The Space Exploration Merit Badge: Your Ultimate Guide In 2024

It’s time to learn about humankind’s final frontier – space! Earning the Space Exploration merit badge will introduce you to new worlds of discovery beyond Earth, helping you to understand why humans are drawn to space travel and explaining the advanced sciences that make this field possible!

To answer each requirement for the Space Exploration badge, you’ll need to learn some technical terms, discover how rockets work, and even start thinking about how to colonize other planets! Space is a big place after all — so get ready to learn about some space pioneers and study the unknown. 😀

If youd like my help with any Eagle-required badges, you should definitely check out my Difficulty Ranking Guide to Every Eagle-required Badge. There, you’ll also find the links to my other merit badge guides, as well as a description and summary of each badge’s requirements. I know this resource will be helpful to Scouts on their road to Eagle!

Also, remember that ScoutSmarts should just serve as your starting point for merit badge research. In school, we’re taught not to plagiarize, and the same is true for Scouting worksheets. Answer these questions in your own words, do further research, and I promise you’ll gain much more from every merit badge you earn!

The science of space exploration will only become more and more relevant as humanity continues to expand its reach to the stars. So, by learning how space exploration works now, you’ll be better able to make discoveries as you grow older, and more fully understand your place in our seemingly infinite universe!

It’s time to blast off and start learning about space exploration! Before I walk you through each answer so that you can understand this fascinating subject, take a minute to read every requirement thoroughly. Then, we’ll get started with earning the awesome Space Exploration badge!

What Are the Space Exploration Merit Badge Requirements?

  1. Tell the purpose of space exploration and include the following:
    1a. Historical Reasons
    1b. Immediate goals in terms of specific knowledge
    1c. Benefits related to Earth resources, technology, and new products
    1d. International relations and cooperation
  2. Design a collector’s card, with a picture on the front and information on the back, about your favorite space pioneer. Share your card and discuss four other space pioneers with your counselor.
  3. Build, launch, and recover a model rocket.* Make a second launch to accomplish a specific objective. (Rocket must be built to meet the safety code of the National Association of Rocketry. See the “Model Rocketry” chapter of the Space Exploration merit badge pamphlet.) Identify and explain the following rocket parts:
    3a. Body tube
    3b. Engine mount
    3c. Fins
    3d. Igniter
    3e. Launch lug
    3f. Nose cone
    3g. Payload
    3h. Recovery system
    3i. Rocket engine
  4. Discuss and demonstrate each of the following:
    4a. The law of action-reaction
    4b. How rocket engines work
    4c. How satellites stay in orbit
    4d. How satellite pictures of Earth and pictures of other planets are made and transmitted
  5. Do TWO of the following:
    5a. Discuss with your counselor a robotic space exploration mission and a historic crewed mission. Tell about each mission’s major discoveries, its importance, and what was learned from it about the planets, moons, or regions of space explored.
    5b. Using magazine photographs, news clippings, and electronic articles (such as from the Internet), make a scrapbook about a current planetary mission.
    5c. Design a robotic mission to another planet, moon, comet, or asteroid that will return samples of its surface to Earth. Name the planet, moon, comet, or asteroid your spacecraft will visit. Show how your design will cope with the conditions of the environments of the planet, moon, comet, or asteroid.
  6. Describe the purpose, operation, and components of ONE of the following:
    6a. Space shuttle or any other crewed orbital vehicle, whether government-owned (U.S. or foreign) or commercial
    6b. International Space Station
  7. Design an inhabited base located within our solar system, such as Titan, asteroids, or other locations that humans might want to explore in person. Make drawings or a model of your base. In your design, consider and plan for the following:
    7a. Source of energy
    7b. How it will be constructed
    7c. Life-support system
    7d. Purpose and function
  8. Discuss with your counselor two possible careers in space exploration that interest you. Find out the qualifications, education, and preparation required and discuss the major responsibilities of those positions.
Tell the purpose of space exploration and include the following:
1a) Historical Reasons

Space exploration has inspired the human imagination for centuries. Are we alone in the universe? Could humanity live elsewhere? Where did life come from? These are all questions that mankind has tried to answer by looking to the stars. To earn the Space Exploration badge, let’s begin by exploring the historical reasons behind our species’ fascination with space! 🙂

