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Satellites: Help from space

Satellite in space

Here at Little Scientists we love finding STEM in our everyday environment. 

This seems very easy with some topics. You can easily see children working like engineers when they’re building towers, making caves or improving their paper boats so they float better. Maybe a little less obvious are topics like chemistry in everyday life; but when you look closer, you will see that chemical reactions are essential in baking and cooking. But what about space? How is what’s going on out there relevant for our lives?

When I started my research journey into satellites in preparation for World Space Week 2020, I had very little idea about the different types or uses of satellites. I did, however, have reason to be grateful for them because they’ve helped me in my everyday life and possibly even saved a love one’s life.

I first experienced the usefulness of satellites when I had agreed to help a stranger I met down the pub sail a yacht from Bermuda, where I lived. My now husband had, quite rightly, decided to interview him before we left: How much experience sailing have you got? Do you have any medical conditions we should know about? AND do you have a satellite phone? I hadn’t even thought of that. But, of course, during a journey that included a day or two of being becalmed and a storm off the coast of America, a satellite phone was a must. Thank you, communications satellites. How did we know the storm was coming? Thank you, weather satellites. Being out in the middle of the ocean gazing up at the Earth’s biggest natural satellite, the Moon, is an experience I will never forget.

When I moved from Bermuda to Australia a few years later, I was reminded of this appreciation of the usefulness of satellites. Moving from a 20-square-mile island with a speed limit of 30km/hr to the bustling city of Sydney was a shock. I had a mobile phone but back then it didn’t have internet access, and therefore none of the useful functions we often rely on these days, including navigation. I could barely text. I could not have coped with the driving without a satnav system. Thank you, satellite navigation. In fact, recently, deep in a national park, I was grateful for my satnav as I didn’t have mobile phone reception and my son had an asthma attack. My satnav got us to the local doctor.

Satellites not only serve these very practical purposes but also satisfy our curiosity about the universe. We wouldn’t know as much about space without astronomical satellites like the Hubble Space Telescope and the other research satellites out there. I do love that the human race has not been together on Earth since 2001. One of us has always been in the International Space Station since then. Thank you, International Space Station.

What are your personal satellite appreciation moments?
Let us know in the comments section below.

Hayley Bates
Article author: Hayley Bates
National Certifications Coordinator

The passionate mathematician and former science teacher will inspire you with her enthusiasm for inquiry-based learning and her determination to provide high-quality hands-on and fun professional development.

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