Curricular Unit: Mission to Mars

Contributed by: Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder

Two illustrations of human movement to/on Mars, the Red Planet:  A space vehicle drops via three striped parachutes onto the planet's surface. A vehicle on wheels moves over the surface of Mars.
Students explore the Red Planet
Copyright © NASA Goddard Space Flight Center


The Mission to Mars unit introduces students to Mars, often called the Red Planet. Students discover why everyone is so interested in studying this mysterious planet. Many interesting facts about Mars are revealed, and the history of Martian exploration is reviewed. Students learn about the development of robotics and how robots are beneficial to science, society and the exploration of space. Details on engineers' involvement in space exploration are explained, such as how orbits enable astronauts to move from planet to planet and what type of equipment is used by scientists and engineers to safely explore space. The specific details on and human risks for a possible future "humanned" mission to Mars (and back to Earth again!) are explored.

Engineering Connection

Engineers have played various roles in the long history of exploring the Red Planet. In the mid-20th century, engineers designed rockets and probes that provided the first, up-close visuals of the mysterious planet. And, aerospace and electrical engineers designed and fabricated surface exploration equipment so that we could explore the planet in person! Today, engineers continue to work with scientists to develop reliable orbiters, rovers, aircraft and human transport for future missions.

Engineers know that risks are always involved with the exploration of space—just as in our daily lives. But for optimum human health and safety, engineers do their best to minimize risks by extensive testing and smart design of transportation, appliances, equipment and products. Engineers make our exploration of space possible and safe!

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Educational Standards

Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.

All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (

In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.

  • Analyze and interpret data to determine scale properties of objects in the solar system. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Fluently divide multi-digit numbers using the standard algorithm. (Grade 6) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Fluently add, subtract, multiply, and divide multi-digit decimals using the standard algorithm for each operation. (Grade 6) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
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Unit Schedule


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© 2009 by Regents of the University of Colorado

Supporting Program

Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder


The contents of these digital library curricula were developed under grants from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), U.S. Department of Education, and the National Science Foundation (GK-12 grant no. 0338326). However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the U.S. Department of Education or National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

Last modified: March 24, 2017