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NASA Mars Exploration Program
Mars Exploration Program

NASA Summer of Innovation Collection

2012 NASA Summer of Innovation Collection

In 2012 Mars Rover, Curiosity landed on the planet Mars. Why? Because we are curious! We have a lot of questions. We want to know if life ever arose on Mars. We want to know about its climate, its geology, and in the big picture, we want to learn as much as we can about the planet so we can prepare for human exploration. We encourage you to embrace your own curiosity and participate in this series of activities that help you learn about the planet Mars and prepare you for the culminating challenge of imagining and designing your own Mars community.

Step 1: Reflect on your community

Step 1: Reflect on your community

Lesson Document Lesson Description Prep Time Lesson Time Supporting Materials
1. Reflect on Your Community
Full Lesson (PDF, 1.6 Mb)

- Lesson Only (PDF, 967 Kb)
- Student Guide Only (PDF, 281 Kb)
- Teacher Guide Only (PDF, 953 Kb)

Students draft a plan of an ideal community to serve as a springboard to consider what it would take to live on Mars. 30 min. 2-3 hrs. Slideshow: Mars Past Present and Future
: Where Does Your Curiosity Lead?
Discover information about Mars

Step 2: Discover information about Mars

Lesson Document Lesson Description Prep Time Lesson Time Supporting Materials
2. Earth, Earth's Moon, Mars Balloons
- Grades K-4 (PDF, 757 Kb)
- Grade 5 (PDF, 760 Kb)
- Middle School (PDF, 760 Kb)

Standards Alignment:
- Grades K-4 (PDF, 1.2 Mb)
- Grade 5 (PDF, 1.1 Mb)
- Middle School (PDF, 1.1 Mb)

Students construct scale models of Earth, Moon, & Mars to discover size and scale.  Associated Mars Information Slideshow:  Through a PowerPoint Presentation, students learn about the environmental constraints that would affect human habitation of Mars. 10 min. 75 min. Video: Mars in a Minute: How Do You Get To Mars?
3. Solar System Scale & Size
- Grades K-4 (PDF, 299 Kb)
- Grades 5-8 (PDF, 300 Kb)

Standards Alignment:
- Grades K-4 (PDF, 1 Mb)
- Grade 5 (PDF, 992 Kb)
- Middle School (PDF, 987 Kb)

Students will create a model of the solar system using beads and string, and compare planetary sizes using common types of fruit and seeds.  This lesson follows the simple balloon model in Lesson 2, covering the relationships of size and distance in the solar system. 20 min. 1 hr. Slideshow: Distance to Mars
Video: The Challenges of Getting to Mars: Launching a Mars Rover
4. Discovering Mars
Full Lesson (PDF, 801 Kb)

- Lesson Only (PDF, 907 Kb)
- Student Guide Only (PDF, 153 Kb)
- Teacher Guide Only (PDF, 426 Kb)

Students gain background knowledge about environmental factors on Mars through taking notes while viewing a PowerPoint presentation. They then clarify the challenges of living on Mars by generating a list of potential environmental problems. 5 min. 1 hr. Slideshow: Things to know before you go
: Mars in a Minute: Is Mars Really Red
5. Soda Straw Rockets
Full Lesson (PDF, 743 Kb)

- Lesson Only (PDF, 502 Kb)
- Student Guide Only (PDF, 360 Kb)
- Teacher Guide Only (PDF, 456 Kb)

By building rockets out of simple drinking straws, students investigate how variations in a rocket’s nose cone influences distance of flights. 45 min. 90 min. Slideshow: Landing on Mars is Hard
Video: The Challenges of Getting to Mars: The Cruise To Mars
6. Strange, New Planet
Full Lesson (PDF, 1.43 Mb)

- Lesson Only (PDF, 1.48 Mb)
- Student Guide Only (PDF, 194 Kb)
- Teacher Guide Only (PDF, 684 Kb)

This hands-on lesson using play dough engages students in the way in which humans explore planets through a variety of missions from Earth-based telescopes to rovers. 45 min. 2 hrs. Slideshow: A Strange New Planet
7. Marsbound
- Grades 5-12 (PDF, 571 Kb)
- Game Board (PDF, 566 Kb)
- Game Board (tiled for printing)
(PDF, 9.74 Mb)
- Game Cards (PDF, 1.07 Mb)

