Make a scale drawing of Earth and show Earth's atmosphere and the heights of various satellite orbits.

  1. Ask students to estimate how high above the Earth the Space Shuttle, the Mir Russian Space Station, and satellites that beam cable television to us must orbit. Record their estimates and compare them later to the figures.
  2. Have students draw the curve of the Earth at one corner of a piece of paper and decide on a scale for their picture (i.e., 1 cm = 100 miles).
  3. Use a ruler and scale to show these relative distances:
Troposphere ground to 6 miles
Stratosphere 6 miles-50 miles
Ionosphere 50-300 miles
Exosphere 300-600 miles
Space Shuttle 150 miles
Other manned spacecraft 90-300 miles
Earth-observing satellites 500 miles
Navigational satellites 6,200-13,000 miles
Geostationary satellites 22,000 miles
Moon 238,857 miles
  1. Instead of drawing on paper, this activity can be done as a three-dimensional model. Use string to suspend a paper model of Earth and its satellites. Hang them from the ceiling at relative distances apart (i.e., 1 inch=10 miles). Earth's diameter is 8,000 miles.
  2. For younger students draw a picture of Earth and add the following:
Height of the atmosphere 50 miles
Space Shuttle 150 miles
Low earth orbits 350 miles
Geostationary satellites (GOES) 22,000 miles


  • Long roll of poster paper
  • crayons
  • marker
  • rulers or tape measure
  • compass for drawing circles. For larger circles, you will need to tie a string to a pencil and secure the other end to a piece of chalk as a pivot point.