Missions to Mars

After our Moon unit, with a focus on the Apollo Missions, we are now looking at Mars. We have talked about the Orion Spacecraft (link) and how we want to return to the moon and eventually travel to an asteroid or Mars (link).

I posed the question: What are some of the different ways we can get information from Mars if people haven’t been there yet? We then discussed the differences between a flyby (paparazzi photographers), orbiters (satellites), landers (stuck in one spot), and rovers (robots that drive).

Before showing the video above, I asked the students to think about how the Curiosity Rover landed on Mars and to brainstorm what the sequence of events would look like for it to get from here to there.

They came up with some really great ideas, and many of them named a few of the different steps from the sequence of events. After seeing the video, we discussed each step of the sequence and why they had to happen in that order, and where things could go wrong. About 50% of our missions to Mars (all countries) have ended in failure.

To get further background information, we looked at the history of Mars exploration. Where have we been? What do we know? What do we want to know? What worked? What didn’t work?

For this activity, I divided the class into small groups. Each group was given a time period of Mars Exploration from the 1960s to future missions. Once each group gathered information for their missions, we briefly discussed each one.

Materials

  • Laptop
  • Google Spreadsheet – (public link)
    • shared file per class: each group is assigned one tab to complete OR
    • shared file per group: each member of the group will complete one tab of information
  • NASA Mars Missions website – (link)
  • NASA JPL All Missions website – (link)

Current Mars Missions

For more lessons about Mars, see my Space Science Page.

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