Teacher’s Guide

Teaching Suggestions for
Mars So Near!

      Article / Page

"Mars in 2003: It’s the Best!" pg. 6
  • In August, Mars and Earth will be closer together than at any other time in the past 59,000 years. NASA scientists will launch the Mars Express in June. Now’s the time to begin observing the Red Planet.
  • Observation, Spatial Relations
"The Water of Mars," pg. 9
  • Liquid water has shaped the surface of Mars throughout its 4.5-billion-year history. Underground ice may mean that life once evolved or that humans could someday colonize.
  • Inductive Reasoning, Process Analysis
"Trailblazing Robots . . . Footsteps to Follow," pg. 12
  • Orbiters, airborne scouting vehicles, state-of-the-art landers, and roving science laboratories are all part of NASA’s plans for exploration of Mars.
  • Process Analysis, Applications
"Persistent Martian" (Brain Strain), pg. 17
  • Invent a mathematical sequence with a persistence of 3.
  • Following Directions, Pattern Recognition
"Roving Around the Red Planet," pg. 18
  • Next year, twin Mars Exploration Rovers will land on Mars. Sporting stereo cameras, thermal emission spectrometers, rock abrasion tools, and microscope imagers, the rovers will transmit data to scientists back on Earth.
  • Deductive Reasoning, Applications
"Debriefing Dr. Payload" (People to Discover), pg. 21
  • ODYSSEY interviews Steve Squyres, head of the Athena Project, the science payload aboard the Mars Exploration Rovers. He explains how the rovers are controlled, how long the mission will take, what will happen to the data from the mission, and how his career brought him to this point.
  • Problem-Solving, Careers in Science
"Reaching for the Stars," pg. 24
  • Emily Dean began working for NASA while a sophomore in high school. Now in college, she continues to be an active member of the MER (Mars Exploration Rovers) team.
  • Careers in Science, Research and Development
"Beagle 2 Mars," pg. 26
  • When the Mars Express mission takes off, the lander Beagle 2 will be on board. On the Red Planet, it will look for water and other signs of life. A sidebar (pg. 27) tells what went wrong with the Japanese Nozomi mission to Mars. Another (pg. 29) explains how agencies compete and cooperate to send their data back to Earth.
  • Vocabulary, Problem-Solving
"Weird Mars," pg. 30
  • NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor is now in its third year of photographing and mapping. Its images answer some old questions and raise some new ones.
  • Forming Hypotheses, Drawing Conclusions
"Exploring Mars . . . on Earth," pg. 32
  • Under the ice of an Antarctic lake, deep in the caves of New Mexico, and at the controls of robotic machines, three scientists probe Mars-like environments and develop techniques that may someday unlock the secrets of the Red Planet. Sidebars discuss how humans might breathe the Martian atmosphere (pg. 34) and how the planet might be terraformed to resemble Earth (pg. 35).
  • Applications, Deductive Reasoning
"Where on Earth is Mars?" (Activity), pg. 36
  • Examine the eight Earth locations shown. Which one might make the best analog for the study of Mars? Send your answer to ODYSSEY.
  • Finding Connections, Inductive Reasoning
"Martians Everywhere!", pg. 38
  • Mars has always been a part of our culture, from ancient mythology to modern science fiction. Even our candy bars remind us of the Red Planet.
  • Cultural Evolution, Historical Connections
"What’s Up" and "Planet Watch," pg. 40
  • Mercury, Saturn, and Jupiter are evening planets, while Mars and Venus are visible before dawn. Observe a total lunar eclipse on May 15.
  • Observation, Following Directions
"Making a Tactile Star Chart" (Activity), pg. 42
  • Grab some puff paint and create your own 3-D star chart.
  • Observation, Following Directions
Think Tank (Discussion Starters to Use Before Reading the Magazine):
  1. There are many projects that NASA could tackle, but money is always tight. If you were in charge of NASA, what three projects would you consider most important – and why?
  2. Make a list of books, movies, and TV shows about Mars. How accurate were they? What facts did they get wrong?
Classroom "Syzygy":     Talk, Connect, Assess
Pg. 9 – "The Water of Mars"
  • Talk It Over:
    1. What evidence suggests that liquid water once flowed on Mars?
    2. The presence of water on Mars changes how we feel about our planetary neighbor. What new possibilities arise? What new dangers? Will water on the planet make exploration easier or more difficult? If we learn that microscopic life forms exist on Mars, would we be wrong to land there and change the planet’s natural evolution?
  • Connections:
    1. Visual Arts: Select one time in the geologic history of Mars and draw or paint a picture of the planet’s surface as it might have appeared then. Be ready to explain how the effects of water can be seen in your artwork.
    2. History: In your library, find a factual article about Mars that is at least 20 years old. What "facts" have changed since it was published? What new evidence led to these changes? Why is it safe to predict that what we "know" today about Mars will change in the future, just as it has in the past?
    3. Language Arts: Pretend that you are the first geologist to explore Mars. Write a diary entry detailing your first day’s discoveries. Include realistic details, but make sure that you convey the sense of wonder that an explorer would undoubtedly feel when first setting foot on Mars.
  • Student Assessment:
    1. Water is essential to life. From this premise, explain in an essay why Mars may have been (and may still be) capable of supporting life.
    2. Write and deliver a speech to persuade a skeptical audience that humans can someday live on Mars, despite its thin atmosphere and dry terrain.
pg. 12 – "Trailblazing Robots . . . Footsteps to Follow"
  • Talk It Over:
    1. Is there a logical order to exploring a new planet? Do some missions need to come before others? Why? What precautions must be taken, and how can early missions promote safety in later ones?
    2. NASA must choose from four candidates for its 2007 Mars Scout program. Review the four missions (pgs. 15-16) and discuss which you think should be NASA’s choice. What considerations affect your thinking?
  • Connections:
    1. Graphic Arts: Select one of the future Mars missions described on the bottom panels of pages 14 and 15. Search NASA’s Web site to learn more about it (www.nasa.gov), and then create drawings to explain the project to a company NASA might hire to build the hardware. Use diagrams to show the devices that need to be constructed. Add text to explain how the hardware will be used in the mission.
    2. Sociology: If humans someday colonize Mars, who should be allowed to go? Scientists? Teachers? Farmers? Spiritual leaders? Should couples marry and have children on Mars? Establish your plans for the social makeup of the first permanent Mars settlement.
    3. Creative Writing: If machines could write poetry, what would they say? Pretend you are the Netlander, a Mars airplane, or the Smart Lander. Write a personal poem describing how you feel about the things you discover on Mars.
  • Student Assessment:
    1. Select one of the four possible 2007 Mars missions and write a persuasive essay to convince NASA to choose it. Give reasons why you think that your choice is better than the other three.
    2. Should people travel to Mars in the future, or are unmanned missions better? Think carefully about the pros and cons of this issue – including our impact on the Martian environment – and take one side of the question. Prepare a speech to defend your position, or hold a class debate.
Far Out!: Moving Beyond the Magazine (Space Exploration Trivia Version)

