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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:
Houston, We've Had a Problem!


Things go wrong in space. Astronauts survived the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission when the spacecraft lost power. Cosmonauts on the aging Mir have dealt with all kinds of problems, from fire to a collision. Today's virtual reality technology may help future astronauts fix problems en route to Mars.

Curriculum Links
National Science Education Standards
Related Frontiers Shows and Activities
Activity: Build a Martian Rover




CURRICULUM LINKS


EARTH
SCIENCE


space flight

PSYCHOLOGY


 

TECHNOLOGY


virtual reality




NATIONAL SCIENCE EDUCATION STANDARDS

SCIENCE AS INQUIRY / SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
5-8
9-12:
Abilities of Technological Design, Understandings about Science and Technology
SCIENCE IN PERSONAL AND SOCIAL PERSPECTIVES
5-8: Risks and Benefits
9-12: Natural and Human-induced Hazards
HISTORY AND NATURE OF SCIENCE
5-8,
9-12:
Science as a Human Endeavor




RELATED FRONTIERS SHOWS AND ACTIVITIES





ACTIVITY: BUILD A MARTIAN ROVER

picture of Mars Rover On July 5, 1997, the day after the Pathfinder landed on the surface of Mars, its protective airbags retracted and the Sojourner rover rolled down the ramp of the lander and out onto the Martian surface.

Sojourner was dubbed the "little rover that could." Until the end of September 1997, when wild temperature fluctuations on Mars caused it to stop transmitting data, the Sojourner explored a small area on the planet's surface. Its instruments analyzed soil and rocks, sending back images and data from the red planet.

Future Mars missions will also include rovers, which will be doing much of the work until humans are able to explore the planet. NASA's next scheduled mission is Mars Surveyor 98, set to launch in December 1998. Here's your chance to build a rover vehicle and test your remote driving abilities by observing its surroundings through a monitor display.


MATERIALS
  • large remote-controlled, wheeled toy vehicle
  • digital video camera or a regular camcorder
  • long video connecting cable
  • monitor
  • clear tape
  • tape
  • magnet
  • cardboard
  • nails
  • washers
picture of build-it-yourself Mars Rover


PROCEDURE

  1. Use tape to secure the camera to the chassis of the remote-controlled vehicle. (You may wish to use Legos, solar cells or other materials to build simpler rovers. Check out the new computerized rover kit from Lego, too.)

  2. Use a long video cable to attach the camera output to the monitor input.

  3. Construct a "magnetic snare" and secure it to the vehicle. The snare will be used to pick up "surface samples" (washers and nails).
CHALLENGE

  1. Scatter magnetic targets on the floor of a flat room. Place the rover in one corner of this "alien landscape." Carefully run the video connecting cable from the vehicle to the monitor, in an adjoining room.

  2. The pilot sits in the adjoining room and watches the monitor display. Using only televised feedback, the pilot must use the rover to collect magnetic targets within a fixed period of time.
EXTENSIONS

  1. Search the Web for other ideas on building Mars rovers.

    Learn more about NASA's plans to send an orbiter and a lander with rover to Mars in 2001 at mars.jpl.nasa.gov/2001/rover/rover_home.html.


  2. Virtual reality (VR) is being used for a variety of earthly applications, including behavioral therapy. Watch "Virtual Fear" in 21st Century Medicine (Show 605) to see how VR is helping people overcome their fear of heights. And tune in for Spiders! (April 14, 1999) to see how virtual reality is helping people with arachnophobia.

  3. If you haven't seen the movie "Apollo 13," watch it! What went wrong? What did the astronauts have to know to survive? What did engineers need to know to fix the problems? How did they solve the problems?





 

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Fall 1990 to Spring 2000
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