Destination: Mars

 

 

For centuries, the planet Mars has fascinated Earth-dwellers. It has been a key feature of Greek and Roman mythology. It has also been an inspiration to authors and poets.

 

Apart from flights of fantasy, Mars has been the subject of intense scientific scrutiny. Besides the moon and the Earth it is the body in our solar system that we know most. Now, it is the subject of many space missions. It is hoped one of these missions may reveal some of the ancient secrets of the red planet. Within decades it is expected Mars will become the first planet colonised by humans.

 

Activities

 

n       What is the distance between Mars and Earth in kilometres? If a radio signal travels at the speed of light calculate how long it takes for a radio signal to reach Earth from Mars.

 

n       Draw a diagram to show how contact is maintained with the Mars rover.

 

n       At times the probes are not in visual contact and yet repairs still have to be made. Draw a Venn diagram to show the similarities and differences between fixing something on Earth and on Mars. Consider the differences between fixing a software glitch and a hardware problem.

 

n       How do you fix something at a distance? Write a procedure for mending a toy that you suspect has flat batteries.

 

n       Describe the types of information gathered by the Mars probes and rovers. How will this information be used?

 

n       Consider the climate and terrain on Mars and design suitable clothing for a group of scientists who will live and work on Mars.

 

n       What do you think about the prospect of colonizing Mars? Predict what you think would be the long-term effect on mankind.

 

n       List the evidence that scientists use to support their argument that Mars has (or had) the potential to support life.

 

n       Do the latest photos support the notion of Mars being the ``red planet''? Use your knowledge about Mars and the latest scientific findings to paint a representation of the surface of Mars.

 

n       Debate - "The costs involved in landing a spacecraft on Mars can be justified."

 

n       Write an explanation of why the exploration of Mars is so newsworthy.

 

 

Websites

 

Manned Mission to Mars

www.androidpubs.com

Includes articles and links centred on the topic of placing human beings on Mars and proposes an interesting method for getting them there.

 

NASA

www.nasa.gov

Just about everything you wanted to know about US space exploration can be found here on the official NASA website. There are special sections on the current Mars missions and even special sections for children.

 

Mars

http://seds.lpl.arizona.edu/nineplanets/nineplanets/mars.html

An overview of Mars including facts on the planet and missions to it.

 

Planet Mars Chronology

http://humbabe.arc.nasa.gov/mgcm/fun/mars_chro.html

Going back to the 16th century this site looks at some of the highpoints in Mars exploration up to the first probe in 1965. There are also articles such as "Mars in Popular Culture''.

 

 

Books

 

The Night Sky

By Steve Massey

A book about how to explore the heavens, be it with the naked eye, binoculars or through a telescope. It includes useful facts on some of the objects you will find in the sky (New Holland).

 

Mission to Mars

By Jeffrey Kluger

This article covers many aspects of Mars exploration- the current missions, the possibility of landing humans on mars, how much it would cost and how justifiable is such a mission (Time Magazine January 26, 2004).

 

DK Space Encyclopaedia

By Heather Couper and Nigel Henbest

Almost everything you wanted to know about space including the facts about stars and planets to space exploration (Dorling Kindersley).

 

Solar System

By Nigel Hey

Looks at the human fascination with the heavens and how we have come to know what we know about our solar system (Weidenfeld & Nicholson).

 

Spinning Through Space Space Mysteries

By Dr Mike Goldsmith

Answers some of the big questions about space such as "Why is Mars Red?'' (Wayland).

 

The Solar System

By Chris Cooper

An illustrated introduction to the wonders of the solar system for younger readers. (Wayland).