Bureau of Economic Geology

Zoomerama Earth Science Week banner 2020

Space: Fact vs. Fiction


About this presentation

Zoomerama 2020 Space Fact vs Fiction 200 wide

"Space Fact vs Fiction" contrasts a number of common and not so common misconceptions about space with the real facts concerning those issues. Topics include gravity, living in space, rockets, atmospheric entry, the costs and benefits of space exploration, the civilian space program, Star Trek, and extra-terrestrials. The media and space and space Olympics are also covered.

Outer space is a topic that easily captures the human imagination. But whether we are thinking about satellites circling the Earth or Star Trek, most people have at least a few misconceptions about space and space travel. This talk takes a close look at some of these misconceptions and myths. The misconceptions do not stand up if we apply physical and biological science to the problems or if we look at the economic realities of space exploration. For example, it is difficult for us to comprehend the real reason a person would be “weightless” while in orbit, having spent our lives securely stuck to the Earth by gravity. Most of us also have difficulties grasping the economics of sending people or satellites into space when the sums involved are in the many millions of dollars. Some myths about space, like those about space aliens and UFOs, are simply the result of wishful thinking or a desire for exciting, exotic explanations of ordinary events. A clear understanding of the exciting scientific and engineering challenges of outer space helps us gain new knowledge and improve our lives on Earth.


About the presenters

Zoomerama 2020 presenter Wallace Fowler

Dr. Wallace Fowler

Wallace Fowler served as Professor of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at UT Austin for 51 years, retiring in 2017. He was the recipient of numerous local and national teaching awards. He was a member of the UT Austin Academy of Distinguished Teachers and a fellow of both the AIAA (1993) and the ASEE (1991). He was national president of ASEE (2000–2001). He was Director of NASA’s Texas Space Grant Consortium (2002–2017).

Zoomerama 2020 presenter Celina Miller

Celena Miller

Celena Miller is the Senior Outreach Program Coordinator for the Texas Space Grant Consortium in Austin, Texas. She has worked for over twelve years in education. During that time, Celena has worked in the Texas public school system, promoting earth and space education to students, teachers and the community through curriculum, professional development, science nights, and career exploration.

Zoomerama 2020 presenter Margaret Baguio

Margaret Baguio

Margaret Baguio is the Program Manager for Education and Outreach for the Texas Space Grant Consortium in Austin, Texas. She has worked for over thirty years in youth development and education. During that time, Margaret has worked in the public schools, for the Texas Cooperative Extension Service 4-H & Youth Development Program, managed a USDA Science and Literacy project for at-risk youth, and promoted space education to students, teachers and the general public through the TSGC with curriculum, professional development, science nights, and career exploration.

Educational Resources

Video (view on YouTube)

Presentation (PDF)

Rocket activities

  • Foam rocket: Students will learn about rocket stability and trajectory with rubber band-powered foam rockets. (PDF)
  • Heavy lifting: Students construct balloon-powered rockets to launch the greatest payload possible to the ceiling. (PDF)

University of Texas at Austin

University of Texas

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