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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.


The final consensus

After weeks and weeks of dedicated effort by participating students and educators, a final PLANET EXPLORER TOOLKIT emerged, which was determined on the basis of collaborative input shared online. The following represents THE UNIVERSAL BEST TOOLKIT for all planetary explorers who embarked on their "mission launch" and exploration.

Like the Mars Pathfinder Mission Team, students had to make tradeoffs between cost and size, making their final choice of instruments a critical one that required much discussion. These "all important tools" helped in uniquely describing local Planetary Sites as students collected data to share globally with one another and use in follow-up interpretive activities.


  1. Thermometer (Celsius) - for air, ground, water temps

  2. Anemometer (just like Mars Pathfinder we used a Windsock!) - determined wind speed (using Beaufort's scale for wind speed) and wind vane and compass for wind direction.* (*See below for more details.)

  3. Disposable Camera (color/24 images - for capturing images of the site

  4. Ten-power Magnifying lens -- for close up views

  5. Compass -- used for determining direction of winds and plotting data collection site

  6. Topographical map of site -- for interpretation of terrain, assisting in data collection plotting, etc.

  7. Metric Tape - measurements, used for showing scale in images, etc.

  8. Protractor, 0.5M string, and weight -- for determining latitude via angle measurements

  9. Zip lock bags, film containers, and airtight containers -- for "sample collection" of soil, rock, vegetation, water, etc.

  10. Dissecting kit -- replaced Swiss Army Knife

  11. Small rock hammer -- assisted in collecting rock samples, digging for soil sample, etc.

  12. Pencils (mechanical), small notebook, permanent felt markers, and specimen labels (may use masking tape), graph paper -- for recording observations, creating plot map of site noting locations of samples, labeling samples

  13. Core sampler -- small section of plastic piping for collecting soil sample

  14. Gloves -- for use by sample collectors to prevent contamination of samples


  1. Anemometer: Wind speed was measured with an instrument called an anemometer but we used a wind sock and Beaufort's scale. It was important to measure wind speed in an open area, as nearby buildings and narrow alleys could have significantly change the speed of the wind -- Bernoulli's Principle at work. If winds were gusty, an average of several readings taken over the course of a few minutes were made.

    Wind direction was measured with a wind vane. Students determined the wind direction by tying a lightweight streamer to the end of a long pole and used a compass to note North, South, East and West, and intermediate degrees. They held the pole up in the air at the center of the "compass rose." The direction of the wind was opposite to the direction in which the tail of the streamer is pointing. As with wind speed, measurements of wind direction were made in an open area away from nearby tall obstacles which could have greatly influenced the local direction of the wind.

  2. Sample Collection: Classes submitted information describing the soil, water, rocks, plants, trees, animals (birds, insects, etc.) native to their site. They did not bring guide books along but had recording instruments (pencil, notebook, etc.) and collection tools to gather samples. A 50-ml water sample was collected (for those with water on site) and classes had the water tested for pH, hardness and iron.

    Students conducted these tests within their classrooms or utilized a water-testing service. Soil was analyzed for composition using the method suggested by Eileen Bendixsen who referred us to this URL: http://k12science.ati.stevens-tech.edu/~djazwin/

  3. Latitude/Longitude: All classes reported their latitude/longitude in degrees N or S of the equator and degrees E or W of the prime meridian.

  4. Classes reported descriptive information including terrain, biome, indigenous plant and animal life, etc..

We would like to thank Dr. Sanjay Limaye, Dr. David Mittman, and Dr. Peter Smith, who served as our guest experts throughout the DESIGN PHASE of the P.E.T. Their insights and suggestions have broadened our perspectives and our understanding of mission planning and the challenges that real mission planners face. We would also like to thank Eileen Bendixsen and Mike Reynolds again for their assistance with budget analysis and data submission form construction! All participants deserve a HUGE PAT-ON-THE-BACK for your dedication, critical thinking, and contributions online during the DESIGN PHASE! :-) Thanks to ALL!

The Live From Mars broadcast on April 24, 1997 called "Cruising Between the Planets" featured the Planet Explorer Toolkit.