Live From Mars was active July 1996-December 1997.
PART 1: The collaborative activity called Planet Explorer Toolkit
PART 2: Challenge Question: Martian baseball
PART 3: Field Journals explained
PART 4: Reviewing cameras and spacecraft
THE COLLABORATIVE ACTIVITY CALLED PLANET EXPLORER TOOLKIT (PET)
This activity runs from November 1, 1996 through April 16, 1997 What's all the excitement about? What's a "PET"? And where do you get one? Do you have to feed them? Train them? What do you mean... students of varying grade level ranges will actually design their own PET --Planetary Explorer Toolkit -- debate its merits, haggle over which class designed the *best PET*, interact with experts on-line during the process, go out and collect real data about their own corner of the Planet Earth to share information with the global community, and become data super-sleuths?!! Wow! That's PRETTY COOL! Sound like fun? Sound motivating? Sound like a great way for students to emulate the work of *real scientists* of the Mars Pathfinder and Global Surveyor mission? We hope so! And we even have special prizes for those classes that prove themselves to be the best researchers, thinkers, debaters, and super sleuths. C'mon and join the PET online collaborative activity, a unique collaboration with the Live From Mars experts, participating classrooms, and Passport to Knowledge staff! Read on..... ------->OVERVIEW The Live From Mars electronic field trip offers students and educators the opportunity to collaborate with classes around the US and the globe though special classroom activities facilitated by online interactions (via discussion/debate forums). These activities are designed to enhance and enrich student understanding of key scientific and technical concepts relating to NASA's two upcoming Mars Missions, the focus of the Live From Mars project. The CHALLENGE... Every mission to a distant planet has specific data collection goals. What exactly do the scientists want to learn about Mars through the Pathfinder Mission? Why do they want to know this specific information? One of the next steps in Mission Planning is equipping the spacecraft with specific instruments needed to collect that information. All missions, even ones now regarded as "Cadillacs" of the Space Age --relatively heavy and expensive, such as Viking, Galileo and the future Cassini mission to Saturn and Titan -- have to make tradeoffs between cost, weight, and size. The severe budget limitations at work for both Mars Pathfinder and Mars Global Surveyor make the choice of instruments even more critical. Still, the instruments eventually chosen are the all-important "tools" which will tell us what our telescopes down here on Earth cannot. They function as the mechanical and electrical extensions of human eyes, ears and curiosity. Still, as the saying goes, to a hammer everything looks like a nail. The choice of tools determines what you can't do, as well as what you can. These kinds of decisions are the foundation for the Planet Explorer Toolkit (PET) collaborative online activity. Classes are invited to become Mission Scientists for the planet they know best (and for which they have direct and easy access), Earth. The first step for students to consider will be: what characteristics are most important to define the most significant, unique and revealing aspects of a location? The second step is to determine which instruments would best measure those characteristics. Like the Mars mission scientists, students will then collaborate online to select the universal "best" Planet Explorer Toolkit. This Toolkit will have to meet by certain restrictions of cost and size, a problem that real mission scientists must face as well. Some restrictions are set by Passport to Knowledge, others may be suggested by students in the online debate forum. Online debate will help our PET classes reach consensus through logical thinking, compromise, and team collaboration. Experts will help moderate the online discussion and pose food-for-thought questions as ideas are exchanged. Arguments for and against are discussed, and a group identity evolves. Each participating class' local area will be the focus of real data collection to be shared online. This data will be used to challenge all classroom participants to determine..."Where in the World are these PET Mystery Sites?" a fun and exciting super sleuth extension of our collaboration. Three grade level ranges of participation will be offered with varying levels of difficulty -- one for elementary, one for middle school, and one for high school. Expanded clues will assist efforts to identify the specific PET Mystery site locations. These clues will be created by the PTK project staff. Students will also have the opportunity to work with this growing data set, seeing -- for example -- patterns of warmth and cold across the country, and perhaps around the world. The final decision on what data will be collected will impact follow-up generated activities, which of course will make this a very dynamic work in progress! Students will themselves be the authors of this activity. If you choose to accept this mission, read on for timeline and further details on how to become a member of the Live From Mars PET TEAM! ------->BROAD GOALS >>>>Use research, critical thinking, and problem solving skills to devise a Planet Explorer Toolkit that stays within the preset guidelines and restrictions and effectively collects planetary data about the local environment. >>>>Use on-line interactions via the debate-lfm electronic mail forum to share PET proposals, debate and discuss proposal merits, and reach consensus on the *best universal PET*. >>>>Use the selected PET to collect planetary data, called the PDI (Planetary Data Input) which describes their own unique local and submit data on-line for all to interpret and use in follow-up activities. >>>>Interpret data from participating schools to identify environment categories and with key clues given, identify Mystery Site locations around the US/globe. >>>>Use the collective data shared online to make scientific inferences. -------> KEY GUIDELINES AND RESTRICTIONS 1) The PET instruments must fit within the size of an average shoebox and the instruments must be easily accessible to all participating schools (available within the school district or easily borrowed) The shoebox is limited to no larger than 14"(length) X 6.5"(width) X 4.5"(height). 