Mission to Mars Student Activity #3

Congratulations! You have now progressed to the next stage in your mission specialist training for a mission to Mars. You have had experiences in learning how to gather information about an object when you could not see it, and how to determine the surface by probing it for depth. Most important, you have learned how to be careful in using a method to guide your observations. The final phase of your training will take you back to the Red Planet.

Click here for "current conditions" on Mars

Would this be a good day to land Pathfinder on Mars based on current weather conditions? Is there anything happening that could cause problems?

NASA began a new series of Discovery missions in 1996 and returned to the active exploration of Mars after a 20 year hiatus. Mars Global Surveyor was launched 7 November, followed by Mars Pathfinder on 4 December. Global Surveyor carries a Thermal Emission Spectrometer (TES) to collect data from space and the surface of Mars. The Pathfinder mission consists of a stationary lander and a surface rover. One of the tasks of the rover, Sojourner, will be to do long-range and close-up surface imaging in the area of Ares Vallis.

Click on any part of this picture to see the chances of Pathfinder landing there

Give the location of where you think Pathfinder might land! Be sure that you base this on the landing site criteria you set up at the beginning of this module.

Close-up image of Ares Vallis

Why do you think NASA has chosen this area as a landing site?

In Activity #3 you will have more tools to help you visualize the surface of the Planet. Initially, you will use data from Viking 1, a probe that was launched in 1975. (When Pathfinder data becomes available after its landing on July 4, 1997, that data will be available through Live from Earth and Mars, the host of this curriculum module) You will have visual images as well as measurements of the height, width, and location of the rocks as seen from the lander. You will have access to a data table (see the "rock files") that shows the location of rocks 9 meters in front of the lander and 15 meters wide. Please note the key that is used to help you understand the data:

X indicates how far to the right or left of the Lander
Y indicates how far up from the lander the rock is
XL how long the rock is (meters)
W how wide the rock is (meters)
H how high the rock is (meters)

Note: there are positive and negative distances

Like you did in Activity #2 where you simulated the mapping of Venus activity, you will want to make a grid to accurately keep track of where to locate objects before you start to build your model. Your mission is to build an accurate model of the surface in front of the lander. By accurate, it must
1) place rocks in the correct position
2) correctly size the rocks
3) use appropriate colors (see color scale on side of lander)
You may choose whether or not to scale your model or build it to actual size. There are a number of different kinds of building materials you might choose to use, Teacher Reference, but your goal is for accuracy.

You might want to view other Viking panoramic images to guide you in the development of your model! Click here to see surface images of Mars

Final Presentation- "Touchdown!"

You and your teammates will present your landing site model to a panel of geologists from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. In this simulated symposium, your job is to help JPL decide if this might be an appropriate site for a manned mission to follow up on. Remember, that first of all, you must have a quality model to present. Second, remember your initial list of 5 important things to consider in choosing a landing site. Does your model meet these criteria? You must convince JPL that your model is accurate and present your recommendation as to whether or not this site should be placed on the preliminary landing site selection list for a future manned mission.

[Live from Earth & Mars]__________________________________________________