February 5 - February 9, 2001
Forum 2/5 - 2/9
Live Webcast 2/9 10:00 a.m. PT / 1:00 p.m. ET
[Educational Objectives and Standards]
[Supporting Educational Materials]
There are five areas that students can use in preparation for the debate
- Scientific Goal and Questions
- Video clips of scientists
- Images of Mars landing sites
- Web sites to research
Scientific Goal and Questions (These are the questions
that scientists hope to answer with the site chosen for the
Explorer Rover 2003 mission)
The mission seeks to determine the history of climate and
at a site on Mars where conditions may once have been
to life. The landing sites have not yet been chosen, and
will be selected on the basis of intensive study of orbital data collected
by the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft and other missions. The site will
be ones at which there is clear evidence that liquid water
was once present. The rovers' scientific instruments will be
to read the geologic record at each site, to investigate
water played there, and to determine how suitable the
would have been for life.
1. Does or did Mars have all of the requirements for life?
places on Mars are most likely to have had all requirements
Life as we know it requires:
2. Since scientists believe that life may have and possibly still
exist under the surface of Mars, where might rocks that were
once underground be exposed on the surface?
- liquid water
- an energy source
- access to elemental building blocks of life: Carbon,
Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Sulfur to construct basic proteins and
enzymes. This means that pure water will not produce life.
needs to be a connection between water and rock.
- stability over time (stable temperature without
from too many meteorites, for example) Note: We are
for bacterial life, not complex life such as animals or
3. Where might we see evidence of liquid water
on Mars in the past?
4. What locations on Mars might tell us more about the geologic history
5. How is water important to the climate on Earth and how might it be
important to the climate of Mars?
Landing Site Constraints
Because they are solar powered, the Rovers need the maximum amount of
sunlight possible during their 90 day mission. This means that MER-A
(Mars Exploration Rover A) which will land first, can have landing sites
between latitude of 15 degrees south to 5 degrees north. MER-B which will
land about 52 Mars days (sols) later can have landing sites between 10
degrees south and 10 degrees north.
In order to receive and transmit data, the Rovers need to be 37 degrees
apart on the surface of Mars.
The surface has to be relatively flat in order for a successful landing of
the Rovers. It cannot have too many large rocks because it can be a
hazard to the Rover. The landing will be similar to the Pathfinder
landing and uses giant air bags to cushion it's landing. Because the
scientists want to study the rocks and soil at the landing site,
there cannot be too much dust from the atmosphere covering the rocks.
The data collected from the Mars Global Surveyor which currently in orbit
around Mars has information about how dusty the surface is. This map of
the range of latitude of landing sites gives information on how dusty the
surface is. The blue areas have more dust and the red and white areas have
the least amount of dust. You can try to match features from this map with
landing site maps. site
Images of Mars Landing Sites
These are the sites being considered for the 2003 Rovers:
down a little to the Interactive Map Display. Select the small squares
to see images of the sites. Click on them again to see an gray-scale
close-up view of the site) Sites
Types of Sites
Specific landing site images by categories will be
added here on 2/2 under each category.
Valles Marineris Sites: These are sites located in parts of the canyon
system that is as long as the width of the United States.
Example of this type of site: Melas
Terra Meridiani Hematite Sites: Sites located on Mars by Global
Surveyor that have sand-sized grains of the mineral
hematite. Hematite is a common iron mineral found on Earth and
usually occurs where rock has interacted with water. The grains
in this deposit are grey, similar to the hematite used to make jewelry
because of their size. The red grains in the dust of Mars are the size of
powdered sugar. An example of this type of site: Hematite
Paleo-lake Sites: Ancient lake bed. Example of this type of site:
Hydrothermal Sites: Hydrothermal means warm or hot water
is or has interacted with rock. This interaction alters the composition of
of this type of site:
Apollinaris Patera 2
Web sites to research:
On-line Education and
Outreach by Mary Urquhart, Ph.D.
A teachers tour guide to
A Question of
life on Mars
Rover 2003 Landing Site Conference Program and Abstracts You will
Click on numbers by titles of the abstracts to see scientists abstracts
describing the site they would choose and why. (This is not written
at a K-12 level)
These sites will be exciting for you to explore and learn more about
astrobiology and life in extreme environments.
interactive, multimedia Web environment allows students in grades
5-8 role-play NASA occupations as they search for and build a planet
that would be habitable to humans.