Text Size
Lesson Title: Destination - Mars
May 11, 2012

Unit: Earth and Space Science - Destination Mars

Grade Levels: 7-9

Connection To Curriculum: Science, Mathematics, Technology and Design

Teacher Prep Time: 20 minutes

Lesson Time Needed: 4 hours

Complexity Basic

Keywords: mass, trajectory, ratio, planet distances, design process game, problem solving


Student Procedure, Plotting the Paths of a Spacecraft (page 8)
Student sheet, Earth to Mars and Mars to Earth (pages 9-10)
Drawing compass
Recyclables (plastic bottles, egg cartons, cardboard, papers, plastic caps, small boxes, construction paper, etc.)
Color pencils
3-D shapes (for modeling purpose only)

This lesson includes a series of activities that are based on the planet Mars and factors that affect space travel.

Students will:
• Compare the positions of planets as they move around the sun.
• Explore expenditures of time and fuel related to space travel.
• Describe what happens on minimum fuel orbits.
• Plot the paths of spacecraft leaving Earth for Mars and leaving Mars for Earth.
• Be introduced to the design process in engineering.
• Solve ratio problems to maximize the mission payload.

First page of Destination: Mars

Lesson Guide
Destination Mars Lesson
[100KB PDF file]



Professional Development Training Module for This Lesson

Blue button with an arrow

› Launch Destination Mars training module  →
Note: Module may take a few minutes to load.
download arrow icon Download Video

Blue button with ? mark

› Help me! I can't see the training module.

Lesson Activities and Sequence

  1. Mars Bound
    Students will be introduced to the design process, engineering and technology. Students will learn that the design process is not a simple, linear progression from one step to the next, resulting in a finish product. Although there are steps, the design process is an iterative one: designing, modifying, testing and redesigning until a finished product is made. A central tenet of engineering, however, is that there is no such thing as a perfect design.
    Keywords: problem solving, scientific method, time, GPS, accuracy, precision, predicting, game, PBL
  2. Destination Mars
    This lesson is designed to increase students' knowledge, awareness and curiosity about the process of scientific exploration of Mars. As scientists look for evidence of life on Mars, they will focus on how to get there: navigation and trajectory.
    Keywords: exploration, trajectory, navigation, planet distances, orbit, arcs, compass use
  3. Can We Take It With Us?
    Although intended for a lunar mission, this activity works well for Mars as a destination, too. Students work in teams to determine the maximum amount of payload that they can take on a mission. Students are given a container that represents the maximum weight allowed. They are also given a list of mandatory mission ratios, a double balance, 80 pennies and an empty container to weigh their trial payloads. The team closest to the maximum payload weight without going over is declared the winner. See page 27 of the guide.
    Keywords: payload, mass, ratio, math calculations, problem soliving, teamwork, estimation, use of balance scale, measurement, moon

National Standards:

National Science Education Standards, NSTA
Science as Inquiry
• Understanding of scientific concepts.
• An appreciation of "how we know" what we know in science.
• Understanding of the nature of science.
• Skills necessary to become independent inquirers about the natural world.
• The dispositions to use the skills, abilities and attitudes associated with science.

Physical Science
• Properties and changes of properties in matter.
• Motions and forces.
• Transfer of energy.

Earth and Space Science
• Structure of the earth system.
• Earth's history.
• Earth in the solar system.

Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, NCTM
Ratios and Proportional Relationships
• Analyze proportional relationships and use them to solve real-world and mathematical problems.

Measurement and Data
• Solve problems involving measurement and conversion of measurements from a larger unit to a smaller unit.
• Represent and interpret data.
• Geometric measurement: understand concepts of angle and measure angles.

• Understand congruence and similarity using physical models, transparencies or geometry software.
• Understand and apply the Pythagorean theorem.
• Solve real-world and mathematical problems involving volume of cylinders, cones and spheres.

ISTE NETS and Performance Indicators for Students, ISTE
Creativity and Innovation
• Apply existing knowledge to generate new ideas, products or processes.
• Create original works as a means of personal or group expression.
• Use models and simulations to explore complex systems and issues.
• Identify trends and forecast possibilities.

Communication and Collaboration
• Interact, collaborate and publish with peers, experts or others employing a variety of digital environments and media.
• Communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats.
• Develop cultural understanding and global awareness by engaging with learners of other cultures.
• Contribute to project teams to produce original works or solve problems.

Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Decision Making
• Identify and define authentic problems and significant questions for investigation.
• Plan and manage activities to develop a solution or complete a project.
• Collect and analyze data to identify solutions and/or make informed decisions.
• Use multiple processes and diverse perspectives to explore alternative solutions.


Image Token: 
Image Token: 
Page Last Updated: July 28th, 2013
Page Editor: NASA Administrator