Story Time: The Solar System with / El Sistema Solar con Ellen

Just for Kids!

The National Postal Museum is pleased to present a Story Time collaboration with the National Air and Space Museum. This video offers a brief history of astronaut Ellen Ochoa, who was the first woman of Hispanic descent to travel to space.  Museum educators share a bilingual astronomy book inspired by Ochoa with some fun facts about the planets, and lead viewers on an exploration of some of the space-related stamps that have been issued in the United States over the past seven decades.

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Ann: I’m Ann Caspari from the National Air and Space Museum.
Maureen: I’m Maureen Leary from the National Postal Museum.
A: We would like to welcome you to Story Time with the Smithsonian. Today we will be learning about Astronaut Ellen Ochoa, space exploration, and postage stamps!
M: To see how all those things are connected, we’ll explore some items from both museums and we’ll read a book about the planets.

NASM content (Ann)
(image of Ellen Ochoa in space suit) Ellen Ochoa was the first Hispanic woman to go to space when she flew on the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1993 with NASA, the United States space agency.

(Images of Ellen working in space) She became an astronaut and worked to study the ozone layer, which is part of the atmosphere that protects life on Earth. She took pictures of the ozone layer and recorded data that helped people to understand more about our atmosphere.

(Image of Space Shuttle liftoff) She went to space four times on the Space Shuttles Atlantis and Discovery and worked on board the International Space Station, which orbits around our Earth.

(Image of Ellen playing the flute) On her first space mission she brought a flute along to play. What would you bring with you on a trip to space?

(Image of Ellen at Space Center) After going to space, Ellen continued to work at NASA and in 2012 became the first Hispanic director of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. She retired from there in 2018 and continues to support space exploration and play the flute.

(Image of Shuttle at UHC) You can visit the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia and see the Space Shuttle Discovery. The Space Shuttles no longer fly to space. They were amazing space ships that could go to space and then glide back to Earth to be used again for another trip.

M: Thanks for sharing all that, Ann! Next we’re going to learn a little more by reading a book called The Solar System with/El Sistema Solar con Ellen.
A: This is a bilingual astronomy book inspired by Ellen Ochoa. It teaches us a little about the planets in our solar system, and the words are written in both English and Spanish.
M: Special thanks to Lil’ Libros publisher for permission to use this book and for providing the book images. The book was written by Patty Rodriguez and Ariana Stein, and the art is by Citlali Reyes.

A: I’ve traveled far beyond our clouds
to a faraway place, called outer space.

M: Viajé lejos, más allá de las nubes,
a un lugar llamado espacio, donde todo va despacio.

A: I saw the Sun light up the sky
and met its friends as I flew by.

M: Miré cómo el Sol el cielo iluminaba
y encontré a sus amigos mientras volaba.

A: Its neighbor, Mercury may seem big and tall
but compared to other planets, it’s actually quite small.

M: Su vecino Mercurio parece alto y gigante
pero comparado con otros planetas, no es tan grande.

A: Venus sparkled, so much brighter than I thought
but I didn’t get too near because it sure is hot.

M: Venus brillaba mucho más de lo que pensaba
pero es más caliente de lo que me imaginaba.

A: Big red Mars, I took a peek
with its big red mountain, it’s quite unique.

M: El planeta Marte, todo rojo y grande
con su enorme montaña, es único y brillante.

A: 78 moons go round and round
with so many friends, Jupiter will hardly ever frown.

M: Setenta y ocho lunas giran y giran
con tantos amigos, Júpiter se anima.

A: I heard the songs beautiful Saturn sings
to say goodnight to his four lovely rings.

M: En la noche, hermoso Saturno le canta a sus anillos
antes de dormir y cerrar sus ojillos.

A: Uranus got me a little dizzy
rotating on its side, it looks a little tricky.

M: El planeta Urano me mareó un poco
girando de lado, parece algo loco.

A: Neptune is one to really fear
With its freezing temperatures,
Only the bravest get near.

M: Neptuno es uno de temer
con su temperatura baja,
solo los valientes quieren volver.

A: Pluto may be a different kind of planet
Surrounded by shooting stars and comets.
Yet, of all the planets in outer space
Home is Earth, my favorite place.

