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Summer of Curiosity Mission to Mars Challenge
 

In celebration of the Mars Science Laboratory’s arrival to the Red Planet later this summer, the External Relations Office is sharing a variety of activities and online resources with JSC employees. For 10 weeks in June, July and August, JSC families are encouraged to complete the weekly activities that illustrate what’s needed for a six month journey to Mars, a one year stay there and a six month return trip to Earth.

The hands-on activities are fun, dynamic lessons that an adult and a child can do together at home. The online resources are interactive experiences fit for a middle school student. All JSC families will be invited to the August 16 Voyage Back to School event at Space Center Houston to celebrate their summer STEM experiences and showcase their Mars challenge results. Families are encouraged to submit pictures of the process and bring completed projects for display.
Summer of Curiosity

Please visit this site weekly for updates and additional information.


JSC External Relations, Office of Education, 281-483-6686


Planning a mission to the Red Planet is no easy task! Below is a Mission to Mars Planning Journal to help you and your family organize your thoughts and complete the weekly objectives.

> Mission to Mars Planning Journal (PDF)


Weekly Activites:






Week 10

Mission To Mars – Voyage Back to School Event

Congratulations!!!  Over the course of the last two months, you and your family have planned, designed and constructed many items needed for a human mission to Mars.   Now that you have completed the Summer of Curiosity Mission to Mars Challenge, it is time to celebrate and showcase what you have created.

Your task for this week is share what your family have accomplished by bringing the Mission to Mars drawings and models to the Voyage Back to School event at Space Center Houston on August 16th.  Please contact Patricia Moore at 281-483-6686 if you are interested in displaying models.

Please spread the word and invite your family and friends!!  Celebrate the return to school and summer successes at the Voyage Back to School event at Space Center Houston.  The event is FREE to the public and highlights NASA’s Summer of Innovation initiative and the excitement of Mars exploration.  Space Center Houston and JSC will host free STEM exhibits and hands-on activities to all families.  Meet an astronaut, create a Mars lander, challenge your friends to a robot race, and much more! 

For additional information visit http://www.spacecenter.org/SummerOfInnovation.html






Week 9

Mission To Mars and the Johnson Space Center

Over the course of the last two months, you and your family have planned, designed and constructed many items needed for a human mission to Mars.   The Johnson Space Center will have a crucial role in the planning and implementation of a true human mission to Mars in the next 30 years.

Even though the first human mission is decades away, the Johnson Space Center is developing and testing new methods and technology in preparation of a Mars mission.  Our center is equipped with incredible training facilities,  laboratories and control centers that have been used in hundreds of human missions.

During week 9, we are going to step away from planning a mission to Mars and focus on how Johnson Space Center will support future human missions to the Red Planet.

The first task for week 9 is to research what makes the Johnson Space Center unique and how the center may support a future Mars mission.  Use the web resources below to learn about a few of the specialized facilities located at the Johnson Space Center.  Don’t forget to list your favorite projects and facilities in your Mission to Mars Planning Journal!  Please add your favorite projects and facilities you have learned about in previous weeks to the Journal as well.

The second task is to interview a family member that works at Johnson Space Center to appreciate how they support the center and how their job/role may change when the first human mission to Mars is planned.  Please use the sample interview questions below to guide the interview.


Web Resources:

>Mission Control

>ISS Live! Explore Mission Control

>Space Vehicle Mock-up Facility (SVMF)

>Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL)

>Lunar Sample Laboratory Facility

>Altitude/Environmental/Space Testing Facilities

>Morpheus Lander

Sample Interview questions:

  1. What are your current roles and responsibilities at JSC?
  2. What do you like best about your job?
  3. What is the most challenging aspect of your position?
  4. Did you always want to work for NASA?
  5. What did you do as a young person to prepare you for this career?
  6. When NASA plans and implements the first human mission to Mars, how might your current position support the mission? Will it stay the same or change?

How to get the conversation started...

Start the conversation with the kids in your family by asking:

What training facilities, laboratories and special projects are located at JSC? (Mission Control, NBL, SVMF…)

How might these training facilities and projects support a future human mission to Mars?