2) There is a value/cost limitation on the PET instruments to be no more than $200.00. In other words, the total set of instruments within the PET must not be of higher value than $200.00. Schools are not expected to buy any instruments, but rather to utilize the type of scientific instruments found within the schools or that can be easily borrowed. The adult/mentor in charge is responsible for abiding by this guideline. 3) All local data collection sites must be located within easy access of the school's location (no further than a 2 hour one way drive to the location). 4) All data collections must take place outside (not in a closed location) and focus upon an area no larger than a football field. 5) Students must be involved in the actual collection and reporting of data under the supervision of a teacher-advisor or adult mentor. 6) Each class is limited to submitting one PET proposal and set of PDI (Planetary Data Input). ------> TIMELINE October 17-December 10th: Brainstorm the Planet Explorer Toolkit and determine your proposal. December 10-December 20th: Share your *best* Planet Explorer Toolkit proposal and rationale online via the debate-lfm forum Each class may post one PET proposal. December 20th-January 3rd: Break for the Holidays January 6th-January 31st: Classes debate online the relative merits of the PETs presented. Advisors/mentors will be online to help moderate the discussion and help us reach consensus. Reach consensus by January 31st on a uniform February 3-February 28th: Classes collect data from local environments and submit their PDI (Planetary Data Input) to NASA Quest for sharing online. March 3rd-7th: PTK staff and advisors create FIVE data sets and clues to represent the Mystery Sites for the next activity and prepare the set of clues for each grade level range (elementary, middle, high school). March 10th-April 16th: Classes participate in the "Where in the World are these Mystery PET Sites?" Students will also be able to participate in activities relating to interpreting the data collected. These activities will be presented at our LFM web site. April 17th -onwards: This collaborative activity will remain online for all interested students, educators, parents, etc. to enjoy over the coming months as the Mars Pathfinder reaches its destination. ------->RESOURCES NEEDED *Access to email. Access to the World Wide Web facilitates research and participation in the Mystery Site Activity. At least one Internet connection for student research and sharing online is recommended. *Access to information about scientific instruments, the Mars Pathfinder's instrument package*, and effective debate techniques. Use of the World Wide Web, electronic databases and encyclopedias, current articles, and science reference materials. *The LFM Teacher's Guide provides this useful background information. *Basic "instrument set" for data collection composed of instruments commonly found within the school/science center. *Easy access to a nearby local "Planetary Data Input Site" (a select region of your environment that serves well for data collection and for its unique and measurable characteristics particular to your region) for outside data collection by entire class or representative group of students. OPTIONAL but RECOMMENDED for classes in need of science expertise: *Local astronomer, amateur astronomer, or science mentor/facilitator to assist Toolkit design process A good source of mentors might include: amateur astronomy club member, local science expert or educator, parent with background in science research, local weatherman, geologist, etc., retired science teacher, university undergrad or grad level student with science emphasis, etc. ------->SPECIAL RECOGNITION AWARDS/PRIZES * All participating classes will receive a Certificate of Recognition and be acknowledged via our Live From Mars web site. * The class in each grade level range that demonstrates the most effective use of problem solving, critical thinking, and debate netiquette will receive special recognition on our live telecast scheduled for April 24th, 1997 and a special recognition prize package. * One class will be selected by the PTK judges to play a *special role* in the April 24th telecast which will originate from NASA JPL located in Pasadena, California * One class per grade level range who solves the "Where in the World are these PET Mystery Sites?" activity will receive a special award package. -------> THE NEXT STEP If you are interested in participating in the Live From Mars PLANET EXPLORER TOOLKIT activity, be sure to check out the detailed project writeup at our Live From Mars web site at this URL:http://passporttoknowledge.com/lfm/events/pet.html
If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact Jan Wee, Passport to Knowledge Education Outreach Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 608-786-2767.
