This material was developed for the Live From Mars project
by Passport to Knowledge. Live
From Mars was a precursor to Mars Team Online.
Activity A.4: Mission Planning: Geography
- Students will demonstrate the ability to explain how appropriately
or inappropriately researchers, terrestrial or alien, can generalize
about a planet's character based on a limited sample of landing
sites or observations.
- Students will demonstrate the ability to (1) use latitude and
longitude to locate specific locations on Earth, and (2) evaluate
that location as a potential landing site for alien space missions.
Mars Mission Logbooks
list of possible and actual Viking Landing sites:
Have students list reasons scientists might want to explore an
unknown planet. Ask them if one landing site on an unknown planet
would provide all the data necessary to understand that planet.
Tell them that in this Activity they must become alien scientists
whose mission is to explore Earth! (See also Activity
B.2: "Where Next?")
Possible Viking Landing sites: (NASA EB-112)
1. Hand out or otherwise display the chart showing the Martian latitudes
and longitudes which were considered possible landing sites for the Viking
2. Working in small teams, students are to address the following challenge:
If MASA (The Martian Aeronautics and Space Administration) sent spacecraft
to land at the same latitudes and longitudes on Earth as NASA considered
for Mars, where would each spacecraft land? What hazards would be encountered?
What might happen to the spacecraft? What would the spacecraft see? Would
it detect water? Life? Bacteria? Intelligence?
3. If you were working for MASA, which sites would you pick for a landing
on Earth? Why? For each site, identify the hazards that your spacecraft
lander would have to survive. What would you expect to find?
Organize your information into a chart that you might present at the
next MASA Mission Planning meeting.
Mars Mission Logbook Entry: Research and find out where Pathfinder
is scheduled to land and the rationale for choosing this location. See:
for Project Scientist Matt Golombek's discussion of why Ares Vallis was
- Create a MASA Earth Mission Log: what was your adventure like? Were
you scared, excited, curious? What were your first words-back to Mars,
or to any Earthlings you met?
- Create a broadcast news report or a front page of the "Mars Daily
News" or the "Snows of Olympus Times," reporting this momentous occasion.
("First Close-ups of Earth: Mobile Lifeforms detected. Each bears unique
number plate, and belches Carbon Monoxide. Giant Bi-pedal Parasites
inside..."). Include vital Earth statistics and factual information
about the landing site as well as human-interest reports from the MASA
crew. Tape for your school's Science Expo or parent night, share with
administrators-and send to Passport to Knowledge.
- E-mail other schools involved in LFM. Have students plot their locations
on a U.S. and/or world map as you receive replies.
Suggested URL http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/marsland.html