Standards Alignment:
- Grade 5 (PDF, 1 Mb)
- Middle School (PDF, 1 Mb)
- High School (PDF, 1 Mb)

By playing an interactive card game, students create a mission that balances science return with mission constraints. 1 hr. 3 45-min. sessions Video: How do you Land On Mars?
8. Lava Layering
- Grade 4 (PDF, 7.2 Mb)
- Middle School (PDF, 7.2 Mb)

Standards Alignment:
- Grade 4 (PDF, 2.7 Mb)
- Middle School (PDF, 2.7 Mb)

By creating models of lava flows with play dough, students analyze the layers that form on a planet to understand its history. 10 min. 90 min Slideshow: Exploring Layers
9. Mystery Planet
- Grades K-8 (PDF, 3.7 Mb)

Standards Alignment:
- Grades 2-5 (PDF, 2.9 Mb)
- Middle School (PDF, 2.8 Mb)

After receiving crustal samples, students observe the characteristics and make inferences about the history of an unknown planet, including whether it might have life. 10 min. 90 min Slideshow: Mystery Planet
10. Rover Races
- Grades 3-5 (PDF, 2.9 Mb)
- Grades 6-12 (PDF, 2.9 Mb)

Standards Alignment:
- Grades 3-5 (PDF, 1.1 Mb)
- Middle School (PDF, 1.1 Mb)
- High School (PDF, 1.1 Mb)

Working in small teams, students pretend to be a rover and learn the constraints of operating a rover on Mars. 45 min. 105 min. Video: The Challenges of Getting to Mars: Selecting a Landing Site
11. Mars Image Analysis
- Grades 5-12 (PDF, 17 Mb)
- Supplemental Materials (PDF, 30 Mb)
- Student Guide (PDF, 7.7 Mb)

Standards Alignment:
- Middle School (PDF, 8.2 Mb)
- High School (PDF, 8.2 Mb)

Students use orbital images of Mars to analyze its environment. 10 min. 3 hrs. Mars Image Analysis (PDF, 9.79 MB)
Slideshow: Mars Images Past and Present

Video: Mars Science Laboratory Landing Site: Gale Crater
Imagine your community on Mars

Step 3: Imagine your community on Mars

Lesson Document Lesson Description Prep Time Lesson Time Supporting Materials
12. Imagine Your Community on Mars
Full Lesson: (PDF, 1.03 Mb)

- Lesson Only: (PDF, 980 Kb)
- Student Guide Only: (PDF, 205 Kb)
- Teacher Guide Only: (PDF, 623 Kb)

Students draft community plan ideas laden with technologies to help overcome environmental and cultural constraints of living on Mars. 5 min. 2-3 hrs. Slideshow: Inter-Related Mars Missions
Testing Curiosity Parachute Part 1-4
Create your community on Mars

Step 4: Create your community on Mars

Lesson Document Lesson Description Prep Time Lesson Time Supporting Materials
13. Constructing Your Sustainable Communities on Mars
Full Lesson: (PDF, 2.35 Mb)

- Lesson Only: (PDF, 1.07 Mb)
- Student Guide Only: (PDF, 3.07 Mb)
- Teacher Guide Only: (PDF, 475 Kb)

After analyzing multiple design ideas, students create a 3-D model of a community on Mars. 15 min. 2-3 hrs. Building Curiosity Series
Video: Getting Wired for Mars
Video: Landing System Drop Test
Video: Rover Shakedown
Video: Curiosity's Stunt Double Takes a Spin
Video: The Big Move for Next Mars Rover
Video: Mars Rover Power

Step 5: Share

Lesson Document Lesson Description Prep Time Lesson Time Supporting Materials
14. Present Your Community Designs
Full Lesson: (PDF, 1.01 Mb)

- Lesson Only: (PDF, 1.14 Mb)
- Student Guide Only: (PDF, 319 Kb)
- Teacher Guide Only: (PDF, 561 Kb)

Applying learning from presentation experts, students prepare a formal presentation and give a report about their communities. 10 min. 2-3 hrs. None