Mission: Mars Teacher Sheet

Mission: Mars Teacher Sheet


U.S. scientists are planning for humans to travel to Mars by the year 2035. It is a bold dream that relies on technology to come true. Only through advanced science and technologies can humans overcome the many challenges of traveling to Mars. The class will create a mock Wikipedia entry describing key technologies that make the planned human mission to Mars possible.


Students should integrate research from the award-winning book, Mission: Mars by Pascal Lee with Web resources cited in the student esheet and their notes from those resources recorded on their student sheet. You should divide the class into three groups, each assigned a special topic that will be combined in the Wiki. In addition to writing in words, each student group may have one or more artists to illustrate their ideas by providing maps, technical details, schematics, or timelines in the Wiki.

After time spent researching their topic by students, both individually and as a group, you will lead them in a class exercise to integrate their research into a mock Wikipedia entry. A Wiki is a group-written source of knowledge, as opposed to a blog, which typically is the work of one author. As you “assemble” your group-written mock Wikipedia entry, emphasize that both excellent, valid science and excellent, valid Wiki writing depend on collaboration to produce verifiable facts.

The class's final Wiki should focus on the science standard framework of the role of technology in sending humans to Mars by 2035, as now planned by the U.S. space program. You can construct the Wiki in class many ways, from a simple scroll made of handwritten entries taped together, to using Google.docs to collaboratively write online, to sending .txt files to the school’s website for posting in its site template if that resource is available to you and administration agrees to showcase students’ work that way.

By whatever means the co-authors’ contributions are compiled, you take the lead by adding a final and accurate References section to model it for them. Be sure to add bibliographic notation for a website, expressed as: “Accessed on date (such as May 5, 2015)."

Below are mock-entry examples, with keywords to look for and page references from the book to guide your final class Wiki entries. Additional facts from research will vary highly. Be sure to explain that to students and insist that they provide a working Web link for facts they contribute.

About Mars

Mars is the fourth planet from the sun and the second smallest planet in the solar system after Mercury. It is named after the Roman god of War. Due to the presence of iron oxide on its surface, its dust is red and gives rise to the nickname “The Red Planet.” Mars is a terrestrial planet—meaning it is made of land, not gas—and has a thin atmosphere. Many of its topographical features are similar to Earth and its moon, among them: impact craters, volcanoes, valleys, deserts, and polar ice caps. Mars has a rotational period and tilt that produces seasons.

Wiki Topics

1. Getting to and Landing on Mars. LOOK FOR mention of technology used to access outer space and overcome a challenging environment. From the book, for technology of travel, see page 13: “The Most Powerful Rocket Ever.” Look for understanding on the sequence of deployment of cargo, Mars lander, Earth return vehicle, service module, and inflatable habitat, outlined in the book on pages 14-15. To understand the challenging environment, from the book, guide students to topics covered on pages 4-16 on understanding the planet of Mars, preparing for launch, and navigating in space. Key concepts in Wiki entries to look for include examples of hazards that technology is needed to overcome. These include: low gravity, giant volcanoes, dust storms, freezing temperatures, cancer-causing high energy radiation, lack of oxygen, and extremophiles.

For facts from Web research, possibilities include:

"…The challenge of entry, descent and landing is how to get something that massive traveling at 19,300 kilometers per hour (12,000 miles per hour) slowed down in six minutes to have a chance of survival." From http://mars.nasa.gov/mer/spotlight/challengesRover01.html Accessed 5 April 2015.

For facts from Web research about propulsion to get to Mars, possibilities include:

"The second Mars Exploration Rover, Opportunity, was the first NASA mission lifted on what is referred to as a Delta II "heavy" rocket. It is a more powerful vehicle that uses larger strap-on solid rocket motors developed for the Delta III launch vehicle. The launch of the MER-B spacecraft was the second use of a core Delta II "heavy" launch vehicle and the first use of a Delta II "heavy" launch vehicle with an upper stage.

