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Exploration Of MarsExploration-Of-Mars

  • Subject: Space Science
  • |
  • Grade(s): 9-12
  • |
  • Duration: Two class periods

Lesson Plan Sections

Objectives



Students will understand the following:
1. Since the dawn of the space age in the 1960s, we have sent spacecraft to the most easily reached places in our solar system, such as Mars.
2. For exploration of celestial bodies, NASA has developed a three-phase strategy: reconnaissance, surveillance, and in-depth study.
3. Each mission to Mars has made specific discoveries and raised questions to be answered by future missions.

Materials


For this lesson, you will need:
Research materials about recent exploration within our solar system
Computer with Internet access

Procedures


1. Begin the activity by initiating a brief discussion in which your students express their opinions about whether there is life on Mars. Ask them to back up their opinions with facts they have learned.
2. Conclude the discussion by reviewing with your students what they know about spacecraft that have been sent by NASA to explore our solar system. Let students know that since the 1960s, we have sent spacecraft to explore Mars and other places in our solar system that are most easily reached.
3. Mention that NASA has developed a three-phase strategy for scientific exploration of celestial bodies. Then tell the class that they are going to be finding out more about NASA’s program and plans for further exploration of the solar system. Invite them to suggest ways of conducting their research.
4. Have groups of students contact NASA to learn the basic outline of the three-phase strategy (reconnaissance, surveillance, in-depth study). They should find out the criteria and limits that define each phase, discover which technologies each phase utilizes for exploration, and understand how each phase builds on information learned from the previous phase.
5. Have students do further research, using materials you have provided and the Internet, to learn about past missions to Mars, what discoveries were made on each mission, and what questions were raised by each mission.
6. The members of each group should work together to produce a report on their findings.
7. Have the groups share their reports; then, as a class, create a time line entitled “Missions to Mars.” The time line should date each mission and categorize the missions into their strategic phases.

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Adaptations


Adaptations for Older Students:
Have students do further research to explore the funding for exploration of Mars and other areas of our solar system. How much money has been spent on the program? Where does the money come from? The class might divide into groups to debate whether the benefit to society justifies the expenditure required to explore other planets.

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Discussion Questions


1. Discuss how meteorites are classified?
2. Discuss why Mars is referred to as the "red planet"? What do we know about the geologic history, surface, and atmosphere of Mars?
3. Even before this meteorite was discovered, there has been discussion about life on Mars. What other scientific observations launched this speculation?
4. What technology is available today that was not available 100 years ago to analyze a meteorite?
5. Discuss the significance of the tiny fractures found on the rock?

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Evaluation


You can evaluate your students on their reports using the following three-point rubric:
  • Three points:reports clear, complete, well organized, and error-free

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  • Two points:reports fairly clear, sufficiently well organized, with some errors

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  • One point:reports sketchy and vague, poorly organized, with numerous errors

You can ask your students to contribute to the assessment rubric by determining what information the report should provide.

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Extensions


Creature from Outer Space!
Invite students to create a creature that would survive on Mars. Suggest they describe and draw the physical features of the creature and then explain in writing how it performs survival functions, such as eating, communicating, breathing, and so on. Interested students might go on to write science-fiction stories describing the first manned mission to Mars and the first human contact with the creatures they created.

Voyages to Mars
Direct your students to the Life on Mars home page on the Federation of American Scientists Web site. They will find that currently nine scientific projects aimed at exploring Mars are in preparation. Challenge students to find out how each mission plans to meet its objective and what technological problems each mission needs to overcome. For example, the spacecraft may have to generate a supply of oxygen on the surface of Mars in order to fuel the return home. How might that be accomplished?

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Suggested Readings


"Steps to Mars II: A Conference Report"
Louis D Friedman and Others, Planetary Report, November/December, 1995


"The Martian Chronicles"
Traci Watson, Shannon Brownlee and Marc A. Shulte, U.S. News and World Report, August 19, 1996


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Links


Searching for Evidence of Water on Mars [PDF]
Find information and additional activities on this topic at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab website.

Live from Mars
This site has excellent videos for teachers to use with their students. The "Teacher's Lounge" hyperlink has discussion groups and a very useful "Teacher's Guide for Projects," with lessons and worksheets. Click on "An Introduction to Electronic Field Trips," with step-by-step and easy-to-follow instructions on how to conduct an electronic field trip. The "Kid's Corner" is a great place to see kids at work on the projects, with photos and descriptions. The "Student Stumpers" hyperlink contains riddles written by students for others to solve, and the "Photo Gallery" is an extensive collection of good pictures.

