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Journey to Mars Guide & Resources

Will a human mission to the planet Mars ever become a reality? In this Scientific American Frontiers special, host Alan Alda explores this question with the space scientists and aerospace engineers helping to make it happen. Find out how a Mars mission can be affordably accomplished and why it's so important to explore the "red planet" in the first place. And, watch Alan try out some of the tools currently being developed by NASA to make life in space less traumatic for the astronauts who will someday make this historic journey!

Here are the topics and running times of stories on this show and a brief description of related activities you'll find in this online teaching guide:

  • Out of Thin Air (running time: 8:50) -- Robert Zubrin's Mars mission uses the Martian atmosphere to make fuel for the trip home. Activity and Discussion: Simple electrolysis experiment; More on Mars chemistry.

  • NASA's Way to Mars (running time: 9:35) -- An inflatable habitat exemplifies NASA's new thinking about interplanetary exploration. Activity and Discussion: Make a Mars lander.

  • Why Go to Mars? (running time: 8:29) -- A rock that left Mars 16 million years ago may contain clues about ancient life on the planet. Activity and Discussion: Seeing Mars in three dimensions.

  • We're on Our Way (running time: 11:02) -- The six-month journey to Mars would require major adaptations from space travelers. Activities and Discussion: Martian challenges.

  • Houston, We've Had a Problem! (running time: 4:00) -- Virtual reality technology could help astronauts practice making repairs to their spacecraft. Activity and Discussion: Build and test a Mars rover.

  • Getting There (running time: 8:08) -- Alan Alda braves the human-rated centrifuge to test how motor skills work in changing gravity. Discussion and Activity: Design and probe a shoebox planet.

  • Viewer Challenge -- After you watch Journey to Mars, test your viewing skills with ten questions about the show!


Scientific American Frontiers
Fall 1990 to Spring 2000
Sponsored by GTE Corporation,
now a part of Verizon Communications Inc.