Cosmic Memory


by Tony L. Coe, Jr.


Tony is a Media Production Specialist for the San Diego Unified School District.


Instructional Objective Given a particular picture of a space mission, players will be able to identify at least one particular aspect of that mission.


Learners/Context The learners are high-school students (grades 9-12).

The game is designed to be played during or after a basic unit in U.S.space history has been introduced to the students.


Rationale A game is an appropriate format for this situation because students will be able to reinforce their learning of selected events in U.S. space history. After a unit covering several NASA missions has been introduced, COSMIC MEMORY can be utilized as a cooperative learning and group activity tool to help reinforce factual information that was presented in the unit.


Rules Two to four people may play at the same time. The object of the game is to group at least five different cards into sets which contain a common theme. A theme can be a particular space mission (such as cards associated with Apollo 13), a particular astronoaut (things associated with Neil Armstrong), or by a particular genre of machinery (such as the missions flown by the Apollo spacecraft). Each player is dealt a hand of five cards. The rest of the deck is placed with the questions side of the cards face down in the center of the playing table. The first player to the left of the dealer begins the game. The dealer will take the card that is on top of the deck, and will look at the questions on the card. The dealer will then select a question and read it aloud to the player. The players are not allowed to look at the questions contained on any of the drawn cards. Once the question is asked, the player must correctly answer the question in order to win the card. Winning the card allows the player to begin building his or her card sets. If the wrong answer is given, the turn now shifts to the next player to the left of the first player. The new player then has the right to go for the current card, or to go for a new card on the top of the deck. If the currently played card is chosen, the dealer must ask the new player one of the remaining questions on the card. The original question that was asked will not be allowed). If all of the questions have been asked on a card that is currently in play, and no one has one the card, then the dealer must return that card to the bottom of the deck, and a new card is drawn where appropriate. The game concludes when all of the cards in the deck have been taken, or when a prescribed period of time has elapsed. The player with the most sets at the end of the game wins.

The game is played in the following manner:

  1. Dealer shuffles the deck of cards and deals five cards to each player. These are wild cards for the players. Players do not have to answer any of the questions on their five cards.
  2. The remainder of the deck of cards is placed on the table with the questions side of the cards face down. The player to the left of the dealer goes first. The dealer then takes the top card on the deck and looks at the questions on the card.
  3. The dealer asks the player whether or not he or she wants to go for that card.
  4. The player gives his or her response to the dealer. If the answer is yes, then the dealer reads one of the questions to the player. If the answer is no, then the dealer places the current card in play back into the bottom of the deck and draws a new card from the top. The dealer then asks one of the questions from the new card to the player. A correct answer entitles the player to the card in play. Only one correct answer and one card is allowed per player per turn. An incorrect answer means the end of the current players turn, and play moves on to the next player.
  5. The dealer then asks the new player whether or not he or she wants to go for the current card in play. If the answer is yes, then the dealer will ask the player one of the remaining questions on the card. Questions previously asked of other players will not be allowed for the next player.
  6. The dealer repeats steps 3-5 until all of the cards on the table are gone, or when a specified amount of time has expired.
  7. Once the end of the game has been called, the dealer must check each of the player's sets to ensure that a common theme has been established for each set. The dealer may ask a player to explain the theme that he or she chose for a given set of cards. The dealer will ask for an explanation in all cases where the dealer cannot discern the common theme of the set.
  8. If a player fails to establish a minimum set of at least five cards with a common theme, then the set is invalidated and is not counted toward the number of completed sets that the player owns.
  9. The player with the most number of completed sets at the end of the game is declared the winner.


Card Design

Each card has a question side and a picture side. The picture side may contain a person, a mission symbol, a place, or a photograph of a spacecraft or tool that was used in a particular mission.

The question side will contain at least three different questions relating to the picture side of the card. Answers to the questions will appear in italics beneath each question. For the picture card above, we could ask the following questions:

1. Name at least two of the space shuttle orbiters that are currently in use.
(answers: Atlantis, Challenger, Discovery, Columbia, etc.)

2. What was the name of the first space shuttle orbiter to actually fly?
(answer: Enterprise)

3. Name the first astronauts to fly the shuttle into space.
(answers: John Young and Robert Crippen)


Deck Design

The desk has a total of 100 cards. The cards represent specific people, machines and periods in U.S. space history. Topics selected include missions from the project Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space programs; Persons include astronauts, mission specialists and political figures who were a major part of space history; Machines will include the spacecraft used throughout different phases of the U.S. space program.


Design Process I started this game when one of my students began to exhibit an interest in space history. After several conversations, I eventually discovered that there were a number of other students who enjoyed discussing these issues with me. At this point, I made the decision to try to do something for my students that would make learning about space history fun and rewarding. I figured that if I could give them some basics, then throw in some challenges on things that they may not know, then I just might be able to hold their interest. This card game attempts to address these motivational learning factors.


Last updated by Tony L. Coe, Jr. on September 28, 1995.

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Educational Technology 670, Fall 1995.