Living Paintings

Ka-Boom: a guide to the Universe

Suitable for: 11-14 years (Key stage 3), Teenagers (Key stage 4), Teachers

This fact book is a young person’s space odyssey! It’s guide to space, from the Big Bang to the solar system, galaxies far, far away and the night sky. Presenters include space scientists and TV science presenters – Dr Chris Lintott, Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, Maggie Phillbin and Dallas Campbell. A cosmic music soundtrack and space sound effects add to the listening experience. This fact book may support subjects in the National Curriculum and is great as an educational resource in class, home-schooling, homework-help, project work, independent learning and reading for pleasure.

Listen to an audio clip

(Track 2)
Ka-Boom: A Guide to the Universe
Space Exploration
Tactile Picture Number 1B
The International Space Station
Read by Maggie Philbin
* music, Space Cowboy by Jamiroquai
Space Missions journeys through the Universe
There have been so many missions to other parts of the Solar System over the past few decades that it is hard to summarise them. Every planet has been visited and studied by a probe, with the exception of Pluto. The Russians have landed probes on the surface of Venus, where the incredible heat and the pressure of the atmosphere have destroyed them within an hour. The Americans have had rovers rolling across the surface of Mars since 2004. Several probes have visited asteroids and flown through the tails of comets. The Galileo probe sent back amazing images of Jupiter and its moons, before plunging into the giant planet's atmosphere and reaching a fiery end. * explosion
Cassini has been sending back incredible images of Saturn, as well as its moons and rings. Back in the late 1970s, two probes called Voyager I and Voyager II were launched to fly past the outer planets before leaving the Solar System. They did this and, decades later, they are still going - and we are still in contact with them! Voyager I is now the most distant manmade object in the universe an incredible 13 billion miles away. It's just entering interstellar space. Although it isn't travelling towards any star in particular, it will pass about 1.5 light years away from one of the nearest stars to the Sun in about 40,000 years time.
It's incredible to think that there have been satellites orbiting the Earth for over half a century now. The early years were dominated by the Space Race between Russia and the USA, as both fought to achieve world firsts in space. The Russians won most of the struggles they launched the first satellite; sent the first probe to the Moon; they put the first living animal, a dog called Laika, into orbit around the Earth; they launched the first man into space, Yuri Gagarin, and the first woman, Valentina Tereshkova, and they completed the first space walk. By this time, though, the Americans were focused on a much bigger goal - the Apollo missions to send the first man to the Moon. They achieved this in July 1969, when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the Sea of Tranquillity.
* "The eagle has landed " one small step."
In total the Americans sent seven Apollo missions to land on the Moon. Only six made it: Apollo 13 suffered a serious malfunction when an oxygen tank exploded halfway there. The crew had to use the lunar landing module as a 'lifeboat' while the spacecraft was gently guided around the back of the Moon and back to Earth. For a cinematic insight into this, check out the film Apollo 13 starring Tom Hanks, which was made with advice from NASA experts.
The last Apollo mission was Apollo 17 in 1972 - after which NASA cancelled the programme. This was followed by space stations - the Russian Salyut series and NASA's Skylab in the 1970s, and Mir in the 1990s. For the last three decades the Americans have been focusing on the Space Shuttle programme, which saw 135 launches between 1981 and 2011, many of which have been dedicated to building and servicing the International Space Station.
* Music, Also Sprach Zarathustra from 2001: A Space Odyssey film soundtrack
The International Space Station
Feel across the International Space Station. (Pause) It's not the first space station, the Russians have had several and the Americans had an earlier one, but the great thing about this one is that it is the International Space Station. Sixteen different countries Brazil, Canada, Japan, Russia, the USA and eleven European countries including Britain began building it in 2000. All the equipment needed to build the International Space Station was transported in a spacecraft from Earth. The Space Station is built from modules, which are fitted together, a bit like a giant jigsaw puzzle the size of a football pitch.
