Spacecraft Model Philosophy Essay

Right now, there are several spacecrafts exploring our Universe. You can build paper versions of many of them right here on Earth.

Paper modeling - or card modeling - is the art of constructing things with only colored, cut and folded pieces of paper. To help in constructing each model, you will need the free Adobe Reader to print the instructions and model parts. A link to is provided with each model.

Remember: Spacecraft construction is a team activity. Get some friends and an adult to pitch in on the mission. Now pick a ship to start your space fleet (or click on the spacecraft name to find out what the mission is all about).

Build Your Own Universe Exploration Fleet

This Model is Rated: Easy
68 KB PDF, 11 pages - Requires Adobe Reader - Prints on 8 1/2 x 11 paper

The third of the Great Observatories was launched in 1999 into Earth orbit. As one of the most sophisticated x-ray observatories ever built, it observes x-rays from high-energy regions of the Universe.

This Model is Rated: Easy
348 KB PDF, 37 pages - Requires Adobe Reader - Prints on 8 1/2 x 11 paper

The second of the Great Observatories was launched in 1991 into Earth orbit, and safely de-orbited in 2000. The observatory helped astronomers learn about the most powerful celestial bodies and events in the Universe. It observed gamma-ray bursts, and high temperature emissions from black holes.

This Model is Rated: Easy
1.9 MB PDF, 7 pages - Requires Adobe Reader - Prints on 8 1/2 x 11 paper

The Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is an international multi-agency mission that launched in 2008. It is studying the cosmos looking at object that emit high energy wavelengths of light.

This Model is Rated: Moderately Challenging
6 MB PDF, 8 pages - Requires Adobe Reader - Prints on 8 1/2 x 11 paper

Launched in 2004 Gravity Probe B was a relativity experiment developed to test predictions of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Using small gyroscopes, the spacecraft measured how space and time are warped by the presence of the Earth, and how the Earth’s rotation drags space-time around with it.

Hubble Space Telescope
This Model is Rated: Moderately Challenging
5.8 MB PDF, pages - Requires Adobe Reader - Prints on 8 1/2 x 11 paper

The first of the Great Observatories was deployed from the Space Shuttle Discovery into Earth orbit in April 1990. It is the product of two decades of research and development by 10,000 scientists and engineers at various NASA centers, private companies, universities, and the European Space Agency. The purpose of Hubble is to study the cosmos from low-Earth orbit.

Hubble Space Telescope
This Model is Rated: Challenging
12.07 MB PDF, 30+ pages - Requires Adobe Reader - Prints on 8 1/2 x 11 paper

This expert paper model consists of around 300 pieces and will take approximately 30 hours to complete. It has extremely accurate 3-D representations of details ranging from the cryocoolers to handrails. It reflects the state of the telescope after Servicing Mission 3B, which took place in March 2002.

James Webb Space Telescope
This Model is Rated: Easy
3.3 MB PDF, 35 pages - Requires Adobe Reader - Prints on 8 1/2 x 11 paper

Launching in 2018, Webb will be the premier infrared telescope of the next decade. An international collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), Webb will study from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems.

This Model is Rated: Moderate
713 KB PDF, 12 pages - Requires Adobe Reader - Prints on 8 1/2 x 11 paper

Launched in 2009, the Kepler mission was designed to detect Earth-sized planets orbiting other stars.  Kepler has discovered over 2400 confirmed exoplanets including some in the habitable zone of their stars.

Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE)
This Model is Rated: Easy
196 KB GIF, 2 files, one page each - Prints on 8 1/2 x 11 paper
Requires software that reads GIF files (e.g., Firefox)

The Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) was launched on December 30, 1995 to look at the physics of the cosmic X-ray sources by making sensitive measurements of their changes. RXTE completed sixteen years of observations before being decommissioned in 2012.

Spitzer Space Telescope
This Model is Rated: Moderately Challenging
1.6 MB PDF, 15 pages - Requires Adobe Reader - Prints on 8 1/2 x 11 paper
Lego and 3-D computer models also available

The fourth Great Observatories was launched in 2003 into trailing Earth orbit. Spitzer detects infrared energy, or heat, radiated by objects.

This Model is Rated: Moderately Challenging
15.2 MB PDF, 32 pages - Requires Adobe Reader - Prints on 8 1/2 x 11 paper

Launched in 2004, the Swift spacecraft is in Earth orbit. Swift detects gamma-ray bursts and then relays the burst’s location to ground stations, allowing both ground-based and space-based telescopes around the world the opportunity to observe the burst’s afterglow.

This Model is rated: Moderately Challenging
1.6 MB PDF, 8 pages - Requires Adobe Reader - Prints on 8 1/2 x 11 cardstock

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is scheduled to launch in 2018. Surveying 200,000 of the brightest stars near the sun, TESS will discover thousands of transiting exoplanets.

This Model is Rated: Easy
148 KB PDF, 1 page - Requires Adobe Reader - Prints on 8 1/2 x 11 paper

Launched in 2009, the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) used its infrared sensors to perform an all-sky survey until its hydrogen coolant was depleted as planned in 2011.  WISE was repurposed to search for near-Earth objects and is now called the NEOWISE mission.

For other uses, see Spaceship Earth (disambiguation).

Not to be confused with Earthship.

Spaceship Earth or Spacecraft Earth is a world view encouraging everyone on Earth to act as a harmonious crew working toward the greater good.

The earliest known use[1] is a passage in Henry George's best known work, Progress and Poverty[2] (1879). From book IV, chapter 2:

It is a well-provisioned ship, this on which we sail through space. If the bread and beef above decks seem to grow scarce, we but open a hatch and there is a new supply, of which before we never dreamed. And very great command over the services of others comes to those who as the hatches are opened are permitted to say, "This is mine!"