Week Eight:

Mission To Mars – Robotic Support

Thanks to the Mars rovers, landers and orbiters, NASA has learned a tremendous amount of information about the Red Planet. These robots have been instrumental in exploring Mars and are assisting scientists as they look for a future location for the first human mission.

Robots have worked alongside astronauts for years, and will continue to do so as we go beyond Earth orbit and explore the Solar System. NASA is currently developing and testing several robots that will support astronauts as they travel farther from Earth and many of them are developed right here, in our own backyard at the Johnson Space Center.

The first task for week 8 is to research the current robots in development which will assist astronauts in exploring future destinations. Watch the videos and visit the website listed below to gain a better understanding of how astronauts and robots will support NASA’s missions.

The second task is to apply what you have learned about NASA’s robots and create a robot of your own! Be creative – draw a picture or build a model out of materials from home.

The third task and final task for week 8 is to and record your plan in your Mission Planning Journal by explaining how astronauts may use robots to explore Mars.


Web Resources:

> Space Exploration Vehicle (SEV)

> ATHLETE Rover

> Robonaut 2


Videos:

> Space Exploration Vehicle (SEV)

> ATHLETE Rover

> Robonaut 2


How to get the conversation started...

Start the conversation with the kids in your family by asking:

What is the purpose of a robot? (To perform a job or task for a human)

Why do humans need robots? (To perform tasks that are difficult, dangerous or mundane to humans)

How can robots make the life of an astronaut easier and safer? (Perform dangerous jobs, help them travel farther distances…)

What types of robots would be useful to astronauts living on Mars?






Week Seven:

Mission To Mars – Landing on Mars

There is nothing easy about landing on Mars! So, how do you land? Well, very carefully of course! As your spacecraft hurtles toward the planet at thousands of miles per hour, you are going to have to hit the brakes in a hurry!

NASA has developed several methods for landing on Mars. The Curiosity rover will demonstrate one of these methods on August 5th!

The first task for week 7 is to watch the videos listed below to gain a better understanding of the different landing methods currently used.

The second task is to complete the Egg Drop Lander activity. You and your family will be challenged to design a protective package and successfully land a raw egg, unbroken from a fall to the ground.

The third task is to determine how you will land your Mars Habitat and crew on Mars and then record your plan in your Mission to Mars Planning Journal (PDF). You may choose any NASA landing method or invent your own!


Activity:

> Egg Drop Lander (PDF)


Videos:

> How do you land on Mars?

> How Hard is it to Land Curiosity on Mars?

> Landing Practice

> Curiosity’s 7 Minutes of Terror


How to get the conversation started...

Start the conversation with the kids in your family by asking:

What do you think is needed to land a robot, habitat or crew vehicle on Mars? (heat shield, parachutes, rockets…)

Based on the current landing methods shown in the videos, what do you think is the safest method for landing a crew of astronauts on Mars?






Week Six:

Mission To Mars – Design a Martian Habitat

Even in space, there is no place like home! After a long day of collecting geological samples on Mars, astronauts need a home to return to.

NASA architects, engineers and scientists are already busy with exactly that – a sustainable, laboratory and living quarters for the next-generation of human spaceflight missions. The Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) Habitation Systems project is currently testing the Deep Space Habitat to expand a human presence to more extreme environments, such as Mars.

The first task for week 6 is to research the current designs and testing of the Deep Space Habitat. Use the web resources and video below to gain a greater understanding of the habitat.

The second task is to apply what you have learned about the Deep Space Habitat and create a Mars Habitat of your own! Be creative – draw a picture or build a model out of materials from home.

Don’t forget to use the Mission to Mars Planning Journal (PDF) to help organize your mission!


Web Resources:

> Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) Habitation Systems

> Deep Space Habitat Fact Sheet


Videos:

>Space Habitat Demonstration Unit – Deep Space Habitat Configuration


How to get the conversation started...

Start the conversation with the kids in your family by asking:

What hazards must the astronauts be protected from while living on the surface of Mars? (cold temperature, wind, dust storms, radiation, CO2 atmosphere…)

How will you protect the astronauts from these hazardous conditions?

What rooms and features will your habitat include?






