Watch Out for Space Junk

Here's your nightly math! Just 5 quick minutes of number fun for kids and parents at home. Read a cool fun fact, followed by math riddles at different levels so everyone can jump in. Your kids will love you for it.

Watch Out for Space Junk

May 24, 2016

Our friend Chloe H. asked us a great question: how many times could you fly around the world in a spaceship in one day? It turns out it’s a lot. Satellites, the floating pieces of equipment that beam phone calls and videos to us, fly at 17,000 miles an hour. So they orbit around Earth in just an hour and a half! If you rode one of those, you’d make the trip around Earth 16 times in one day.

But at these speeds, we’re starting to have a big problem: space junk. Some of those satellites don’t even work anymore, but there’s no way to bring them back down. There are also leftover pieces from rocket boosters, tools dropped during astronaut walks, and so on. There’s so much junk up there that things are starting to crash into each other, splitting into thousands of tiny, dangerous pieces. At 17,000 miles an hour, even a tiny flake of paint can make a hole in a solar panel. If you’re up there doing a space walk, watch out!

Wee ones: If you have 4 pieces of space junk, and 1 of them breaks in half, how many pieces do you have now?

Little kids: If you’ve made 9 trips around Earth so far today, what number is your next trip?  Bonus: How many more trips after that can you make today if you can make 16 trips in total?

Big kids: If you start your orbit at 3:30 pm and the trip takes 1 1/2 hours, at what time will you finish?  Bonus: If there are 40 pieces of space junk in your path, and on each of your 16 trips today you scoop up 3 pieces, can you catch them all?

The sky’s the limit: If you start orbiting Earth today (May 24) and make 16 junk-collecting trips each day, on what date will you make your 100th orbit?

 

 

 

Answers:
Wee ones: 5 pieces.

Little kids: The 10th.  Bonus: 6 more trips.

Big kids: At 5:00 pm.  Bonus: Yes! You’ll be able to catch 48 pieces.
The sky’s the limit: On May 30. You finish 16 trips today, and another 80 trips 5 days after today, which is May 29. That brings you to 96 trips, so the 100th trip happens on May 30.

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About the Author

Laura Overdeck

Laura Overdeck

Laura Bilodeau Overdeck is founder and president of Bedtime Math Foundation. Her goal is to make math as playful for kids as it was for her when she was a child. Her mom had Laura baking while still in diapers, and her dad had her using power tools at a very unsafe age, measuring lengths, widths and angles in the process. Armed with this early love of numbers, Laura went on to get a BA in astrophysics from Princeton University, and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business; she continues to star-gaze today. Laura’s other interests include her three lively children, chocolate, extreme vehicles, and Lego Mindstorms.

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