Astronaut Training: Dexterity

Working in teams, students must complete a jigsaw puzzle and reveal the hidden word as quickly as possible, while their dexterity is impaired, to simulate the difficulties faced by astronauts when attempting to fix satellites and instruments wearing bulky spacesuits. Assembling a puzzle quickly and correctly will help them understand the importance of dexterity, hand-eye coordination and communication -- essential skills for an astronaut!

  • Assemble a puzzle quickly and correctly to demonstrate the importance of dexterity and hand eye coordination while also improving communication and problem-solving skills.
  • Record observations about improvements in dexterity and hand-eye coordination during this skill based experience.
  • Consider why dexterity is important for astronauts living and workshop on board the International Space Station.
  • Explore how training can improve dexterity, record performance with previous ones to demonstrate improvement.


Per group

  • Blank jigsaw
  • Stopwatches
  • Coloured pens

Per student

Astronauts go through rigorous training to prepare for a mission. Many team members work together to train astronauts for the challenges of space. Teamwork is essential! 

Astronauts are required to assemble devices on the International Space Station (ISS) and satellites need repairs. Assembly and maintenance in space requires astronauts to have good dexterity and hand-eye coordination. 

While in space astronauts must be able to manipulate tools and objects while wearing a pressurized spacesuit which includes gloves that completely cover their hands. These thick bulky gloves are worn to protect astronauts from the brutal space environment.
As astronauts practice manipulating tools quickly and accurately in their spacesuits, they are improving their dexterity and hand-eye coordination for a space mission.

Curriculum Links

UK National Curriculum, KS2, PE: “Students should be taught to:

  • Develop flexibility, strength, technique, control and balance.
  • Compare their performances with previous ones and demonstrate improvement to achieve their best”

Adapted from NASA and Mission X, train like an astronaut.

1.    Divide the students into teams or “crews” of 2-3 students.
2.    Provide each team with a blank jigsaw puzzle and pens.
3.    Each team selects a crew name related to space. They will write the word (large) across their jigsaw, decorating the spaces with images related to the word. They won’t share this work with any other teams.
4.    Ask each team to separate the pieces of their jigsaw puzzles. They will then carefully gather all their pieces and pass them to another team.
5.    All crew members will wear two pairs of gloves while taking part in the mission.

6.    Each team will have a time keeper with a stop watch to time the puzzle construction from start to finish.


By the end of this activity students should have completed at least two jigsaw puzzles with impaired dexterity to help with understand what dexterity is and why it is important, for astronauts in particular.


Finish this activity with a discussion session to find out what students learned:

1. How well did your crew assemble the puzzle?

2. How could your crew improve on the assembly of the puzzle?
3. How well did your team communicate?
4. What are some challenges an astronaut could face in assembling an object in space?

  • fatigue from assembling for hours

  • poor lighting
  • difficulty moving hands in space gloves
  • communication can be lost with the ground crew or with crew members