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Guide Index

Out of Thin Air

NASA's Way to Mars

Why Go to Mars?

We're on Our Way

Houston, We've Had a Problem!

Getting There

Viewer Challenge
in the classroom
TEACHING GUIDES


Journey to Mars: We're On Our Way


While living at zero Gs may seem appealing, the toll on the human body can be significant. In a weightless environment, bones, muscles, even the heart can deteriorate. Engineers invent and test experimental exercise equipment to keep astronauts fit. On this episode of Frontiers, watch as Alan Alda finds out that it's not quite like the gym at home! Then, meet some human volunteers living in a simulated space habitat.

Curriculum Links
National Science Education Standards
Related Frontiers Shows and Activities
Activity: Martian Challenges
Find Out More




CURRICULUM LINKS


BIOLOGY/
LIFE SCIENCE


carbon cycle, human physiology

EARTH
SCIENCE


ecosystems, space flight

PHYSICAL
SCIENCE


microgravity

PSYCHOLOGY


risk assessment




NATIONAL SCIENCE EDUCATION STANDARDS

SCIENCE AS INQUIRY / PHYSICAL SCIENCE
5-8
9-12:
Motions and Forces
LIFE SCIENCE
5-8: Populations and Ecosystems, Diversity and Adaptations of Organisms
9-12: Behavior of Organisms
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
5-8,
9-12:
Abilities of Technological Design
SCIENCE IN PERSONAL AND SOCIAL PERSPECTIVES
5-8: Populations, Resources and Environments
9-12: Natural Resources
HISTORY AND NATURE OF SCIENCE
5-8: Science as a Human Endeavor
9-12: Nature of Scientific Knowledge




RELATED FRONTIERS SHOWS AND ACTIVITIES



ACTIVITY: MARTIAN CHALLENGES

As you observe on Frontiers, interplanetary explorers will face many challenges on their journeys. Watch Frontiers, then try these mini-activities about topics on the show to learn more about Mars.

  • Extended periods of weightlessness require significant adaptations in all areas of life, from exercise to growing food. Life at zero Gs affects the body "from bones to brain," according to Scientific American, including motion sickness, head congestion, muscle weakness and atrophy, bone loss and more, as you see on Frontiers. For more information, read "Weightlessness and the Human Body" in the September 1998 issue of Scientific American.

  • After watching Frontiers, brainstorm a new type of exercise equipment for use in space. Draw a model of your new equipment. What modifications do you need to make to be sure the user stays on the equipment without the help of gravity?

  • How might caloric and nutritional needs be met on a long space flight? Currently, astronauts are limited to less than four pounds of food a day, plus another pound for packaging. Calculate the weight of food products for six months of typical meals, and you'll understand why astronauts on long missions would have to rely on recycling and foods grown in the spacecraft. How would you select and package foods for a space mission? Create new menus for space travel.

  • Watch the discussions of life support systems on the show. Then brainstorm applications of the life support concept that could be used here on Earth; for example, watering a garden with wash water or irrigating a golf course with treated effluent.

  • When it's closest to Earth, Mars is within 60 million km; at its farthest, 400 million km. Draw pictures or make models of the orbits.

  • Martian gravity is 38% of Earth's. If you weigh 100 pounds on Earth, how much would you weigh on Mars?

  • A compass will not work on Mars because a magnetic field is practically non-existent. How would you navigate a rover?

  • Some scientists think we should terraform Mars -- make it more Earthlike by changing the atmosphere to one that's more like our own, so we could inhabit the planet. Do you agree? How would the Martian atmosphere need to change?

  • Temperatures on Mars fluctuate wildly. For reasons science does not completely understand, the temperature drops dramatically only a few feet above the surface of Mars in the daytime. If you stood on the surface, your feet would be warmer than your head in the daytime. Typical daytime temperatures at the surface range between -50°C and 10°C, but can go as high as 18°C, and drop as low as -90°C at night. At five feet above the surface, temperatures range between a daytime high of about -9°C and a nighttime low of -76°C. Set up a table and convert these temperatures to Fahrenheit, using the following formula: °F5(°C31.8)132. What would your feet feel like at Mars's surface temperature? How much colder would your head feel?




FIND OUT MORE

  • More from Mir: In 1998, Alan Alda interviewed astronaut Andy Thomas in a live Webcast between Earth and Mir. Hear more of this interview or read the transcript at From Mir to Mars. You can also read more about Mars, Mir and space exploration, and find links to cool websites.





 

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