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This material was developed for Live From Mars, a Passport to Knowledge project. Live From Mars was a precursor to Mars Team Online.

Where in the World are these P.E.T. Mystery Sites?


This fun and challenging activity was an "enrichment" activity developed in association with the Planet Explorer Toolkit online collaborative activity. Students and their sponsoring educators submitted over 80 proposals for their "best 'Planet Explorer Toolkit'" which contained instruments and tools that would uniquely describe their planet -- Earth. Their work parallels that of the Mars Mission scientists and engineers who planned the instrument payload for Mars Pathfinder.

The 84 proposals presented over 350 distinct "tools" which, through online discussion/debate, were reduced to fourteen tools including a Celsius thermometer, windsock and compass, disposable camera, sample collection tools and other items. Each class used the same TOOLKIT for data collection at their unique site.

Classes around the nation scheduled their "Launch Phase" data collection field trips to a local Planetary Data Input Site and collected data that uniquely describes the area. The data and images collected were submitted online and are accessible via the Mars Team Online Web site. You will find the PDI forms submitted by classes at:

Collectively, these PDI forms provided base data for this activity, enabling students to identify weather patterns, biomes, and other characteristics of participating sites.


Just as participating P.E.T. classes collected data and images from their unique Planetary Data Input Site, Mystery Site Hosts collected DATA and IMAGES from sites around the U.S. and international locales. Students of grade levels 3 through 12 participated in solving "Where In the World Are These P.E.T. Mystery Sites?"

Different levels of participation were offered for elementary students (Gr. 3-5), middle school students (Gr. 6-8) and high school students (Gr. 9-12).

Students accessed the Mystery Site PDI data at:

Each Mystery Site has a PDI (Planetary Data Input) form and accompanying images taken "on location" which uniquely describe the site. The data does NOT include the latitude and longitude of the location or the time zone. The GOAL was be to determine the LOCATION of the Mystery Site.

Elementary and middle school students had a range of choices (given in latitude and longitude) from which to select their answers. Elementary students had THREE choices, whereas middle school students had FIVE choices. High school students were given a range of latitude and longitude within which the Mystery Sites are located. High school students did not have specific choices, but instead, submitted their best answer citing the latitude and longitude for each of the five Mystery Sites.

In the case of the high school level: The class(es)/student(s) submitting the closest answers for the Mystery Sites were the winner(s).

In the case of the elementary and middle school participants: The winners were selected from those entries with the highest number of correct answers (five maximum).


  1. Students analyzed Planetary Data Input data and images in order to identify clues to the location of the mystery site.

  2. Students demonstrated how to use latitude and longitude to locate a specific point on Earth, properly noting the coordinates in degrees and minutes along with the compass direction (N or S for latitude and E or W for longitude).

  3. Students effectively utilized multiple reference sources including online resources, comparing Mystery Site weather and biome data, and geography/geology with possible locations.

  4. Students demonstrated teamwork, task delegation, and cooperative discussion techniques.

  5. Using deductive reasoning, students narrowed the possibilities of Mystery Site locations selecting the "best possible choice" on the basis of their data analysis.

  6. Students justified/defended their Mystery Site locations based on evidence collected during their research.


Winning entries from each grade level range were selected based on random drawings from CORRECT entries. Special prizes and certificates were awarded to the winning classes. All participating classes were recognized online and with a recognition certificate. The answers to this activity are available.