location. Choose your country, state or region (if any) and then choose your city, or the one nearest you.

3 - Click the blue NEXT button.

By paul [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Here's a sample of what you will see.  The sample is for Houston, on a day in June, 2015.  You will see more days.  They will be for the city you chose. 

Date                           Visible      Max Ht      Appears          Disappears 

Tue Jun 2, 8:42 PM      6 min         79°        11 above SW      12 above NE


What do these things mean?

First, we know that the station will appear at 8:42 pm on Tuesday, June 2, and can be seen for five minutes.

The next number tells us that the highest it will get in the sky is 79 degrees. (that's pretty high!)

The last two items tell you which way to look to see it come into view, and where it will be when it disappears from view.  In the example, you would watch towards the SOUTHWEST  for it to appear low in the sky.  After moving for five minutes, it will disappear over your NORTH EAST horizon.

The horizon is the line where the land and sky meet.  ZERO degrees is right at the ground.  NINETY degrees is straight above your head.  So, that means that in the above example it will actually get pretty high in the sky.  (79 degrees) 

The ISS as Seen from Earth

Passing Over England

Have you seen the International Space Station

as it passed overhead?

The Most Important Experiment

Being Done on the International Space Station

Commander Chris Hadfield was asked the question, "What is the most important scientific experiment being done on the International Space Station?"

Hear how he answered in this video:

More Space Pages

for Kids
  • Super Cool Space Tools

    A 33 page on line book with nice photographs on every page. (Turn the pages with your mouse) Introduction to cool stuff. Learn about historic tools, like astrolabes and sextants, as well as modern ones, like orbiting telescopes, space probes,and landers.

  • Make a Bubble Powered Rocket

    Instructions for making a bubble powered rocket

  • Explore the Solar System

    Go on an online mission to explore the planets of the solar system in this fun on line course.

  • Sally Ride's Legacy Lives On

    Dr. Sally Ride was America's first woman in space. She was a national heroine. Other women followed her into the final frontier, and she left behind books for kids about real space travel.


Updated: 06/10/2016, CruiseReady
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DerdriuMarriner on 09/06/2017

CruiseReady, Do you know what the accommodations, activities and meals are like for the three different week-long camps?

CruiseReady on 07/03/2015

You are fortunate to have visited all those places. I've only been to the Johnson and Kennedy centers. Are you going to be writing about Stennis? That would be a cool article.

blackspanielgallery on 07/02/2015

Nice article. I have visited NASA facilities in Houston, Huntsville, and the Michoud facility in New Orleans, and been on the Stennis Space Center property. I am friends with several scientists at Stennis and knew people who once worked at Michoud. The physics community is small, and many of us know each other.

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