 

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Vocabulary


Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.

speaker    abstract
Definition:A written summary that concentrates on the essentials of a subject.
Context:We sent the abstract up to NASA headquarters.

speaker    biogenic
Definition:Relating to living organisms.
Context:...We could be seeing biogenic activity in a microfossil.

speaker    carbonates
Definition:Compounds that are derivatives of carbonic acid.
Context:Dissolved in the water were minerals called carbonates.

speaker    galaxy
Definition:A massive assembly of hundreds of millions of stars, gas and dust.
Context:It implies that there is life on many places in our galaxy.

speaker    mass spectrometer
Definition:An instrument that identifies the chemical composition of a substance.
Context:Professor Richard Zare was using a dual laser mass spectrometer.

speaker    meteorite
Definition:The metallic or stony remains of a meteor.
Context:The world was formally introduced to meteorite ALH84001 on August 7,1996.

speaker    microfossils
Definition:Fossils that may be a fragment of a larger organism and may be studied only microscopically.
Context:We saw some pictures that looked like microfossils.

speaker    oxidized
Definition:Combined with oxygen.
Context:A substantial amount of the iron is highly oxidized.

speaker    planet
Definition:Any nonluminous celestial body that orbits around a star.
Context:The development of life on planets like the earth is a normal thing.

speaker    stars
Definition:Luminous celestial bodies composed of self-contained hot gases.
Context:...A major search ...for radio signals from civilizations on the planets of other stars.

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Standards


This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
 
Grade level:6-8
Subject area:space science
Standard:
Understands basic earth processes.
Benchmarks:
Knows that fossils provide important evidence of how life and environmental conditions have changed on Earth over time.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:space science
Standard:
Understands essential ideas about the composition and structure of the universe and the Earth's place in it.
Benchmarks:
Knows the scientific account of the universe comes from studying evidence about its contents and imagining, with the help of mathematical models and computer simulation how the contents got to be the way they are.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:life science
Standard:
Knows about the diversity and unity that characterize life.
Benchmarks:
Knows that organisms are classified into a hierarchy of groups and subgroups based on their similarities and reflecting their evolutionary relationships; the similarity of organisms inferred from similarity in their molecular structure closely matches the classification based on anatomical similarities.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:life science
Standard:
Understands the genetic basis for the transfer of biological characteristics from one generation to the next.
Benchmarks:
Knows that in all organisms, the instructions for specifying the characteristics of the organism are carried in DNA; the chemical and structural properties of DNA explain how the genetic information that underlies heredity is both encoded in genes and replicated.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:life science
Standard:
Knows the general structure and functions of cells in organisms.
Benchmarks:
Knows that cells store and use information to guide their functions; the genetic information stored in DNA is used to direct the synthesis of the thousands of proteins that each cell requires.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:life science
Standard:
Understands the cycling of matter and flow of energy through the living environment.
Benchmarks:
Knows that the amount of life any environment can support is limited by the available energy, water, oxygen, and materials, and by the ability of ecosystems to recycle the residue of dead organic materials.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:technology
Standard:
Understands the nature of scientific knowledge.
Benchmarks:
Knows that scientific explanations must meet certain criteria; they must be consistent with experimental and observational evidence about nature; and they must include a logical structure, rules of evidence, openness to criticism, reporting methods and procedures, and a commitment to making knowledge public.

 

Knows that because all scientific ideas depend on experimental and observational confirmation, all scientific knowledge is, in principle, subject to change as new evidence becomes available; in areas where data, information or understanding is incomplete it is normal for scientific ideas to be incomplete, but this is also where the opportunity for making advances may be the greatest.

 

Knows that from time to time, majors shifts occur in the scientific view of how the world works, but usually the changes that take place in the body of scientific knowledge are small modifications of prior knowledge; change and continuity are persistent features of science.

 

Knows that in science, the testing, revising, and occasional discarding of theories, new and old, never ends; this ongoing process leads to an increasingly better understanding of how thing work in the world, but not to absolute truth.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:technology
Standard:
Understands the nature of scientific inquiry.
Benchmarks:
Knows that the results of scientific inquiry-new knowledge and methods-emerge from different types of investigations, and public communication among scientists; the nature of communicating and defending the results of scientific inquiry is guided by criteria of being logical and empirical and by connections between natural phenomena, investigations, and the historical body of scientific knowledge.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:technology
Standard:
Understands the scientific enterprise.
Benchmarks:
Knows that progress in science and technology can relate to social issues and challenges.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:technology
Standard:
Understands the interactions of science, technology and society.
Benchmarks:
Knows that science often advances with the introduction of new technologies and solving technological problems often results in new scientific knowledge; new technologies often extend the current levels of scientific understanding and introduce new arenas of research.

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Credit


Summer Productions, Inc.

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