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ROVERQUEST: The Rover has Landed! But Where?

To allow students to gain experience in the use of maps, measurements and observations to determine location of objects.

To demonstrate how objects can be located with precision accuracy when distances are great (e.g. millions of miles away).

The Rover has Landed! But Where?
When a spacecraft is sent to another planet to land on the surface, how do scientists know where it really landed? Two rovers have been sent to Mars. The landing ellipses are approximately 62 miles (~100 km) by 12.5 miles (~20 km) in size. The rover teams will determine the exact location of the rover landing site within the ellipse using a combination of orbital maps, ground-based observations, and triangulation.


  1. Each team will create their own landing site using their 4 objects (distribute them within a two meter area.
  2. Have the students measure all the items in their landing site (taking measurements of each object, including any uneven objects).
  3. Have the students construct a profile map of their landing site on the graph paper using their measurements. Use a 10 cm = 1km scale.
  4. Have the students drop their paper template from a height of 1 meter to land somewhere within their landing ellipse.
  5. More steps here...
The student team worksheets can be used for assessment of this lesson. The Teams could also prepare a Powerpoint presentation on the results of their efforts.

Grade Level
Time Frame
45 minutes
Materials Needed

Per team of 4 students

Meter stick or ruler with metric measurements

4 meters of string

Protractor or use paper template provided

Student Handout Sheet

Lander paper template

4 common objects (books, rocks, shoes, etc.)

1 sheet of graph paper (not larger than 1/2 grid)


Digital camera to take "orbital" views of team landing sites

Polaroid camera to take "orbital" views of team landing sites

Student Handout Sheet  Student Handout
- Triangulation
- Landing ellipse
- Morphology
More Resources
Mars Exploration Rover
Mars Pathfinder
Credits & Feedback
ASU Mars Education Program
Mars Space Flight Facility
Arizona State University
(480) 965-1788
Mars Pathfinder Landing Site Imagery

National Science Education Standards:
A. Abilities Necessary to Do Scientific Inquiry
  • Identify questions that can be answered through scientific investigations.
  • Design and conduct a scientific investigation.
  • Use appropriate tools and techniques to gather data and extend the senses.
  • Develop descriptions, explanations, predictions, and models using evidence.
  • Think critically and logically to make the relationships between evidence and explanations.
  • Recognize and analyze alternative explanations and predictions.
  • Communicate scientific procedures and explanations.
  • Use mathematics in all aspects of scientific inquiry.
E. Abilities of Technological Design
  • Identify a simple problem.
  • Propose a solution.
  • Implement proposed solutions.
  • Evaluate product or design.
  • Communicate a problem, design, and solution.
G. Nature of Scientific Knowledge
  • Science distinguishes itself from other ways of knowing and from other bodies of knowledge through the use of empirical standards, logical arguments, and skepticism, as scientists strive for the best possible explanations about the natural world.
  • Scientific explanations must be consistent with experimental and observational evidence about nature, and must make accurate predictions about systems being studied. They should also be logical, respect the rules of evidence, be open to criticism, report methods and procedures, and make knowledge public.
  • All scientific knowledge is subject to change as new evidence becomes available.
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