Aliens, Planets and Nebulae! Mission 7 – Radioactive Decay Analysis on Gamma V Station

Mission: Radioactive Decay Analysis

Level(1-5): 5 Extremely dangerous radiation levels

Location: Gamma V Station

Description: Gamma V is a remote space station that is in the vicinity of a neutron star. Half of the station has become uninhabitable due to a Cobalt-60 accident. Large amounts were being used for medical research and unfortunately have contaminated the main labs of Gamma V.

MASS has asked that your crew come and create a clean up plan for the station. The outside of the station is heavily shielded against gamma and other forms of radiation because of its proximity to a neutron star. Unfortunately the inside is what has become contaminated. There is too much radiation for any crew members to enter the quarantine area even with the best space suits possible.

The leader of Gamma V would like to see a graph of Cobalt-60’s decay, a proposal for cleaning up the labs, and a timeline for when the station will be fully operational. The half-life of Cobalt-60 is 5.27 years. There are 50 grams of Cobalt-60 and there are around 518,000 Curies per pound of Cobalt-60 on earth. One Curie is lethal.

Assignment: The crew will need to create a clean-up plan for Gamma-V without lethal exposure to radiation. A plot, computer program, sketches, and presentations will all be helpful in this effort.

Note: This is a good time for the facilitator to add conditions for solutions to incorporate other subjects (science, history, writing). Talking about our sun’s radiation, Cobalt-60 uses on earth, and Marie Curie and other scientists are all great topics to all. This is also a great time to discuss units of measurement for mass and radiation.

Ability Point Potential (rough rubric):

  • 2 ability points for showing knowledge of the electromagnetic spectrum and researching what radiation is
  • 2 ability points will be awarded for a plot of radioactive decay. 3 points if it is coded.
  • 2 points will be awarded for a reasonable solution that does not expose the team to risk.

Facilitator Notes:

  • Make sure the teams know the risk and deduct ability points or eliminate characters that take risks.

Mission 7 Wrap-up

Once learners are ready, have them present their clean-up plans and plots. If there are key pieces missing then ask questions. Discussion is key here – encourage problem-solving even during their presentation. The facilitator and learners may opt for iterations of their solutions.

Once solutions are finalized, award ability points.

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