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False Alarm

Difficulty: Easy

Duration: 30-35 minutes

Materials: Moderate

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Being able to handle an emergency is a key part of astronaut training. Astronauts will spend countless hours going over simulations of different emergency scenarios before they leave Earth. While an emergency aboard the International Space Station (ISS) is rare, part of an astronaut's job is to be prepared for any situation that may arise.

Teamwork is a key component of astronaut training. For example, in , an alarm went off on the ISS due to a potential ammonia leak in the United States module. Astronauts reacted quickly and evacuated to a different module of the ISS. Checks and measurements confirmed that it was a false alarm. This was most likely due to a sensor problem that was then interpreted as an ammonia leak. Whether it is a false alarm or an actual emergency, astronauts need to be ready to respond at a moment's notice.

Mission description

To complete this mission, participants will get into teams of five crewmembers. This mission will test the crew's ability to accomplish a mentally difficult task while simultaneously performing a physically strenuous challenge. Crews will have to work together and communicate to turn off the false alarm.

To deactivate the false alarm, the teams need a password that they will have to solve through a word puzzle. Teams will play multiple games of tic-tac-toe against another team to obtain the letters of the password. Watch out – these games have physical challenges, and only the winning team receives a letter clue toward solving their password. When the tic-tac-toe games result in no winner, the teams continue to move the Xs and Os one at a time on the board until a team makes a line of Xs or Os. Teams need to win multiple tic-tac-toe games to receive all of the letters of the password.


Breakdown Duration (minutes)
Background 5 minutes
Educator's instructions/demonstration 5 minutes
Group activity 15-20 minutes
Wrap-up 5 minutes
Total 30-35 minutes


Astronaut crews will work together to shut off a false alarm aboard the ISS. Crews need to use their mental acuity and physical endurance to reach this goal.


By the end of this mission participants will be able to:

Mission preparation



Mission instructions


  1. Crewmembers from opposite teams will race to the game board. Challenge participants by having them race by crab walk, bear walk, sideways shuffling or other types of physically strenuous movement.
  2. Once the game piece is placed, the crewmember races back to their crew and high fives the next participant.
  3. Repeat until all game pieces are placed and one team has three of their letters in a row.


    Teams will only have 3 Xs and 3 Os (or similar markers), so it is not possible to fillthe entire board.

  4. If it is a tie – continue to race to the game board and move one piece at a time until a team has won.
  5. The winning crew may select a letter from their designated pile.
  6. Reset and repeat.
  7. When a crew has all their letters and has spelled out their password correctly the false alarm is turned off.


Level 2

Suggested passwords

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