First Step: Return to the Moon
EXPLORE! To the Moon and Beyond with NASA's LRO Mission

First Step: Return to the Moon!


First Step: Return to the Moon! is a 60-minute kick-off for children ages 8 to 13 that sets the stage for further explorations and activities in Explore! To the Moon and Beyond! As a group, children discuss what they know about Earth's Moon. They read books to learn more about the lunar environment and history of exploration. They use their knowledge to create a drawing or model of the landscape (optional). The children revisit what they have learned and prepare to explore further.

What's the Point?

  • The Moon's surface has been shaped by different geological processes — asteroid impacts and volcanism.
  • The lunar environment is not hospitable for humans. There is no atmosphere to breathe or to protect humans from solar radiation, and temperatures are extremely hot or extremely cold.
  • Models can be tools for understanding the natural world and for helping us to identify more questions.


For the group:

  • Chalk or white board, or poster paper and markers to record the children's ideas
  • Books about the Moon, such as (refer to resources for other books):

The Moon
Seymour Simon, Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 2003, ISBN 0689835639
An exploration of the Moon with fantastic images for children ages 7 to 10.

Home on the Moon: Living on a Space Frontier
Marianne J. Dyson, National Geographic Children's Books, 2003, ISBN 0792271939
Readers ages 9 to 11 will learn about the lunar environment, history, and resources as they imagine a future human colony. What should colonists take? What will they do? Where will they live? Activities engage children further.

The Moon-Earth's Companion in Space: Earth's Companion in Space
Michael D. Cole, 2001, Enslow Publishers, ISBN 0766015106
Children ages 9 to 12 learn about lunar orbits and phases, human exploration, and the mystery about how our Moon formed. 

  • Optional: Multiple copies of Earth's Moon Lithograph (NASA educational product number LG-2005-12-568-HQ), printed double-sided and preferably in color
  • Optional: A variety of craft materials that may be used to draw or make a model of the Moon (for example, clay or Play-Doh©, colored and/or plain paper, markers, crayons, glitter, pipe cleaners, foil, pom-poms, tape, glue, etc.)

For the facilitator:


  • Review the background information about the Moon.
  • Prepare an area large enough for the children to be comfortably seated as a group.
  • Display several books about the Moon in a place where the children can look through them before and after the activity.


1. Assemble the children in a group and invite them to share what they know about the Moon. Keep track of their ideas on poster paper. It is not important to correct the children's ideas, rather this activity should encourage them to explore and learn more.

  • What does the Moon look like?
  • What is it made of?
  • What would it be like to live on the Moon? Are there mountains? Valleys? Seas? Rivers? Forests?
  • Does anything live on the Moon?
  • Have spacecraft visited the Moon?
  • When did humans first visit the Moon?

2. Following the discussion, invite the children to read about the Moon! Consider dividing the children into smaller groups, or inviting older children to take turns reading to the group.

When they are finished reading, consider inviting the children to draw a picture
or create a model of the lunar landscape using the craft items available.

3.If the children have questions about the vocabulary they are reading, have them begin a "vocabulary wall "— a place where they can write the words. Can others in the group help with the definition? Invite them to search for the meaning of the word, and have them share their findings with the group.

4. When they have finished reading, ask the children to share what they have learned.

  • What features do we see on the Moon? Mountains, craters, maria (plural of mare or "sea").
  • What formed these features? Asteroids hitting the Moon formed craters. Lava filled in old, large craters to form the dark areas we see on the Moon. These are called "maria," or "seas," but they never had water in them! Mountains on the Moon are called highlands; they are the bright areas we see on the Moon.
  • Does the Moon have air, liquid water, or things permanently living on its surface? The Moon has no atmosphere, so its surface is baked in the sunlight and frozen in the shade. Liquid water cannot exist there.
  • When did humans first visit the Moon? Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first walked on the Moon on July 20, 1969. Twelve astronauts have walked on the Moon and many spacecraft have visited it, but nothing lives there permanently. The astronauts stayed only a few days during each of the six missions to the Moon.
  • Are any spacecraft studying the Moon right now? NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter — called LRO for short — and India's Chandrayaan-1 are circling the Moon and taking photographs and other data of its surface. These missions are building upon the knowledge gathered from earlier spacecraft sent by the U.S. and other countries.
  • Why might we be interested in studying the Moon? Why might we want to return? Answers will vary. One of the reasons we want to return is so that we can learn to live for longer periods of time on another world. The Moon will help us prepare to explore Mars and other planets in and beyond our solar system safely.

5. Share with the children that NASA is excited about the Moon and plans to start sending humans there when the children are young adults. LRO is orbiting the Moon to help us better understand its environment and resources. This spacecraft will collect science information that will help scientists and engineers determine the best place to build future lunar outpost.


Ask the children if they would like to learn more about the Moon and its exploration.

Invite the children to go on a journey with NASA's LRO to further explore the Moon through the Moon Tune!


Last updated
October 16, 2009


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