Astronauts and cosmonauts come and go to the International Space Station all the time, conducting hundreds of experiments on the effects of microgravity on humans and plants, to push the boundaries of our knowledge. It's a home from home for the astronauts onboard, with a kitchen, sleeping cabins, toilets and bathrooms plus work areas, laboratories and control rooms. Like all orbiting objects, the Space Station is in a constant state of freefall. This causes the well-known floating sensation for the astronauts. There are no stairs as they don't need them - they're able to simply float around between the different levels, and if they want to stay in one place they use footholds on the floor.
On each side of the space station are enormous rectangular solar panels. (Pause) These trap the rays from the sun and turn them into electricity to power the space station. In between these panels are the main parts of the ISS: the modules where the astronauts live and work, the cargo hold and the docking bays. (Pause)
Trace down the left set of solar panels to find a strong horizontal line halfway down. (Pause) This is part of the strong framework that acts like a spine; all the parts of the Space Station branch off from it. (Short Pause) Trace right, along the horizontal framework to the middle of the Space Station, at the centre of the thermoform. (Short Pause) Then trace down to find a cluster of small shapes. (Short Pause) These are rooms and corridors that link together. The American Space Shuttle is docked here too. Can you find its rounded nose cone (Short Pause) and to the left and right its slim straight wings just underneath at the bottom? (Pause)
Above the right wing of the Shuttle is a small, smooth circle. (Pause) This is the Cupola and it has a panoramic window so that the astronauts can see all around them. There is also a control room for operating the space station. From here, trace left to the American Lab Module, where most of the research and experiments are done. (Pause) Further to the left is a smooth rounded barrel shape. (Pause) This is Columbus, the European laboratory. Just above this, to the left and below the strong horizontal, is the Canadarm 2, a robotic arm. (Pause) It's over 11 metres long and is used to assemble large parts of the space station. It moves around the outside of the space station on a track.
Go back to the centre of the horizontal line and trace up. (Pause) The first small shape is the American Habitat module where the American astronauts live. (Pause) Trace up further to a small rounded ball shape that has a small ridged shape on either side. (Pause) This is the Russian module called Zarya that supplies the space station with electrical power. (Pause) Above these, to left and right, are two fan-like shapes, which are more solar panels. (Short Pause) They both connect to a long, ridged cylinder shape: this is the cargo hold, where large pieces of equipment or new parts for the Space Station are stored. (Pause) From the cargo hold, trace up to a narrower connecting cylinder. (Pause) This is the Russian service module, and at the very top is docked the Soyuz spacecraft. This has a very special resonance for me because as I was lucky enough to go out to Moscow to Star City and I've sat inside the training module.
The International Space Station is conducting research which will have far-reaching consequences for future space exploration and for life on Earth. The NASA website at HYPERLINK "" is really worth checking out as it provides a wealth of information about life aboard the ISS, educational projects you can get involved with and up-to-the-minute news of their work.
* Music, Space Oddity performed by astronaut Chris Hadfield on the International Space Station

What's inside

  • A collection of raised tactile pictures.
  • Audio descriptions with music and sound effects in your chosen format of either CD or USB.
  • An Activity Pack, with contents list, suggestions for fun things to do and more.
  • A picture scrapbook.
  • An ‘Articles for the Blind’ returns label for the free and convenient return of the box.

Touch to see image list

Space Exploration: Hubble Space Telescope
Space Exploration: International Space Station
Galaxies: the Milky Way
Space: the Solar System
The Planets with Holst
Asteroids and Comets: Asteroid Ida and Halley’s Comet
Birth and Death of Stars: the Eagle Nebula, Pillars of Creation
The Sky at Night: constellations of Ursa Major, Ursa Minor and Cassiopeia
The Sky at Night: constellations of Orion, Gemini and Taurus

What our members say

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He was one of the first children in the class to learn the planets in order! We borrowed this book during a school topic and took it with us on a visit to the planetarium. Holding the tactile drawings on his lap to touch during the show really brought the presentation alive for him and he was one of the first children in the class to learn the planets in order. Teacher
Great Resource Tactile pictures went well with audio descriptions. The student especially enjoyed the story with the girl in the school. The pack stimulated further interest in learning about the universe. Library Member
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