  • Curiosity: Since ancient times, humans have gazed at the night sky, wondering what’s out there. I’m sure that on plenty of camp outs you’ve looked to the stars and felt amazed at the vastness of space. Historically, our ancestors’ same sense of curiosity laid the foundation for future scientific explorations!
  • Technological Advancements: Throughout history, space exploration has been a driving force behind technological progress. From telescopes and GPS to satellites and water filtration, our quest to reach the stars has spurred groundbreaking innovations that benefit not only space missions but also us people back home on Earth.
  • Space Race and Competition: The 20th century witnessed an era of intense competition between superpowers during the Space Race. The rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union fueled a surge in space missions, leading to milestones such as the first human in space and the moon landing.
  • Scientific Discovery and Knowledge: Space exploration offers a unique opportunity to conduct experiments and collect data in microgravity and harsh cosmic environments. This research yields invaluable insights into fundamental questions about our universe, from the origins of galaxies to the search for life beyond Earth.
  • Human Ingenuity and Exploration: As explorers at heart, humans have an innate drive to venture beyond our horizons. Space exploration epitomizes the human spirit of adventure, pushing the boundaries of what we can achieve and opening new frontiers for future generations. (If you love exploration, make sure to check out my guide to the Exploration merit badge!)
1b) Immediate goals in terms of specific knowledge

When it comes to space exploration, our immediate goals are to expand our knowledge and understanding of the universe. Specific knowledge objectives are the stepping stones towards achieving greater discoveries and advancements. Some of humankind’s immediate goals space exploration goals include:

  • Space Telescopes and Observations: Advancing space-based observatories, such as the Hubble Space Telescope, allow us to peer deeper into space and observe the most distant galaxies, stars, and cosmic occurrences. Through these tools and the specific knowledge we gain, we hope to one day learn about the origins and evolution of our universe.
  • Lunar Exploration and Artemis Program: Returning to the Moon with the Artemis program is a significant immediate goal. Establishing a sustainable human presence on the lunar surface not only paves the way for future crewed missions to Mars but also serves as a testbed for technologies and systems to help with deep-space exploration.
  • Mars Missions and Potential for Life: Sending robotic missions to Mars is essential for unlocking the planet’s mysteries, studying its geology, climate, and potential for past or present life. Mars exploration lays the groundwork for all future space exploration missions!
  • Space Debris Management: As space activities increase, managing space debris becomes crucial to safeguarding current and future missions. Developing techniques to track, avoid, and mitigate space debris is an immediate goal to maintain the sustainability of space exploration.
  • Exoplanet/Moon Exploration: Investigating exoplanets or planetary moons holds tremendous promise for understanding the potential for life elsewhere in the universe. Our goal is to identify habitable zones and detect signs of biological activity.

Through our immediate goals, we see humankind’s roadmap for space exploration. By developing our technology and understanding, and launching more and more missions beyond our world, we are slowly but surely gaining the abilities to venture into the final frontier – outer space! 😀

1c) Benefits related to Earth resources, technology, and new products

Space exploration is not only about wonder and knowledge but also offers tons of benefits that positively impact life on Earth. Technological advancements and the creation of new products are just the tip of the iceberg! Let’s explore these benefits in greater detail:

Earth Resources

  • Environmental Monitoring: Space-based satellites provide crucial data for monitoring Earth’s environment, including climate change, deforestation, and natural disasters. This information helps us to develop strategies to protect and sustain our planet’s resources.
  • Agriculture and Food Security: Remote sensing from space enables precision agriculture, increasing crop yields and our resource use efficiency. We can also monitor weather patterns and soil conditions to increase global food security.
  • Water Management: Space technology helps monitor and manage water resources, ensuring the efficient distribution of water for agriculture, urban areas, and habitats.

