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Here Today; Gone to Mars!
Developing Technologies to Explore the Moon, Mars, and Beyond

New! Click here to follow Along on The Return to Lassen for Results

Scientist Jennifer Helmann at Lassen with Mars background

Welcome to a NASA Quest Challenge!

This challenge is brought to you by the NASA Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD) . As NASA turns its attention to human travel to the Moon and Mars, there are many hurdles that will need to be overcome. NASA Quest challenges students primarily in grades 5-8 to work with the help of NASA scientists to design solutions to these obstacles. During the months of October and November 2005, our focus will be the use of locations on Earth that are similar to the environments of the Moon and Mars. Scientists use these Mars/Moon analogs to help develop and test technologies that will some day enable us to perform research on lunar and planetary surfaces. This Challenge features Mars analog research being done at Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California.

We will seek to answer the questions:

  • Why do we want to go to the Moon and Mars?
  • What are we going to do when we get there?
  • What is the environment like on Mars
  • How does it differ from Earth?
  • What technologies do we need to develop to enable humans to live and work on Mars?

Prepare for the Challenge. Instructors see Teachers' Page:

Good luck and thank you for participating in the Here Today; Gone to Mars! Challenge

(It is anticipated that this design process will not occupy your entire class schedule. This challenge has been stretched out to allow for maximum participation.)





The principal scientists introduced themselves and their work to park staff and visitors at a campfire presentation at Lassen Volcanic National Park. As the scientists determine where this fall's research will take place, journals of the trip are posted online.

After registration, teachers were invited to proceed to the welcome letter for further instructions
Students took a short pretest (online)
Instructors refer to Teachers' Page for challenge lesson guide.
Students begin research and design process with Experts available to help.
Expert responses will be posted to the website.

Helpful Links to get you started: See also Teachers' Page

Get to know your Experts
What is a Mars Analog?
Learn More about Mars Analogs
Be sure to use Research Helps about Mars to help with your designs
Send your questions to -- see the archive of answered questions.

webcast icon11 a.m.

Live from Lassen Volcanic National Park. Tune in to see some of your experts talking about their work, about your challenge and answering your questions -- especially those received before the webcast.
Watch the webcast archive! See growing list of additional answers to your questions in the chat room.

Questions for this phase of design were answered and are online at
This is a growing list. Check back often during your design.



Fieldtrip 2

Journals and Information:

First installment of Chris McKay's Journal: In search of the driest place on Earth; Off to dry Jebel Uweinat

Lassen Volcanic National Park weather station deployment

Bill Clancey documents the fieldtrip
Some of the questions will help your thinking as you design your fieldtrip on Mars:

From Jennifer Heldmann

• Lassen Equipment Schematics
Actual Downloaded data! Excel format

10/31 Preliminary designs due. Helpful hints for sending in your designs.
See Submitted Preliminary Designs!
10/31-11/7 Experts review & give feedback on designs.
Comments from Bill Clancey regarding the preliminary designs.
Comments from Jennifer Heldmann
11/28 Final designs are in!

Part 2 of Chris McKay's Journal: The Heart of Dryness - with Pictures
webcast icon

Final Webcast featuring student designs, NASA expert's work and live question and answer time.

If you have never attended a webcast before visit

Before Winter Break

Students took a short post-challenge survey (online)
Teachers evaluate the Here Today; Gone to Mars Challenge (online)


From Jennifer Heldmann:

Pics from last week of our field site @ Lassen. Still lots of snow and red algae. The strange forground object is an air mattress.

Snow-Survery-Site snow survey site, south view

From Liza Coe:

instruments peeking out through snow
This photo was taken yesterday, Aug. 23, from about 10 yards away from the instruments.
instruments seen at a distance with lots of snow algae
This photo was taken today, Aug. 24. There's quite a bit of algae on either side of the instrumentation, following the flow downhill towards the left.

This year has brought a bumper crop of algae - much more than usual ... Steve hiked up fairly close to the camera and got a look at it thru binoculars - all appeared to be in good shape and in the same place/set up as you all left it


Photos from Ranger Steve Zachary

NASA Fieldsite 9-9-06 001 NASA Fieldsite 9-9-06 002 NASA Fieldsite 9-9-06 003
NASA Fieldsite 9-9-06 004 NASA Fieldsite 9-9-06 005


Instruments as placed in October of '05

Jen Heldmann led a team to Lassen Volcanic National Park on Sept 21-22, 2006 to download data from instrumentation installed at the field site last year.

Heldmann is collecting data within a snowpack (e.g. temperature profiles, light transmission profiles, runoff events, air temperature, humidity, etc.) to understand the physical conditions within a snowpack to assess (a) habitability conditions and (b) potential for runoff and habitability in snow & ice deposits on Mars.

Instruments as found 9/06
Instruments as they looked when installed in October '05

Click on either photo for more detail
Full set of photos
See original equipment schematics photos(.pdf document)

Instruments as they looked when retrieved in September '06


  1. The PPT file shows 5 plots of temperature from each of the 5 arms on the tripod. You can clearly see where there was no snow (and hence the temperature changes much over the course of the day) versus where the sensor is covered in snow (and the temperature stays pretty constant at about 0 deg C).
  2. The Excel file contains the raw data & plots on temperature, dew pt, abs humidity, and relative humidity.
  3. The remote digital camera also worked and recorded one image each day from October 18, 2005 - February 3, 2006. Then the camera battery died and the images fade to black. Very nice. I'm still trying to put those together in a short movie of some sort to send out to everyone.
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NASA Official: Mark León
Last Updated: May 2005
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