M: Plutón parece ser otro tipo de planeta
rodeado de estrellas y cometas.
Sin embargo, de todos los planetas el sistema solar
mi hogar es la Tierra, que siempre voy a amar.

NPM Content (Maureen)
That book gave us some information about the planets in our solar system, which is a topic that a lot of people find really exciting. Dr. Ellen Ochoa has done a lot of exploring in space, but she hasn’t actually visited other planets because no humans have been able to do that yet. It’s really fun to imagine it, but for now we learn about planets through unmanned spacecraft and powerful telescopes. If you’re interested in the solar system and space exploration, one way you can learn more is by collecting postage stamps! Stamps are put onto mail to show that the sender has paid the right amount to get the mail delivered. New stamps come out every year that are about a lot of different topics. Images about the solar system and space exploration have appeared on postage stamps over 100 times! Let’s take a look at some examples.

(Image 1) The very first space-themed stamp was issued in 1948 - over 70 years ago! This stamp celebrates Fort Bliss, which is an Army base in Texas where a lot of early research on rockets was done. You can see the image of a rocket taking off in the middle of the stamp.

(Image 2) This stamp celebrates the first human space flight. This stamp was placed on sale throughout the United States on February 20, 1962, at 3:30 pm, the exact time that astronaut John Glenn finished his space flight safely and made history.

(Image 3) The United States was the first country to send humans to the moon. Many stamps have been made to celebrate this achievement. This pair of stamps show the moon’s surface with the earth and the sun in the background. You can also see the lunar module that the astronauts used to land on the moon, and the lunar rover vehicle that the astronauts used to travel around the moon’s surface.

(Image 4) A number of stamps have been created to celebrate space exploration to other planets. Here we see two stamps issued in 1975 showing the Pioneer space probe mission to explore Jupiter, and the Mariner 10 probe mission to Venus and Mercury.

(Image 5) The Space Shuttle was humankind’s first spacecraft that was designed to be re-used many times. Shuttles were launched into the sky with rockets but were able to land like planes. Here we have a stamp from 1981, when Columbia, the very first space shuttle, was launched. The second stamp is of the space shuttle Challenger. It was issued in 1995, and it was the first time the United States Postal Service used an actual NASA photograph for a space-themed stamp, rather than a drawing based on a photograph.

(Image 6) These beautiful images of space were taken by the Hubble telescope, which is the first telescope to be placed in space, and is the source of so much of humankind’s knowledge of what’s beyond our home planet. The Hubble telescope has traveled more than 4 billion miles and made more than 1.3 million observations since its mission first started in 1990.

(Image 7) These gorgeous planet stamps were issued in 2016 and use images from several different types of spacecraft, including, of course, the Hubble telescope. Some of the stamps show how the planet might really look to us if we were able to get up close, and others show details of the planets using an infrared spectrum that can’t be seen by human eyes. This sheet of stamps has information on the back explaining how each of the images was made.

(Image 8) All of the stamps we’ve seen so far represent the cooperation between NASA and the United States Postal Service to create space-themed stamps. Well, here’s something just a little different. These stamps are the winners of the Stampin’ the Future Children’s Stamp Design Contest from 2000. Children were asked to envision what the new century would be like, and obviously they thought space exploration would be a big part of it! These four winning stamps were designed by children ages nine to eleven and were chosen from over 120,000 entries.

A: Thanks, Maureen! I loved looking at all of those beautiful stamps with space images. It was fun to come together for this story today. If you want to learn more about Ellen Ochoa or the Space Shuttles, you can visit the National Air and Space Museum’s website. And if you like story time, check out our Flights of Fancy Story Time playlist on YouTube.

M: You can also learn more about space stamps by visiting the National Postal Museum’s website. You can also learn about stamps on all different kinds of topics there. Whatever it is you’re interested in, chances are good that there’s a postage stamp related to it. We just want to encourage you to just keep exploring!

Special thanks to Lil’ Libros, LLC for permission to use the book, and for providing the book images.

To learn more about the wide variety of space-related postage stamps, visit our virtual U.S. Air and Space Stamps Gallery.