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Discover Mars

What is the ? Was there ever Life on Mars? What does ? The sites below can help you and your students discover the answers to those questions and more. Included: More than two-dozen online resources for teaching and learning about Mars.

On January 3, 2004, at 8:35 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, Mars Exploration Rover Spirit landed on the surface of Mars. The spacecraft, which was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on June 10, 2003, traveled 487 million kilometers -- 302.6 million miles -- on its journey. Spirit's twin, Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, launched on July 7, 2003, is scheduled to land on the opposite side of Mars on January 24, 2004 at 9:05 Pacific Standard Time.

Each golf-cart-sized spacecraft carries five scientific instruments and an abrasion tool -- a panoramic camera, a miniature thermal emission spectrometer, a Mssbauer spectrometer, an alpha-particle x-ray spectrometer, a microscopic imager, and a rock abrasion tool, or "RAT" -- that will be used to explore the environment of the Red Planet and to analyze whether life might have existed there.

千亿体育官网 "Think of Spirit and Opportunity as robotic field geologists," said Dr. Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. "They look around with a stereo, color camera and with an infrared instrument that can classify rock types from a distance. They go to the rocks that seem most interesting. When they get to one, they reach out with a robotic arm that has a handful of tools, a microscope, two instruments for identifying what the rock is made of, and a grinder for getting to a fresh, unweathered surface inside the rock."

千亿体育官网 What can your students learn from those "robotic field geologists"? The possibilities -- whatever grade level you teach -- are astronomical. The Web sites below represent just a sampling of the excellent educational resources available to you and your students.


  • Explore this link to NASA's fun games and activities for kids, learning resources and information for students, and teaching and education resources for educators. You'll also find an animated video tour of the Red Planet.

  • The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research maintains this site containing a huge number of documents, images, movies, animations, and data sets, related to Earth and Space sciences and to the "historical and cultural ties between science, exploration, and the human experience." Kids' pages, provided at elementary, middle school, and high school reading levels, include information about the geology, atmosphere, facts and myths, news, and more about the sun, the comets, the asteroids, and each planet. Kids can play space related games, send a space postcard, ask questions of a space scientist, or submit their own space related art and projects to the online galleries. Teacher resources include a lesson plans in such categories as the Solar System; Atmosphere and Weather; Geology, Oceans and Life; Sun and Spaceweather; and Physics and Chemistry. A number of classroom units created by NASA also are available. Many of the resources at this site also are available in Spanish.

  • Discover an overview of the history, mythology, and current scientific knowledge of each planet and moon in our solar system. Each page contains text and images; some have sounds and movies as well. Most provide references to additional related information.


  • The University of Arizona Press publishes this online chronological history of Mars' observation and exploration from the late19th through the late 20th century.

  • NASA offers games and activities for kids, downloadable templates for building Mars spacecrafts for students, and classroom and professional development resources for students. The site also includes extensive in information about the mission, the spacecraft, the mission team and timeline, as well as images and videos from Mars Exploration Rover.

  • NASA TV provides real time coverage of Agency events and activities, as well as news video, and educational programming.

  • This online easy-to-read newsletter provides the latest information about scientific research and events at NASA. The newsletter also includes such regular features as Science Weather (notice of meteor showers, sunspot activity, and potential aurora events), Sounds of Earth (the sounds the Earth makes in the radio spectrum), and Radio Meteors (the sounds of meteors streaking into Earth's atmosphere).


  • Cornell University offers a number of resources related to Mars exploration, including 11 lesson plans, seven experiments, information about the Martian and directions for making sundials, additional online resources for teachers and students, facts about Mars, information and pictures from the current Mars exploration, and much more.
  • Life on Mars
    This Education World Teacher submitted lesson plan for grades 3-8 takes a look at the question: "Could there be life on Mars?"

  • In this economics WebQuest, students work in groups to participate in a race to Mars.

  • In this mathematics lesson, students improve their concept of time and distance and their understanding of the solar system as they consider the amount of time space travelers might spend on such a journey and what events might occur on Earth while the travelers are on that journey.

  • The Exploratorium page provides information about Mars exploration, Webcasts about Mars, classroom activities and experiments, and the opportunity to send e-cards of Mars. Each lesson, which include Martian Microbes?, Exploring the Martian Environment, and Instruments Aboard the Mars Exploration Rover, provide a central hands-on activity, as well as related information and activities.

  • Add an educational component to NASA research and events through these related lessons, activities, and printable materials.

  • In this activity, part of NASA Classroom of the Future's Exploring the Environment series, students "aboard" the first manned spacecraft to Mars must find a safe landing site. To do that, they first must practice their image processing techniques to analyze some old, low-resolution images of the planet's surface. The site includes Teacher Pages that require free registration.

  • In this online project, students explore their own community and decide which arts, scientific and cultural elements will be important on Mars. They then develop their ideal community, from an inter-disciplinary perspective of arts, sciences and technology.
  • Also see in the General Space Information section.
  • Also see in the Mars News and Information section.


  • NASA's site for elementary school children, provides such activities as , including an Asteroid Potato and a Galactic Mobile; , including crossword puzzles, word searches, and matching games; , which contains interactive demonstrations and hands-on science experiments; about space science and technology; and , poems, pictures, and news submitted by visitors to the site.
  • . This educator's guide from NASA contains six activities for teaching physical, earth, and space science to high school students. Spacelink also provides a number of other

  • The John F. Kennedy Space Center Space Port 千亿体育官网 allow students to complete simulations of launching and landing a Space Shuttle, docking with the International Space Station, and taking a virtual tour of Kennedy Space Center.

  • At this Planetary Association page, kids can read the latest Mars Exploration Rover news, build an EarthDial, crack a secret code, read Astrobot diaries, write President Bush, drive a Lego Rover, and much, much more.

  • Here, kids can take a virtual tour of the Red Planet, launch a spacecraft, explore the planet's canyons and volcanoes, and solve the mystery of whether life can exist on Mars.

  • On this Kids' Cosmos field trip, kids compare the geology of Mars (including its floodplains and waterfalls, volcanoes, lakes and lakebeds, coulees and caverns, earthquakes, sand dunes, and dust devils) to that of the state of Washington. How does it compare to your state?

  • The year is 2058; scientists estimate that more than 2000 people from Earth are arriving on Mars each week. The migration has caused a debate between those who want to turn Mars into a life sustaining planet and those who want to leave Mars as it was. Take a virtual tour of Mars to decide for yourself which option you prefer.

  • Kids take an animated interactive tour of the Mars Rover, view a picture of a Mars habitat, and learn more about the current mission to Mars.
  • Also see the and in the General Space Information section.
  • Also see , , and in the Lesson Plans and Projects section.
  • Also see in the Mars News and Information section.


  • Each day, NASA provides a new image or photograph of the universe, along with a brief explanation of the picture written by a professional astronomer. The site includes an extensive archive.

  • Click a planet to find NASA photographs and images and then learn more about the instruments used to create them.
  • Also see in the Mars News and Information section.
  • Also see the , , and in the General Space Information section.
  • Also see and in the Mars News and Information section.
  • Also see in the Lesson Plans and Projects section.

Article by Linda Starr
Education World®
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