Week Five:

Mission To Mars – Living in Extreme Environments

When you are hungry, you go to the grocery store and buy food. When you are thirsty, you drink running water from a faucet. When you need oxygen to breath, you breathe the air that is all around you. On Earth, basic resources are all around us! But what happens when it is time for astronauts to spend six months on a mission to get to Mars, live on the surface of Mars for a year, and then travel another six months to get back to Earth?

Week five of the Summer of Curiosity Mission to Mars Challenge focuses on how NASA will help astronauts live in extreme environments. An extreme environment is a place that exhibits conditions which are difficult for living organisms. Space and the planet Mars are extreme environments. Space is void of food, water and air. Mars is void of food, liquid water and oxygen. So, how will NASA provide basic needs to astronauts traveling to and living on Mars?

Your first objective for this week is to make a list of the basic needs astronauts will require while living in space and on Mars.

Your second objective is to watch the four videos below to understand what technologies NASA is developing which provide basic needs to astronauts traveling beyond Earth orbit.

Your final task for the week is to create and test a water filtering system. Use the activity lesson below to design a purification system that will clean dirty, smelly water. and turn it into fresh drinking water for your Martian journey!


Activity:

> Cleaning Water


Videos:

> Why NASA Scientist Study Plants

> Recycling Water in Space

> Real World: Environmental Control on the International Space Station


How to get the conversation started...

Start the conversation with the kids in your family by asking:

What do humans need to survive?

What is NASA developing that will provide basic needs to the astronauts?

How do we recycle water on Earth?

How does NASA recycle water on the International Space Station?

If you were a NASA engineer, how would you help the astronauts living on Mars?






Week Four:

Mission To Mars – Rocket and CEV Design

Week four of the Summer of Curiosity Mission to Mars Challenge will challenge your engineering skills as you apply your knowledge of rockets and Newton’s Laws of Motion while you design and build a model of the rocket and Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) that will take astronauts to Mars!

Before you begin collecting paper towel rolls, 2 liter bottles, paper and markers, take a look at the Delta IV Heavy Booster and the Orion Multi Purpose Crew Exploration Vehicle that NASA is building and testing right now! This will help you understand the relationship between a rocket and the crew vehicle.

Your next task is to research the different forms of rocket propulsion and decide which method you will use to launch your crew into space.

The final task for the week is to design and build a model of your Mars rocket that includes the CEV the astronauts will live in as they travel to Mars. You may use any materials you wish and are encouraged to be creative!!

Don’t forget to use the Mission to Mars Planning Journal (PDF) to help organize your mission!


Videos:

> Join the Mission Orion (Choose from the menu on the right)

> Orion: Exploration Flight Test-1 Animation with Narration (Choose from the menu on the right)


Web Resources:

> Types of Rocket Propulsion

> Delta IV Heavy Booster

> Orion – Multi Purpose Crew Vehicle


How to get the conversation started...

Start the conversation with the kids in your family by asking:

What basic parts will your rocket need? (fins, body tube(s), nose cone…)

How will the crew vehicle attach to the rocket and then break away once it leaves Earth?

What forms of rocket propulsion are currently available or in development? ( liquid chemical rocket, solid chemical rocket, ion engine, nuclear thermal engine…)






Week Three:

Mission To Mars – Rocket Science

Explosions, thrust and forces, oh my!! Welcome to the third week of the Summer of Curiosity Mission to Mars Challenge. This week is all about rocket science.

Launching a rocket from Earth to Mars is not an easy task. This week’s objectives include watching a series of short videos, understanding Newton’s Laws of Motion and applying those principals as you build your rocket of choice. Don’t forget to use the Mission to Mars Planning Journal (PDF) to organize your mission plans!


Videos:

> How do you get to Mars?

> Using Math and Science to Plan for the Next Generation of Spacecraft

> Launchpad: Newton's Laws On-Board the International Space Station


Activities:

Please select one of the two rocket activities below.

> Soda Straw Rocket (Beginner Rocket Lesson) (PDF)

> Foam Rocket Activity (Intermediate Rocket Lesson) (PDF)


Additional Background Information:

> How Rockets Work (PDF)

> Applying Newton’s Laws (PDF)


How to get the conversation started...

