ESS 102 - Space and Space Travel

Instructor: Dr. Erika Harnett (eharnett at

This course discusses the environment above the Earth's atmosphere. We will cover how the Sun acts as both a source of energy for life on Earth (in the form of light and heat) but also as a source for lethal radiation once we leave the confines of the Earth. We will cover the similarity and differences between Earth and other planets in the solar system and those found around other stars. We will also cover different methods for traveling to other planets and what humans would need to do to stay alive during the journey.

Class format

The class involves a mixture of traditional lectures, video lectures, lab activities, in class assignments, online assignments and group projects. Students can opt to take the class for Writing Credit. In that case, two additional assignments are required - a research paper and a scientifically accurate Sci-Fi story. Prerequisite math knowledge includes scientific notation, unit conversion, and circles and ellipses.

For Instructors

Instructors at other institutions may request access to an online repository of course materials by sending an email to Dr. Harnett from your institutional email. Materials include lecture slides, assignments, exams, and grading rubrics.

Sample Lecture and Lab schedule

While each quarter will be different, the links below give a sample of the material that may be covered in class and lab. A representative syllabus is also listed.

Sample Lecture Schedule
Sample Lab Schedule
Topic List for Video Lectures


All online assignments, class announcements, and hand-outs will be provided through the course Canvas site. You can access Canvas from your MyUW page using your UWnetID. Your UW netID is your or email user name and password.


The lecture portion of the course makes use of the PollEverywhere interface. Students do not need to buy a special clicker. You can use a smartphone, a flip phone or a computer to respond to questions. You must make sure your responses are being recorded by registering on the PollEverywhere site by beginning of the second week to receive clicker credit. Further instuctions will be provided in lecture and on Canvas.


The book Space and Space Travel is required. The book can be purchased in digital or paper format from the following location:
Space and Space Travel by Erika Harnett and Robert Winglee

Additional sources of information include:
Introduction to Space - The Science of Spaceflight by Thomas D. Damon
Sun, Earth and Sky by Kenneth Lang
An Introduction to Space Weather by Mark Moldwin

Videos of Lectures

The videos of current lectures can be found on Canvas
Videos of lectures from a previous quarter can be found at:
Videos of small topic lectures can be found at: