LFM Teacher's Guide Preview: Dear Educator

From: jwee@mail.arc.nasa.gov (Jan Wee)
Subject: LFM Teacher's Guide Preview: Dear Educator
Date: Fri, 04 Oct 1996 15:08:04 -0500

Dear discuss-lfm members,

Here is the first of several files which will serve
as a preview of the Live From Mars Teacher's Guide
as explained in my previous posting.

Jan Wee


Passport to Knowledge
electronic field trips to scientific frontiers
via interactive television and online networks

make possible, in part, by
NASA, the National Science Foundation, and public television

Dear Educator,

Get ready for the trip of a lifetime, not on some artificial thrill ride 
in theme park, but traveling along -- virtually -- with two NASA 
missions to Mars. Through live video and the Internet it will feel as 
if you and your students are looking out from the deck of the Santa 
Maria, as Columbus sees a new continent heave into view. But this will 
be a whole new planet, one much like Earth in some ways, in others very
different, and one where we're beginning to find out, life may have once begun.

On July 4, 1997, after an 8-month journey, an alien object will streak 
through Mars' dark sky, glowing bright as its heat shield encounters the 
planet's thin atmosphere. Decelerating in just CHECK seconds from CHECK 
km. per hour to a landing velocity of CHECK, a new type of airbag will 
deploy. The spacecraft will hit the surface, bounce as high as a CHECK 
story building, and tumble over rocks and boulders whose potential to 
destroy the spacecraft no-one knows for sure. After this bumpy landing, 
the airbags will deflate, 3 petals will unfold, and Mars Pathfinder will 
awaken on the Red Planet.

Within hours, the first new images from the Martian surface in over 20 
years will be radioed back to Earth. A few more hours, and a micro-rover, 
Sojourner, will roll away from the lander to begin a mission designed to 
sample rocks and characterize the Martian soil in ways never done before. 
All this for $150 million, the price of a couple of modestly-budgeted 
science fiction movies!

Two months later Mars Global Surveyor arrives. It will then begin a complex 
series of maneuvers, using Mars' atmosphere to gradually lower itself into 
a mapping orbit: like many aspects of Pathfinder, this aero-braking also 
has never been done before, and the mission teams down here on Earth 
include key managers just years out of graduate school, looking more like 
game designers from MultiMedia Gulch or Silicon Valley software gurus 
rather than the cliched image of rocket scientists.

If this all sounds pretty risky, it is. Pathfinder and Surveyor are 
part of a new NASA design philosophy and exploration strategy: build 
more, smaller, cheaper spacecraft. and launch them to Mars every 
two years. It's designed to allow for failures (though everyone works 
to minimize these) and to permit young researchers to fly many missions 
in their professional careers, rather than devoting a lifetime to just 
one or two mega-missions. 

Live from Mars, the electronic field trip described in this Teacher's Guide,
is also unique, innovative -- and somewhat risky. But just 
like NASA's new Mars missions, the upside should be unusually rewarding. 

* Through Live from Mars your students will be exposed to cutting-
edge science, more current than found in any textbook. 
* They'll go behind the scenes at some of the most interesting places 
on Earth, sites which are humanity's literal and metaphorical launch-pads 
to the Universe beyond our home planet. 
* They'll meet the men and women who operate the spacecraft and 
analyze the new data that will return. 
* They'll see careers they may never have heard of before, but which 
may provide them with a door to a productive personal future. 
* They'll have a chance to use the Internet to communicate with some 
of the world's foremost researchers, and also to collect and share data 
with fellow-students. 

The purpose of this Guide is to give you and your students the keys to 
unlocking this rare opportunity. It's organized to provide you with an
easy-to-use pathway through the rich multimedia materials every Passport 
to Knowledge project provides. But this time we've tried to make it even 
simpler to see how the video, online and hands-on components of the 
project work together. Evaluation of our previous projects has shown that 
teachers who use all three media get more from the project, and feel their 
students benefit accordingly. And this time we're asking you to work with 
us more closely to assess student learning outcomes in new ways 
appropriate to this new kind of learning experience. 

This is an interactive project through and through, and as you read on 
you'll find out how to communicate with Live from Mars. We hope you and 
your students learn a lot and also have great fun. Remember, something 
you say in class, or something a student may read online, or see during 
the videos, may be the seed which will transport that youngster, two
decades or so from now, to be the first human on Mars and literally, not
virtually, see a new land come into view. We're glad to have you with us. 

Now, Onwards and Upwards, to Mars!


Erna Akuginow        Geoffrey Haines-Stiles
Executive Producer   Project Director