Mission to Mars Student Activity #2
I Can See Clearly Now....

In the last activity, you were unable to see, touch, or even reach the object inside. In this activity, you still will not be able to see the inside, which in this case is a simulated surface of a planet, but you will use a special method to gather more precise information about what the inside looks like.

In May, 1989, the Magellan spacecraft was launched. It arrived at Venus in August of 1990. Because Venus is perpetually covered with thick clouds, Magellan was equipped with a special imager using radar to "see through the clouds" and map over 98% of the surface of the planet.

Click here to see images from the Magellan spacecraft of Venus

How much more detail do you see in these images of Venus than if you were just looking though the clouds?

In this second phase of your training, you will learn how to do a similar type of mapping. You and your teammates will be given a sample of a planet's surface. It will be in a container where it is not possible to directly see it. You will get an idea of hills ,valleys, canyons, or other features by inserting a probe through the top of the container and noting how deep your probe went in before it comes in contact with a solid surface. The deeper the probe goes in, the lower the surface is. You will decide with your teammates what method you want to use to take your measurements. You will have to first prepare your probe:

Probe Calibration: Equipment needed:

  1. Lay your ruler so it is adjacent to your probe stick
  2. Make a mark, either a line or a dot, every cm along the length of the stick
  3. Go back and sequentially number these marks beginning at #1
  4. When you take measurements with your probe, you should always insert the part of the probe marked #1 first!

Planet Surface Mapping Procedure

  1. Be sure that you have calibrated your probe first.
  2. Your planet surface is contained within a Cool Whip container. It is important that, at no time, do you remove the covering material.
  3. Take a sheet of 1 cm grid paper and cut it to fit the top of your container. This will be the grid that you use to keep track of your measurements. You may want to come up with a system for identifying the individual squares. This could include using coordinates or numbers.
  4. Once your grid is prepared and your probe is calibrated, you are ready to begin. Insert the probe, mark #1 should go in first, and gently push the probe down until it comes in contact with a solid surface. Record the closest number that touches your grid on your probe on your data sheet. Then move on to the next measurement.
  5. Your group will need to decide how many measurements are enough. Do you need to sample every cm or is just looking at a few enough? Is there a pattern you could use to reduce the number of squares that have to be sampled but would still give you adequate information?

[Live from Earth & Mars]__________________________________________________