Curricular Unit: Mission to Mars

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

Quick Look

Grade Level: 7 (6-8)

Choose From: 6 lessons and 7 activities

Subject Areas: Earth and Space, Science and Technology

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
Copyright © NASA Goddard Space Flight Center http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/mars/mars_crew.html

Summary

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.
This engineering curriculum meets Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

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!

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 (www.achievementstandards.org).

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.

NGSS Performance Expectation

MS-ESS1-3. Analyze and interpret data to determine scale properties of objects in the solar system. (Grades 6 - 8)

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This unit focuses on the following Three Dimensional Learning aspects of NGSS:
Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Analyze and interpret data to determine similarities and differences in findings.

Alignment agreement:

The solar system consists of the sun and a collection of objects, including planets, their moons, and asteroids that are held in orbit around the sun by its gravitational pull on them.

Alignment agreement:

Time, space, and energy phenomena can be observed at various scales using models to study systems that are too large or too small.

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Engineering advances have led to important discoveries in virtually every field of science, and scientific discoveries have led to the development of entire industries and engineered systems.

Alignment agreement:

NGSS Performance Expectation

MS-ETS1-1. 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)

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This unit focuses on the following Three Dimensional Learning aspects of NGSS:
Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Define a design problem that can be solved through the development of an object, tool, process or system and includes multiple criteria and constraints, including scientific knowledge that may limit possible solutions.

Alignment agreement:

The more precisely a design task's criteria and constraints can be defined, the more likely it is that the designed solution will be successful. Specification of constraints includes consideration of scientific principles and other relevant knowledge that is likely to limit possible solutions.

Alignment agreement:

All human activity draws on natural resources and has both short and long-term consequences, positive as well as negative, for the health of people and the natural environment.

Alignment agreement:

The uses of technologies and any limitations on their use are driven by individual or societal needs, desires, and values; by the findings of scientific research; and by differences in such factors as climate, natural resources, and economic conditions.

Alignment agreement:

  • Fluently divide multi-digit numbers using the standard algorithm. (Grade 6) More Details

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  • Fluently add, subtract, multiply, and divide multi-digit decimals using the standard algorithm for each operation. (Grade 6) More Details

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Unit Schedule

Contributors

See individual lessons and activities.

Copyright

© 2009 by Regents of the University of Colorado

Supporting Program

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

Acknowledgements

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 22, 2018

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