Living Bones, Strong Bones

Explorers need strong bones so they can face the physical challenges placed on their bodies while in space. The longer astronauts are in the environment of space, the more weak their bones become due to a lack of loading forces. Bones below the waist are most affected by reduced gravity environments, and the bones located in these areas are more likely to suffer bone loss during spaceflight. It is important for astronauts to train before, during, and after their flight in space to maintain strong bones all their lives. A diet including calcium and Vitamin D also helps astronauts maintain strong bones.

In this investigation, teams will identify ways to keep bones healthy, and observe the effects of reduced gravity on bone models. They will also observe and compare bones, and design bone models using index cards to hold weight.

Mission Question
How can I make a bone model that is strong and will hold weight?
Scientific Methodology, Communication, Problem-solving, Teamwork
Learning Objectives
  • Observe bones, and compare bone size relative to the living being in which the bones are found
  • Design a bone model, then compare and contrast the weight bearing capacity of their bone model, making inferences about bone structure, weight-bearing bones, and the effects of different environments on those bones
  • Per class:
    • meter stick
    • balance scale
    • gram weights
  • Per group:
    • two snack size zipper-seal bags
    • one cooked, clean, dry chicken thigh or leg bone
    • centimeter ruler
    • five index cards (7.6 x 12.7 cm or 3 x 5 in)
    • clear cellophane tape
    • cardboard square (approx. 24 x 24 cm or 9.4 x 9.4 in)
    • textbooks or reams of paper
    • enough aquarium gravel to fill a snack size zipper-seal bag to 1/3 full
  • Per student:
    • Living Bones, Strong Bones Student Section
    • safety glasses or goggles
    • red pen
    • hand lens
Preparation: 30 min
Lesson: 2 x 45 min sessions

Other activities

Agility Astro-Course

When astronauts go into space and return to Earth,...

Microbial Box 2: What’s in your Petri?

Microbiologists have found that microbes can live just about...

Bonus Activity: Cosmic Cartwheels

In microgravity, astronauts love to perform spectacular somersaults. Here...

Mission: Control!

On Earth, we use a variety of cues to...

Bonus Activity: Skip to the Moon

Did you know that jumping might be a key...

Jump for the Moon

On Earth, humans experience the effects of gravity pulling...

Astro Food

Food is one of the most important parts of...

What’s your Space Height?

How tall are you? Are you sure you know...