Virtual Field Trip:
Mars

Grade: 3rd-6th

Mars is the fourth planet from the sun in our solar system. Visit the surface of Mars in a 3D simulation, meet the Mars rovers, and build your own Mars lander!

Materials

  • Computer

  • Internet connection

  • Printout of the Phoenix lander (Best printed on cardstock, ideally #110)

  • Balloon

  • Paper clip

  • Glue stick or Elmer’s glue

  • Transparent tape

  • Scissors

Click to visit the surface of Mars!

Instructions

  1. Explore the surface of Mars in 3D using real photos taken by Curiosity with Access Mars

    1. Watch the intro video

    2. Follow Curiosity’s path from its landing site, through the Pahrump Hills, the Marias Pass, and the Murray Buttes, all the way to its current location.

    3. Make sure to click on icons for more information about Curiosity and the locations you are seeing!

  1. Meet the Mars rovers and take the quiz below to see how well you know the rovers:

Click to meet NASA's Mars rovers!

3. Build a Mars lander

  1. Watch the video below about the Phoenix lander

        • Your lander will mimic the final descent, after the parachute has detached and the retrorockets have turned on.

    1. Construct the lander per the instructions on the print-out

    2. Fly the lander per the instructions on the print-out

    3. Test to see if you can improve the landing by changing:

        • The height from which you drop it

        • The amount of air in the balloon

Questions to Ask:

  1. Why were some parts of the 3D map gray and some were in color?

  2. What’s the difference between a Mars rover and a Mars lander?

  3. How were each of the Mars rover missions different?

  4. How do you think everyone at NASA was feeling during the Phoenix Mars landing, based on the video you watched?

  5. There were no people aboard the Phoenix lander. Why was it so important that the lander touched down safely?

Expanding the Activity:

  1. Make a Mars Rover Game in Scratch using resources from the NASA Jet Propulsion lab

  2. Design an Astronaut Lander with enough shock absorption to safely land two astronauts

  3. Color this picture of the Curiosity rover

Resources:

  • Mars in a Minute: Watch short videos about Mars from the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab answering questions like “What’s Inside Mars?” and “How Did Mars Get Such Enormous Mountains?”

  • All About Mars: quick facts about the Red Planet (including why it’s called the Red Planet)

  • Mars Trek: View satellite imagery and perform analysis on data from Mars