Rescue in Space Games

[Mt Stromlo Observatory] [The Australian National University]

Your Mission

You are a hot-shot rocket pilot. Nobody else can manouver a rocket like you. So whenever there is a difficult rescue mission to be carried out in space, they call on you.

In this games, you will carry out two rescue missions. You will use computer simulators, which accurately model the motions of a rocketship. They are basically simple video games. They should run on any computer with a web browser and an internet connection.

If you succeed in your rescue missions, the computer simulator will give you a magic code number. If your teacher chooses, you can write this code number down and submit it to them: it is proof that you carried out the rescue successfully.

Using the Simulators

Click on the links below to bring up a web page containing the simulators. In most web browsers, the program should automatically load and start running.

You will see a black window. Your spacecraft is a yellow sliver. The ship you have to rendezvous with is a red circle. Click your mouse anywhere in the black sky region to start or pause the simulation - you can do this as much as you like.

You have four buttons along the top of the program window. The restart button resets the simulation to the beginning, and lets you run it again from the start. You can run it as many times as you like. The other three buttons control your rocket.

You can rotate your rocket clockwise or anticlockwise. Each press of the mouse on the buttons rotates you a small amount. You can also fire your rockets. The rockets always fire backwards - you will see the flame when you press the button. Each click of the button gives you a short sharp rocket burn.

In the bottom left of the panel is your fuel gauge. Each time you use your rockets, the fuel goes down. Once you are out of fuel, you will just keep on drifting, out of control.

In the top left are your instrument readouts. They tell you such things as your speed relative to the ship you are rescuing, how long the simulation has been running, and your distance from the ship you are trying to rendezvous with.

The picture in the computer screen is not to scale: it enlarges the spacecraft to make them visible. The actually position of your spacecraft is the middle of the sliver: it is this that needs to get close to your target.

If you have trouble getting the program to run, try using a different web browser or a different computer.

Mission One: Deep Space

Luke Skyhopper is stranded in deep space. His spacecraft (the Millenium Wombat) has run out of fuel, and is just floating out there, far from any planet. Worse still, a race of evil aliens has put a force field between you and him, to stop your rescue. Your mission is to rescue Luke. To make a successful rendezvous, you must pass within 50m of Luke's ship. But that isn't all - if you pass by at too great a speed, there is no way you can rescue his crew. Your relative speed when you meet must be less than 5 km/hr. You must hurry: while Luke has plenty of air and water, they've run out of Tim Tams...

You will have to perform this rescue twice, using two different simulators. One of the simulators uses the correct laws of physics, while the second uses an incorrect set of laws of physics. Your teacher may ask you to work out which is which, and to explain your reasoning.

Simulator 1

Simulator 2

Mission Two: Earth Orbit

Luke is stranded again, this time in high Earth orbit, 23,600 km above the surface of the Earth. His spacecraft has run out of fuel, and unless you rescue him, will continue to drift there for billions of years.

Your spacecraft is in low Earth orbit - skimming 1000 km above the surface of the Earth (the same orbit that the Space Shuttle normally uses). Your mission is to rendezvous with Luke. Once again, he'd appreciate speed!

In this simulation, a rendezvous consists of getting to within 5000 km of Luke's ship, with a relative velocity of no more than 500m/s. Once you are this close, and moving this slowly, your automatic docking system will take over and do the rest.


Simulator 3

If this doesn't work on your computer, try the slower version below. Remember - if you click in the black area the program will stop or restart.

Simulator 3 (Slow version)

Last updated 9th August 2004. These notes are copyright.
Maintainer: Paul Francis.