Lunar Expedition
Mission: Mars
Suborbital Sojourn
Asteroid Encounter
Orbital Laboratory®
K-3 Space®

"I am amazed at the quality of the Mars Explorer simulation. This activity allowed my students to use their knowledge of basic geology concepts on Earth and apply them to the other planets in the Solar System, especially Mars. The students are amazed that Mars has similar features as Earth, such as mountains, volcanoes, valleys, polar ice caps, and dust storms."

- Teacher Tony Marinelli
Willoughby Middle School
Willoughby, OH


"My students had a great time with the Marslink program. Even more so, their parents have been thrilled by their interest and excitement. The programs are wonderfully motivational and allow students of all levels to excel. The launches emphasize the importance of being able to work with fellow team members and help make the connection between classroom studies and real-world situations. The excitement sparks that enthusiasm for space travel that might result in a career. Thanks for providing education with such an excellent program."

- Teacher Brenda Scott
Booneville Middle School
Booneville, MS

In Mission: Mars, students take on the roles of scientists and engineers as they send spacecraft to Mars. Students work in teams or as individuals to accomplish the specific goals of each mission. The missions are authentic experiences that give students a unique perspective on what goes into a space mission.

Preparation and follow-up activities are important components of the mission simulation experience. Lesson plans were designed with flexibility in mind and cover topics such as:

  • Doppler Gravity
  • Life on Mars
  • Kepler's Laws
  • Nature of Light
  • Mars Overview
  • Getting to Mars
  • They also utilize a number of different teaching formats to ensure learning opportunities for all students.

    Mars Explorer simulates driving a Mars Exploration Rover on the surface of Mars. Students embark on this simulation individually as they analyze individual rocks scattered throughout the surface of Mars. In this simulation, students examine Martian data to compare various landing sites. Once they have chosen their landing site, they launch their rover. The students watch an animation of the rover from the time it sits on the launch pad until it lands on Mars and opens up for deployment.

    On the planet, students use spectrometers and rock abrasion tools on all of the rocks they examine. Students accumulate points as they complete a list of mission objectives, and their final score demonstrates the success of their mission. Through the experience, students gain an understanding of what scientists look for as they drive the NASA rovers on the surface of Mars.

    In Marslink®, students simulate mission control as they place the Mars Odyssey spacecraft in orbit around the planet Mars. Students work together as 12 mission control positions to launch a simulated rocket over the Internet. Many of the actions are authentic and scripted, but each mission must overcome anomalies that are not part of the script. Through all the tasks the students perform, they learn about the positions that must work together to get a spacecraft to Mars.

    The mission takes students through three phases of the Odyssey mission. The first is the launch sequence, in which students turn equipment on and count down to liftoff. The second phase is the cruise phase, where students perform trajectory correction maneuvers to make sure the spacecraft is following the correct path to Mars. The last phase takes students through aerobraking, which is the process where the spacecraft skims through the atmosphere to slow down the spacecraft. Once the craft is in orbit, students finish the mission by turning on their science instruments to let the spacecraft collect and transmit data from Mars.

    When the mission is complete, students can go into the data laboratory and analyze data collected during the NASA mission. This program takes the spacecraft data and lets students look at the values in color with a realistic 3-D landscape, providing a realistic ending to any successful mission.

    Space Explorers applets are an exceptional tool to not only illustrate complex concepts, but also allow students to make and test predictions. The inquiry-based applets complement the lesson plans and simulations while allowing students to learn at their own pace. These are ideal for visual and hands-on learners.

    The Interactive Applets were created to allow students to test out various scenarios to better understand the forces involved in asteroid impacts, trajectory correction techniques, launch windows, and aerobraking calculations. These allow for a fun, fast paced learning experience related to NASA missions. The Applets are designed to be completed online, and include corresponding lesson plans combining contextual and activity-based exercises to key science concepts with fun, interactive activities.

    Students begin exploring the Space Library® by selecting what interests them most. Space Library® has detailed information about the planets, the Sun, the Moon, comets, rockets & X-planes, deep space, asteroids, and live missions. For each planet in our solar system, students will find planetary data, images, information about past, current, and future missions, and much more.

    The Space Library is comprised of engaging articles that aid students to apply research and critical thinking skills. Teachers can direct students to the Space Library as they seek answers to questions and conduct further investigations.

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