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Collaborative Decision Making: NASA's Deep Impact Mission

Teaching Materials by NASA ( This site may be offline. ) /McRel - Starting Point page by R.E. Teed (SERC).
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This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project
Initial Publication Date: August 10, 2006


This is a highly-developed unit plan involving collaborative problem solving using data. The subject is the launch of a probe to investigate the composition of a comet. The students will engage in quantitative risk analysis, role-playing, persuasive writing and speaking, and group decision-making procedures. The students will study the objectives and the risks of the project and make decisions about how to deal with them from the perspectives of NASA scientists, engineers, and members of the public involved with the project.

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Learning Goals

During the course of this lesson, students will:
  • Learn how NASA collects data about the Solar System.
  • Study the interactions between the various shareholders in NASA projects.
  • Develop collaboration and communication strategies.
  • Make quantitative risk analyses from data.
  • Practice group decision-making procedures.

Context for Use

This unit is made up of five successive lesson plans, each of which may take more than one period and part of which could be assigned as homework. It deals with risk analysis rather than with a specific geoscience topic.

Teaching Materials

Materials for all of the lessons are available at or through the NASA's Deep Impact Mission (more info) website and in a pdf version. For one of the lessons, the students need access to reference material (including computers with Internet connections) and for the other, they will need presentation materials. There is also a spreadsheet that the students will download.

Teaching Notes and Tips

It was specifically written for high school students, but can be used as is or adapted for undergraduates. One possibility is to trim out all of the assignments and readings that are only appropriate to younger students.


The last two lessons involve a presentation and a written report. Detailed assessment tools, including a rubric for the presentation and a peer review checklist are packaged with the unit plan.

References and Resources

The links in the teacher's guides are extensive enough for most practical purposes.