Technological Advancements

  • Miniaturization and Microelectronics: The need to reduce spacecraft size and weight has driven miniaturization and advancements in microelectronics, leading to smaller and more powerful computers and devices on Earth!
  • Telecommunications: Space missions have revolutionized global communications through satellite technology, enabling seamless connectivity and improving information exchange worldwide.
  • Medical Innovations: Space exploration has led to medical research and technology, such as advances in remote surgery, diagnostic tools, and rehabilitation devices.

New Products and Materials

  • Materials Science: Research in microgravity has led to the development of new products with unique properties, like the ballpoint pen and astronaut ice cream! There have also been space-related breakthroughs in industries such as manufacturing, aerospace, and medicine.
  • Consumer Products: Space-inspired technologies have influenced the creation of numerous consumer products, including memory foam, scratch-resistant lenses, and portable water filters.
  • Renewable Energy: Space-based solar power and solar panels developed for space missions have advanced renewable energy technologies on Earth.

Throughout history, space exploration has served as fuel for innovation, encouraging collaboration between industries and nations. By pushing the boundaries of our understanding and technology, space exploration continues to give humanity valuable insights, advancements, and products. 🙂

1d) International relations and cooperation

Space exploration is not just the project of a single nation – it is a timeless goal that unites countries from around the globe! International relations and cooperation play a key role in shaping the future of space exploration. Here’s how joint space exploration missions help bring nations together:

  • Shared Objectives: Nations collaborate on space missions to achieve common goals, such as studying the universe’s mysteries and better understanding Earth. These shared missions create a spirit of unity that goes beyond a country’s borders.
  • Pooling Resources: Space exploration requires enormous financial and technological resources. International cooperation allows countries to pool their expertise, funds, and infrastructure, enabling grander missions and more impactful research.
  • Cultural Sharing: Collaboration in space exploration facilitates cultural exchange and fosters a deeper understanding of a partner country’s values, traditions, and scientific methods. This promotes mutual respect and appreciation among nations!
  • Peaceful Cooperation: Space exploration is often characterized by peaceful cooperation. While there may be geopolitical tensions on Earth, space missions demonstrate that countries can work together in harmony for the advancement of science and humanity.
  • International Space Agencies: Institutions like NASA (USA), ESA (European Space Agency), Roscosmos (Russia), CNSA (China), ISRO (India), and others form the framework for international space collaboration. Joint missions, data sharing, and technology transfers can tie all of these very different countries together.
  • Space Station Partnerships: The International Space Station (ISS) stands as a testament to international cooperation in space. Multiple countries collaborate to operate and conduct research on the ISS, achieving scientific advancements and building camaraderie among astronauts from diverse backgrounds.
  • Moon and Mars Collaborations: Plans for future lunar and Martian missions involve international partnerships. Countries join forces to establish lunar bases, plan crewed missions to Mars, and explore the potential of the Moon and Mars as stepping stones for deep-space exploration.

Space exploration has been one of the greatest drivers of human cooperation and collaboration across nations. Through joint missions, shared research, and a common goal, nations come together to explore the farthest reaches of our universe. Funny that in the vastness of space, we all find a common ground! 😛

2) Design a collector’s card, with a picture on the front and information on the back, about your favorite space pioneer. Share your card and discuss four other space pioneers with your counselor.

Have you ever had a baseball card, or even a Pokémon card? If you’re interested in the topic, they can be pretty fun! This requirement gives you a creative way to learn about a particular space pioneer. Here, I’ll be giving an example of how you might make a Neil Armstrong collector’s card:

Front of the Card: [Image of Neil Armstrong – the intriguing video (6:21) is an example image, but I’d definitely recommend giving it a watch!]

Back of the Card:

Name: Neil Armstrong

Birth Date: August 5, 1930

Death Date: August 25, 2012

Description: Neil Armstrong, an American astronaut (and Eagle Scout!), etched his name in history as the first person to set foot on the Moon. During the Apollo 11 mission on July 20, 1969, Armstrong took humanity’s most celebrated step onto the lunar surface, marking a “giant leap for mankind.” His remarkable bravery and leadership have marked his place in history as a true space exploration pioneer~

Notable Achievements:

  • Command Pilot of Gemini VIII, the first mission to successfully dock two spacecraft in orbit.
  • Commander of Apollo 11, the groundbreaking mission that achieved the first-ever successful moon landing.
  • Recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

Legacy: Neil Armstrong’s impact extends beyond his historic moon landing. As a pioneer, he embodied courage, curiosity, and an unyielding pursuit of knowledge. Armstrong’s legacy serves as a reminder that with determination and vision, we can conquer new frontiers and unravel the mysteries of the cosmos!