The use of this rocket for the Mars Exploration Rover mission helped pave the way for many future space missions that will need a bit more energy to send them on their way beyond Earth.”

From http://mars.nasa.gov/mer/technology/bb_propulsion.html Accessed 5 April 2015.

In describing hostile space environment, look for definition of “single event upsets” and two examples of them.

“The space environment isn't friendly. Hazards range from what engineers call "single event upsets," as when a stray particle of energy passes through a chip in the spacecraft's computer causing a glitch and possibly corrupting data, to massive solar flares, such as the ones that occurred this fall, that can damage or even destroy spacecraft electronics.” From http://mars.nasa.gov/mer/spotlight/challengesRover01.html Accessed 5 April 2015.

2. Living and Working on Mars. LOOK FOR answers that include technology needed to work INSIDE the Space Launch System (SLS) and OUTSIDE of it.

INSIDE: From the book, guide students to the schematic of the SLS on pages 18-19 to understand living and working conditions—and the technology that make it possible—inside the SLS. Keywords and concepts to look for include: waterless laudromat, dodge radiation, slurp food, inflatable habitat, microgravity, Mars lander, simulator mode, and Earth return vehicle.

OUTSIDE: To understand technology needed to conduct scientific work outside of the SLS on Mars, look for the example of collecting rock samples on the Red Planet, pages 22-25. Keywords to look for are: Phobos, Deimos, Phobos rocks, anchor driver, gravity 1,700 times weaker than Earth, Entry-Descent-Landing, Mars’ atmosphere entry speed 7,800 miles per hour, Lander’s underside temperature of 4,000 degrees F, parachute, heat shield, and Lander rockets.

To understand traveling over the Martian surface, see pages 30-33 and look for words: remote-controlled ATV, spacesuit, video cameras, chemical energy, green accelerator button, antenna and dish, smart car, Mars camper, cockpit, robotic arms, toilet, oxygen tanks, fuel cells, and Space Exploration Vehicle (SEV). NOTE: For your strong visual learners/artists, this would be a good topic to enter into your Wiki as an illustration gallery.

DEADLY MARTIAN CONDITIONS: To understand technology used to protect humans from deadly Martian conditions, look for summary of historical first steps on Mars (pages 26-27) and inside the SLS habitat (pages 28-29). Key words to look for include: wearable spacecraft, helmet, wrist controls, boots and gaiters, astronaut initials carved into boot soles on the treads, footprint identification, heads-up display, PLSS, and micrometeorite. For life inside the habitat or Hab, look for keywords: air lock, upper deck, inflatable tunnel, rock samples, and gym.

3. Communicating about Mars. LOOK FOR answers that include mention of technology needed to connect Mars with Earth, recent NASA student programs to send poems and messages to Mars, and communicating a future vision of Mars.

From the book, guide students to topics covered in Phase 3 (pages 16-17) on communicating in Mars. Keywords and phrases to look for in the Wiki entry are: 30 months it takes to reach Mars, perform the mission, return, radio waves, 186,000 miles per second; 3-minute delay Earth to Mars at their closest, 22-minute delay Earth to Mars at opposite sides of the sun.

From esheet Web resources on sending a poem or haiku, or making an art project to send into space see: http://lasp.colorado.edu/maven/goingtomars/

Class Discussion and Enrichment Opportunity

Viewing students’ poems and art projects sent to Mars as a class together is a good way to generate an imaginative discussion, followed by a literature or art break for a robustly integrative lesson in which your class designs its own project, and illustrates the Wiki with it.

To have students communicate the future that technology is making possible in terms of planning a new Martian world, see pages 44-45. Look for key words: terraform, population growth, heat polar ice caps, 100 years Red Mars, 500 years Green Mars, 1,000 years Blue Mars, re-engineering humans.

This teacher sheet is a part of the Mission: Mars lesson.

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