Space Travel, Technology and Aliens


From a galaxy far, far away

It is not easy being stranded all alone, far from home, particularly when you are an alien and home is another planet. The classic 1982 film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, which tells the story of a small, lovable alien marooned on Earth, offers many lessons for the classroom.

Steven Spielberg's portrait of childhood, and of 10-year-old Elliott's interaction with E.T., was based on an imaginary friend that the film- maker created as a young boy after his parents divorced - just as Elliott's have. Missing his father's presence, Elliott is drawn to the creature he finds hiding in his family's garage. The film's message is a very human one, tapping into universal themes of loss, personal relationships, courage and compassion.

Another non-human who has lessons for our species is the eponymous star of WALL.E, a slightly hopeless robot left alone on Earth after the planet has been abandoned by mankind. His job is to clean up the mess people have made over centuries of greed and consumerism. In Pixar's 2008 film, we see WALL.E fall in love with another robot and set off on a moving journey to save the planet.

Let your students experience the wonders of science fiction, and introduce them to the joys of learning through film, with resources from education charity and TESConnect partner FILMCLUB UK. Just make sure you have a box of tissues handy.

Find the resources at: bit.lyFILMCLUBresources


Animals on a mission

The first animals were launched into space in 1947, when fruit flies were used to study the effects of radiation exposure. The insects have more in common with humans than might first be imagined.

Then, in 1949, Albert II became the first monkey in space after the failure of the original Albert's mission on ascent. Albert II, a rhesus monkey, died on impact after a parachute malfunction. Several more primates of different species were launched by the US in the 1950s and 1960s, implanted with sensors to measure vital signs. But the death rate was high. Most died on missions or soon after landing.

But Soviet space dog Laika (which means "barker" in Russian) became the first living creature to orbit the Earth when she travelled in Sputnik 2 in November 1957. Her mission was part of research into whether people could survive in space. Sadly, Laika did not: she died during the flight.

The earliest animals used in aeronautical exploration, however, were a sheep, a duck and a rooster sent aloft in 1783 by the Montgolfier brothers to demonstrate their invention, the hot air balloon.

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