Example Overview of Four Other Space Pioneers

  • Yuri Gagarin: The first human in space, Yuri Gagarin, was a Soviet cosmonaut. On April 12, 1961, he orbited the Earth aboard the Vostok 1 spacecraft, becoming an international hero and a symbol of space exploration’s possibilities.
  • Valentina Tereshkova: A Soviet cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova made history as the first woman in space. On June 16, 1963, she piloted the Vostok 6 spacecraft and completed 48 orbits around the Earth.
  • John Glenn: John Glenn, an American astronaut, was the first American to orbit the Earth on February 20, 1962, aboard Friendship 7 during the Mercury-Atlas 6 mission. He later became the oldest person to fly in space during the Space Shuttle Discovery mission in 1998.
  • Katherine Johnson: An African-American mathematician, Katherine Johnson played a crucial role in calculating trajectories for space missions at NASA. Her calculations were instrumental in the success of the Mercury and Apollo missions.

These space pioneers have left a permanent mark on space exploration, inspiring countless individuals to reach for the stars. Their courage, dedication, and contributions continue to shape the trajectory 😉 of space exploration and our understanding of the universe.

Did you know? Katherine Johnson graduated high school at 14 and college at 18! Despite her huge impact on the field of space exploration, many Americans only learned about her through the 2016 movie Hidden Figures.

To hear her tell her inspiring story, check out this video (5:20) from National Geographic!

3) Build, launch, and recover a model rocket. Make a second launch to accomplish a specific objective. (Rocket must be built to meet the safety code of the National Association of Rocketry. See the “Model Rocketry” chapter.)
(If local laws prohibit the launching of model rockets, do the following activity: Make a model of a NASA rocket. Explain the functions of the parts. Give the history of the rocket.)

Launching a model rocket was one of the coolest experiences of my younger years, so I’m sure you’ll love it too! Before doing anything else though, make sure to review the safety code of the National Association of Rocketry. Rockets use explosions to propel themselves and can prove dangerous if you aren’t aware and prepared.

To find a safe and reliable rocket, I’d recommend checking out the Estes Journey Launch Set Rocket Kit, which is super similar to the one I used back in the day. Don’t forget the 2+ B6-4 engines as well. You’ll construct your rocket kit, light it, and watch the epic liftoff! But first, let’s identify and explain the key components of a model rocket:

  1. Body Tube: The body tube serves as the main structure of the rocket, providing stability and holding all other components together. It is typically made of lightweight materials like cardboard or plastic.
  2. Engine Mount: The engine mount houses the rocket engine securely within the body tube. It ensures proper alignment and retention of the engine during flight.
  3. Fins: Fins are the wing-like structures attached to the lower portion of the body tube. They stabilize the rocket during flight, keeping it on a straight trajectory. Fins can vary in number and shape, depending on the rocket design.
  4. Igniter: The igniter is a small device with a wire filament that ignites the rocket engine. When an electric current passes through the igniter, it ignites the rocket propellant, initiating the launch sequence.
  5. Launch Lug: The launch lug is a small tube or rod mounted on the side of the rocket. It guides the rocket along the launch rod or rail during liftoff and ensures a stable ascent.
  6. Nose Cone: The nose cone is the pointed tip at the top of the rocket. It reduces air resistance during flight and helps streamline the rocket’s trajectory.
  7. Payload: The payload is any equipment or payload bay on the rocket that carries scientific instruments, experiments, or other items into space. In model rockets, the payload is often a simple weight or a small capsule to simulate real space missions.
  8. Recovery System: The recovery system is essential for safely bringing the rocket back to the ground after its flight. Most model rockets use a parachute or streamer that deploys at the peak of the flight to slow the descent.
  9. Rocket Engine: The rocket engine is the heart of the rocket, containing the propellant that generates the thrust needed for liftoff. Rocket engines come in different sizes and power levels, depending on the desired flight characteristics.