Alan Shepard, Jr., was the first American in space, but who was the second?

Whole-Class Project: Design a Mars colony and make a bulletin board display depicting it. Make sure your plan provides a sustainable atmosphere, water supply, and food supply for the colonists. Also, what will be the purpose of your base? Exploration? Terraforming? Mining? Show how the design fits the purpose.

What did cosmonaut Alexei Leonov accomplish on March 18, 1965?

Community Connection: Contact a group of amateur astronomers in your area and ask to join them for an evening observation. At the observation, everyone should learn as much as possible about identifying objects in the night sky, using a telescope or binoculars, and keeping an observation log. Share what you have learned from the astronomers and make plans for observing Mars when it is closest to Earth in August.

In July 1969, Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the moon. Who stayed behind on Apollo?

Individual or Whole-Class Project: Construct and display a time line highlighting important events in our understanding of the planet Mars. Begin with early myths and continue through 2050 with planned or predicted Mars missions.

When was the last Apollo moon mission?

Small-Group Presentation: Visit an elementary school class to present a program about Mars. Working in teams of three or four, and using the articles in the issue as your guide, plan brief talks or audiovisual presentations on a variety of topics. Make sure your presentations are both informative and entertaining.

ANSWERS: Virgil "Gus" Grissom; the first to walk in space; Michael Collins; Apollo 17, Dec. 7-19, 1972.