For two years the Space Research Vessel, The Golden Hind, had been exploring the Ursula System. You belong to the team of scientists who have been working on the planet Persephone.
The Golden Hint is now in orbit around Peresphone waiting to take you back to Earth. Just as you are about to leave the planet to rejoin the Golden Hind you find that your Shuttle has been broken into and several vital pieces of equipment have been taken.
This is the work of the Kleptoes, a semi-intelligent species who are always collecting things and hiding them. Before you can leave you have to find the missing items.
(This information appears on-screen while the main program is loading.)
Run program (see loading instructions)
Select destination using Scan
Attempt to reach destination
If successful then attempt retrieval of item
Select next destination
Continue as above
1. The Scan
Prior to leaving base (i.e. where the Shuttle is located) it is necessary to study a Metal Detection Scan provided by the Golden Hind. The Scan is able to show the location of metallic objects in the vicinity of base and reference to the grid will provide the co-ordinates (of each location) vital to each exploratory flight. Unfortunately the Scan is unable to show the nature of the terrain and the locations of geographical obstacles may only be discovered by exploration. It is, however, able to show which locations have been visited.
2. Exploratory Missions
To reach any location shown on the Scan it is necessary to use the Land Skimmer. When a destination is requested the relevant co-ordinates must be keyed in. The Skimmer's onboard computer will respond to an input of wrong co-ordinates by requesting that the co-ordinates be checked. If the flight is successful one may either stay at that destination to explore or travel on to another location. Initially many flights will end in disaster due to hidden dangers. The Skimmer has a limited range and is unable to re-fuel. The fuel consumption is shown during each flight.
The following items of equipment are at base:
Space limitations on board the Skimmer necessitate that a maximum of five items be carried at any one time. Equipment changes are possible, however, upon a return to base (although each return will use precious fuel).
Surrounding base are a forest, a lake and a mountain range. All three features are extensive and pose a serious threat to flight safety. A flight, once programmed, cannot be aborted. If disaster occurs, it is necessary to restart the decisions may cause the mission to terminate.
In order to leave Peresphone it is necessary to retrieve the items missing from the shuttle and return them to base.
Success requires that:
safe routes between locations are established and recorded (preferably by building up a map of the area)
suitable equipment is carried
correct decisions are made at each location
economic use is made of the limited fuel supply
an equipment charge is made at a sensible time
While SPACEX was designed as project for class use, it may be used just as effectively by individuals or groups. The notes which follow are designed to assist the teacher whose entire class is engaging in the project but will be of use where smaller numbers are participating.
(a) It is imperative that records are kept of each mission and for this purpose a log book is ideal.
Before the children are allowed to begin the program they should be given an introduction to the project and, perhaps, be allowed to discuss some of the topics listed elsewhere in these notes. The children do need to work in groups or 'crews' of not more than four. They may like to begin the log by recording details about themselves such as their backgrounds, their role on the expedition and how they came to be selected for the Persephone mission.
(b) If possible, the entire class should be allowed to see the opening sequences of the prorgam. While the main program is loading (several minutes if loading from tape) an information page appears on screen and this could be discussed. Alternatively, it may be preferred to have the program already loaded. Clear and consise instructions do appear on-screen but there is benefit to be derived from allowing the class to see how to:
choose equipment from the list
read the co-ordinates of locations on the Golden Hind Scan
make a flight by using the co-ordinates
Note: No instructions about using the RETURN key are given but the rule for children unfamiliar with using the BBC computer is that if nothing happens with a response is made the computer is awaiting the RETURN signal to indicate that the response is complete, e.g. after typing the co-ordinates 1501 it is necessary to press RETURN.
Where YES/NO responses are awaited, the children have only to press Y or N.
(c) When the children are ready to begin using the program, one crew should be allowed to sit at the keyboard. To prevent other crews obtaining vital information from the screen it is advisable to have the computer in a corner or in another room, or, at least where the screen is not easily seen.
Each crew should be allowed to continue with its mission until one of the many Persephonean hazards halts progress. When this occurs, the next crew may take over.
While children are not actually using the computer, they should be completing their logs and planning their next mission. Each session at the keyboard could represent one day's activity on Persephone.
(d) Children may well require to undertake more than a dozen missions before they are able to achieve success and leave the planet. During the later stages it is imperative that children exhibiting signs of frustration are given the odd hint or tip. Indeed some crews may decide to exchange information in order to make progress. Perhaps the most difficult part of the project occurs towards the very end: all the missing items have been recovered but it is impossible to return them all to base because of a lack of fuel.
A quick way of assessing the fuel demands of a particular route is by using the key C option at each location rather than key S. Once a short route has been established as being safe, a crew may follow the route again, but this time retrieving the missing items. The need for an equipment charge en route is a major factor in fuel consumption and some children may take time to realise that the equipment-change diversion should be as short as possible.
In their logs, the children should be encouraged to elaborate upon their experiences on Persephone. The programmer was limited to the confines of the available computer memory. The children are not. They will love embellishing the 'true' facts.
It is necessary for each crew to produce a map on the Scan area and to mark on it the safe routes and the location of hazards, etc. Some children may not realise that when a disaster occurs it is usually because the route itself is dangerous and not the actual location they were trying to reach.
In addition to the keeping of a log book and the production of a physical map, many other activities are possible.
How would it feel to be on an alien world for two years and find that one may possibly be marooned there?
There are dangerous creatures on Persephone. Would it be right to kill them?
The Keptoes are semi-intelligent. How could you communicate with them?
Would it be right to explore another world? How would you feel if alien creatures came to study Earth?
The equipment list isn't very sensible. What equipment would be much more useful?
Does Persephone sound a very interesting world? Would you like to visit it?
Convert the classroom into a Persephone landscape, or a Golden Hind! (Consult your caretaker first)
Construct plans or models of Land Skimmers and Golden Hinds.
Compare the Golden Hind of Spacex with the original vessel. (Consider historical explorations)
Construct a model of the Persephone landscape.
Dramatise some of the Spacex incidents.
Produce scripts of conversations between crew members.
Cover your walls with pictures and stories.
Once the mission has been accomplished the participants may like to consider the following questions:
How real was Persephone to you? Did you feel that you were actually here?
What improvements could be made to the program?
Which part of the project was the most difficult?
How did you feel when your Shuttle finally lifted off?
Did you enjoy working in a group or would you have preferred working on your own?
Could you design a project along similar lines?
Could Spacex have been done without a computer?
Did the computer know what was happening on Persephone?
Spacex worked for us. We would love to know if it worked for you. The Old Kleptoes' Rest Home, c/o 4Mat, Linden Lea, Rock Park, Barnstaple, Devon. We promise to reply.
Tape: CHAIN"" (RETURN)
The following utilities are also available to allow you to edit the supplied screens of this game:
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