Start the conversation with the kids in your family by asking:

What is the purpose of a rocket? (To launch people and payloads into space)

What outside forces may affect the rocket’s flight? (Example: friction, drag, gravity…) How can you minimize these effects? (Example: low mass, aerodynamic design…)

In your own words, explain how the mass of a rocket affects the force needed for launch. (Example: The greater the mass of the rocket the greater the force required to lift the rocket off the ground.)

Why is understanding Newton’s Laws of Motion important to rocketry? (Example: Scientists need to know the mass of the rocket to calculate how much fuel is needed and how much force is required for launch.)

Why is trajectory important when launching a rocket to Mars? (Example: Mars and Earth are both orbiting around the Sun. About every two years, the two planets are in perfect positions to get to Mars with the least amount of rocket fuel. The rocket has to be launched and be aimed where Mars will be at the end of the journey not where it is now.)






Week Two:

Mission To Mars - Choose Your Martian Destination and Crew

Welcome to the second week of the Summer of Curiosity Mission to Mars Challenge. This week, your first objective is to continue to learn about the surface of Mars by watching a series of videos and then use your newfound knowledge to choose the landing site that will be inhabited by a crew of astronauts. Once you have chosen your landing site, illustrate the location with a model, map or image. Your second objective, is to choose the number of astronauts needed for the mission and determine the areas of expertise needed to complete a six month journey to Mars, a one year stay and a six month return trip to Earth.

Choose your Destination:

  1. Watch the videos listed below
  2. Choose the mission destination
  3. Create a model, map or drawing of the landing site

Choose your Crew:

  1. Choose the number astronauts assigned to the mission
  2. Determine the areas of expertise for each astronaut. (Engineers, scientists, pilots, doctors, etc..)


Videos:

> Did you know that NASA found water on Mars?

> Real World: Farewell to the Mars Phoenix Lander

> Launchpad: Curiosity Goes to Mars


How to get the conversation started...

Start the conversation with the kids in your family by asking:

What areas of Mars has NASA explored? Why do you think NASA scientists are interested in those locations? Would each of those locations be a logical place for the first Mars base?

Is there a destination on Mars that is if of interest to you that has not been explored by a rover or lander? What about this location peeks you interest?

Based on everything you have learned, what do you believe is the best location for a human base and why?

What type of talents and skills are needed to be a Mars mission astronaut?

How many men and women will travel to Mars and what will each of the astronauts do?






Week One:

Kick off the Summer of Curiosity by getting to know the Red Planet

The first person to set foot on Mars might be in middle school right now! Could the first astronaut to explore the Red Planet be your child, niece/nephew or grandchild? In celebration of the Mars Science Laboratory’s arrival to the Red Planet later this summer, the External Relations Office will share a variety of activities and online resources with JSC employees. For 10 weeks in June, July and August, JSC families are encouraged to complete the weekly activities that illustrate what’s needed for a six month journey to Mars, a one year stay and a six month return trip to Earth.

All JSC families will be invited to the Voyage Back to School event at Space Center Houston on August 16 to celebrate their summer STEM experiences and Mars challenge results.

The first step in planning a two year crewed mission to Mars is to ask the simple question, “What is Mars like?” A great to way to do that is to compare Mars to the planet we know best, Earth. Below is a web link to an activity that asks students to compare Mars to Earth. Students will step into the role of a NASA scientist by observing satellite imagery that will show the similarities and difference of the two planets.


Activity Link:

> Mission Geography (PDF)


Additional Resources:

> Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
> Mars Global Surveyor
> Google Mars


How to get the conversation started…

Start the conversation with the kids in your family by asking:

What do you already know about Mars? (The first step in planning a mission to Mars is to investigate the planet.)

How do we know what we know now? Where did most of our information come from?

(Robots!! Much of what we know was discovered by, orbital satellites, landers and rovers.) Our activity for week one is to learn all we can about Mars. A great to way to do that is to compare Mars to the planet we know best, Earth. One way NASA scientists learn about Mars is by studying the planet from above utilized satellite imagery.

JSC External Relations, Office of Education, x40331