With this knowledge, you can put your model rocket together with confidence and try out 2 launches. I’d recommend making your second objective something like tracking distance traveled from the launch point, time in air, or anything else you can think of measuring. Here’s a helpful video (6:22) to watch first:

This is one of the most fun requirements out there, so be sure to enjoy! You could even ask a parent or sibling to take a video so that you have great memories of your exciting launch. Have fun and be safe, Scout. Time to shoot for the stars! 😀

Discuss and demonstrate each of the following:
4a) The law of action-reaction
4b) How rocket engines work
4c) How satellites stay in orbit
4d) How satellite pictures of Earth and pictures of other planets are made and transmitted

Space exploration is only possible because of our advanced understanding of physics and technology. Don’t worry though, the requirements to earn this badge aren’t rocket science 😜. However, there are still some key terms to learn! Let’s delve into some of the fundamental concepts behind space missions:

1. The Law of Action-Reaction: The law of action-reaction, also known as Newton’s third law of motion, states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

  • To demonstrate this, we can use a simple balloon rocket experiment. Inflate a balloon and then release it without tying the end. As the air escapes from the balloon in one direction, it propels the balloon forward in the opposite direction.
  • This showcases the principle that action (air escaping from the balloon) results in an equal and opposite reaction (balloon moving forward).

2. How Rocket Engines Work: Rocket engines operate on the principle of Newton’s third law. Fuel is combusted out the back of a rocket, propelling it forward.

  • A mixture of fuel and oxidizer burns inside the rocket engine’s combustion chamber, creating a high-speed exhaust of hot gases. The ejection of these gases in one direction causes the rocket to move in the opposite direction.
  • To demonstrate this, use a simple Diet Coke and Mentos rocket. Open a Diet Coke bottle over pavement, then place a Mento inside and turn it on its side. The Coke and Mentos will create a reaction, propelling diet coke out the back and the bottle forward. Warning: the reaction is fast and messy!
  • Check out the video (2:27) below for a neat demonstration! However, be sure to never do this around cars like them. That’s a huge safety hazard!

3. How Satellites Stay in Orbit: Satellites stay in orbit due to a delicate balance between the centrifugal force pulling them outward and the gravitational force pulling them inward. They’re essentially always falling, but the earth moves fast enough they never make contact!

  • To demonstrate this, use a string with a small weight (representing the satellite) attached to one end. Spin the weight around your head, and you’ll notice it stays in orbit due to the tension in the string providing the centripetal force, balancing the gravitational force.

4. How Satellite Pictures are Made and Transmitted: Satellite pictures of Earth and other planets are obtained using remote sensing technology. Sensors onboard satellites capture images in various wavelengths of light, such as visible, infrared, or microwave.

  • To demonstrate this, use a simple digital camera or smartphone to take pictures of objects, varying the settings to represent different wavelengths. Transmitting these images back to Earth involves radio frequency signals. You can simulate this by sending the pictures wirelessly to another device or computer.

There you have it! By exploring these concepts by looking them up in more detail, and by trying out a few simple demonstrations, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the science behind space exploration! Now that you have all the fundamentals down, next up we’ll be diving into how space exploration has actually been taking place. 🙂

Congrats on Finishing Part 1 of The Space Exploration Merit Badge!

Great work, Scout! We’re now halfway done with earning the Space Exploration badge! Now that we learned about the benefits and science of exploring space, do you feel more knowledgeable about humanity’s final frontier? I know I do! Well done and great work making it this far. 😀

Once you’re ready to continue on to part 2 of the Space Exploration merit badge, click the link!
(Also, subscribe to my newsletter for other updates)

Plus, if you’re interested in the difficulty rankings for every Eagle-required merit badge, you can check out my full guide here! PS: The article also links to my other ultimate badge guides that’ll help you complete your merit badge worksheets.


I'm constantly writing new content because I believe in Scouts like you! Thanks so much for reading, and for making our world a better place. Until next time, I'm wishing you all the best on your journey to Eagle and beyond!

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