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Mars Landing Site

The goal is to have students use problem solving skills in creating scenarios that relate to real-life applications.

Time Frame: two 45 minute class periods.
Grade Levels: 5th - 9th grades

Objectives

To engage and inform students about the processes and challenges in selecting a landing site on Mars.

What You Do

  1. Distribute one candy bar to each student (use candy at room temperature, or a bit warmer.) Instruct students not to show their brand to anyone else. Ask each student to unwrap their bar and record observations about its surface: color, texture, composition, etc.

  2. Have students take a "core sample" by carefully and steadily drilling a straw into their candy bar. Then ask them to record the number and thickness of layers, as well as color and texture of layers. What are the layers made of? Any repeated layers?

  3. Have the students use knives to cut candy in two, so the layers can be viewed more easily in a cross-section. Discuss which layers were made first. How were the layers made?

  4. Have the students make a second core sample using the other straw. Two students then exchange core samples. Can they identify a new sample by comparing it with one that is known?

  5. Finally, allow the students to consume the samples.

Answers

Scale Distances (km) divided by 638 = (cm)

Earth Moon 3.84 x 105 600 cm = 20 ft

Earth Mars 7.80 x 107 1.2 x105 cm = 3/4 mi


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  What You Need

  • "fun or bite size" candy bar (Snickers, Milky Way, Mounds, Reeses Peanut Butter Cup, etc)
  • two 3" long section of clear plastic soda straw
  • paper plate
  • plastic knife
  • graph paper or small ruler
  • wet wipes (optional for hand clean-up prior to activity, since edible material is involved)

 
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Extensions

Ask students to make models of the martian moons, Phobos and Deimos, at the same scale as the balloon models. They can calculate their scale diameters from the enclosed chart. It turns out that they are about the same size of a small grain of sand!

Have students convert all metric measurements into the English system.

1 inch = 2.54 cm, 1 mile = 1.6 km