George Orwell later paraphrases Henry George in The Road to Wigan Pier:

The world is a raft sailing through space with, potentially, plenty of provisions for everybody; the idea that we must all cooperate and see to it that everyone does his fair share of the work and gets his fair share of the provisions seems so blatantly obvious that one would say that no one could possibly fail to accept it unless he had some corrupt motive for clinging to the present system.

In 1965 Adlai Stevenson made a famous speech to the UN in which he said:

We travel together, passengers on a little space ship, dependent on its vulnerable reserves of air and soil; all committed for our safety to its security and peace; preserved from annihilation only by the care, the work, and, I will say, the love we give our fragile craft. We cannot maintain it half fortunate, half miserable, half confident, half despairing, half slave—to the ancient enemies of man—half free in a liberation of resources undreamed of until this day. No craft, no crew can travel safely with such vast contradictions. On their resolution depends the survival of us all.[3]

The following year, Spaceship Earth became the title of a book by a friend of Stevenson's, the internationally influential economist Barbara Ward.

Also in 1966, Kenneth E. Boulding, who was influenced by reading Henry George,[4] used the phrase in the title of an essay, The Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth.[5] Boulding described the past open economy of apparently illimitable resources, which he said he was tempted to call the "cowboy economy", and continued: "The closed economy of the future might similarly be called the 'spaceman' economy, in which the earth has become a single spaceship, without unlimited reservoirs of anything, either for extraction or for pollution, and in which, therefore, man must find his place in a cyclical ecological system". (David Korten would take up the "cowboys in a spaceship" theme in his 1995 book When Corporations Rule the World.)

The phrase was also popularized by Buckminster Fuller, who published a book in 1968 under the title of Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth.[6] This quotation, referring to fossil fuels, reflects his approach:

…we can make all of humanity successful through science's world-engulfing industrial evolution provided that we are not so foolish as to continue to exhaust in a split second of astronomical history the orderly energy savings of billions of years' energy conservation aboard our Spaceship Earth. These energy savings have been put into our Spaceship's life-regeneration-guaranteeing bank account for use only in self-starter functions.

United NationsSecretary-GeneralU Thant spoke of Spaceship Earth on Earth Day March 21, 1971 at the ceremony of the ringing of the Japanese Peace Bell: "May there only be peaceful and cheerful Earth Days to come for our beautiful Spaceship Earth as it continues to spin and circle in frigid space with its warm and fragile cargo of animate life."[7]

Spaceship Earth is the name given to the 54,864 m geodesic sphere that greets visitors at the entrance of Walt Disney World's Epcot theme park. Housed within the sphere is a dark ride that serves to explore the history of communications and promote Epcot's founding principles, "[a] belief and pride in man's ability to shape a world that offers hope to people everywhere."[8] A previous incarnation of the ride, narrated by actor Jeremy Irons and revised in 2008, was explicit in its message:

Like a grand and miraculous spaceship, our planet has sailed through the universe of time, and for a brief moment, we have been among its many passengers….We now have the ability and the responsibility to build new bridges of acceptance and co-operation between us, to create a better world for ourselves and our children as we continue our amazing journey aboard Spaceship Earth.[9]

David Deutsch has pointed out that the picture of Earth as a friendly "spaceship" habitat is difficult to defend even in metaphorical sense. The Earth environment is harsh and survival is constant struggle for life, including whole species extinction. Humans wouldn't be able to live in most of the areas where they are living now without knowledge necessary to build life-support systems such as houses, heating, water supply, etc.[10]

The term "Spaceship Earth" is frequently used on the labels of Emanuel Bronner's products to refer to the Earth.


  • Nicola Armaroli, Vincenzo Balzani: Energy for a Sustainable World – From the Oil Age to a Sun-Powered Future, Wiley-VCH 2011, ISBN 978-3-527-32540-5.
  • Nicola Armaroli, Vincenzo Balzani and Nick Serpone: Powering Planet Earth – Energy Solutions for the Future, Wiley-VCH 2013, ISBN 978-3-527-33409-4.
    • Italian original edition: Energia per l’Astronave Terra- Quanta ne usiamo, come la produciamo, che cosa ci riserva il futuro, Zanichelli 2008, ISBN 978-88-08-06391-5.
  • Sabine Höhler: Spaceship Earth in the Environmental Age, 1960-1990 (History and Philosophy of Technoscience, 4). London: Pickering & Chatto 2015, ISBN 978-1-84893-509-9.

See also[edit]


  1. ^Kalen, San (2010). "ECOLOGY COMES OF AGE: NEPA'S LOST MANDATE". DUKE ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY FORUM. 21:113 (Fall). Retrieved 5 March 2016. 
  2. ^The text on wikisource differs from versions available here and hereArchived 2005-09-09 at the Wayback Machine..
  3. ^Speech to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland, July 9, 1965
  4. ^King, J. E. "Economic Exiles". Palgrave Macmillan, 2014
  5. ^Boulding, Kenneth E. (1966). "The Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth". Retrieved 2007-09-07. 
  6. ^Fuller, Buckminster (1963). Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth. New York: E.P. Dutton & Co. ISBN 0-525-47433-1. Archived from the original on 2010-07-17.  The quotation is from Section 8: The regenerative landscapeArchived 2010-08-23 at the Wayback Machine..
  7. ^Lawrence, Lee; John McConnell (July 3, 1999). "Earth Day: Past, Present, Future". Wish Only Well. Retrieved 2007-09-07. 
  8. ^Korkis, Jim. "WDW Chronicles: 1982 Opening of Epcot Center". 
  9. ^Irons, Jeremy. "SE Script - Irons Version". 
  10. ^<David Deutsch (2011). The Beginning of Infinity. ISBN 978-0-14-196969-5. 


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