In the six weeks leading up to each live television broadcast, we promised a weekly Challenge Question to get your brain cells firing. This first one is about baseball on Mars. Some of the PTK veterans may recognize this question from the past, but we couldn't resist with the World Series rapidly approaching. Henceforth, you'll be greeted with only originals. Here now, Challenge Question #1: Let's say you have just been appointed Baseball Commissioner for Mars. You would like the game to be similar in difficulty to the game as played on Earth. With that in mind, how far back should you place the center field fence (so that it is just as hard to hit a home run). Assume that a center field fence on Earth is 410 feet from home plate. You are invited to send original student answers to us. We will list the names of these folks online and token prizes will be given out to a small number of the students with the best answers. Send your answers to Jan Wee at email@example.com. PLEASE include the words "CHALLENGE QUESTION" in the subject of the email.
The story below by Dr. Mike Malin is an example of an LFM Field Journal. The intent of these journals is to show the diversity of real tasks involved in the science of Mars. I'll include a sentence or two of background to help orient you towards the story which follows. Also, almost all authors have their biographies (with more background) on our Web site. I'll provide pointers to these bios to make it easier to connect to the richer backgrounds. But I'm not sure if there will ever be the full background that I think folks are really looking for. The info just doesn't exist. I'll try to share what we know about why these folks do what they do, but it definitely won't always have a neat start, middle and end. That would be great, but part of the cost of sharing the real world is that the real world is messy and hard to describe. Hopefully, these Field Journals will still be useful.
[Editor's note: Mike is in charge of several cameras which are going to Mars, including those on Mars Global Surveyor which is set to launch in only 20 days! Also he is leading the development of two cameras for the 1998 missions to Mars]
REVIEWING CAMERAS AND SPACECRAFT
Mike Malin October 14, 1996 Two events important to the story of the Mars cameras occurred the week of October 7. On Tuesday, the electronic portions of the Mars Surveyor 1998 Orbiter Color Imager (which we call MARCI ("Marcy")) and Mars Surveyor 1998 Lander Descent Imager (MARDI) went through their "Critical Design Review," and on Thursday the Mars Global Surveyor went through its Mission Readiness Review. "Reviews" are meetings where you present to a group of experts the details of the work you have done, for them to carefully evaluate and to provide you advice based on their own knowledge and experience. It is like saving up all your homework assignments and class projects for a year (although you have also handed them in and they have been individually graded) and then having a meeting with not only your teachers, but other teachers from your school, the principal, and perhaps even professors from a nearby college or university. You get up in front of these people, tell them the results of your work, and they tell you what they think. To some people, reviews can be very scary because the criticism can be harsh if you are not prepared, or you can be embarrassed by either not doing good work, or having missed something important. However, I like reviews, because they give me the opportunity to pick the brains of experts who I would not otherwise get to think about my projects. I have learned from my own experience that I don't know everything, and so I very much like to seek help when I am doing something new (which is often the case). Reviews can be hard on one's ego, but their benefits far outweigh this negative feeling. The MARCI and MARDI review was held at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena (JPL). The "chairman" of the review (the person who leads the discussion and prepares the official report of the results) is also in charge of developing the system to operate future Mars missions. Among the other members of the "review board" were the JPL engineer in charge of science instruments for the Mars Pathfinder lander, a San Diego State University astronomer who builds and uses cameras on earth-bound telescopes, and the designer of the Mars Observer and Mars Global Surveyor cameras. Mike Caplinger, the lead engineer for the new cameras, presented most of the technical details of the design, with help from another of my engineers (Paul Otjens) and one our contractors, Charles Schmitz. The review lasted from 8:30 AM to 5 PM (I drove to Pasadena from San Diego the night before, in order to be there in the morning). MARCI and MARDI are on a very fast development schedule. We were selected less than a year ago, and must deliver the cameras to Lockheed Martin (the builder of the spacecraft) in 10 months from now. As a result, our review board felt that we still have some critical areas to work before we start building the electronics, although they also felt it would be hard to finish the cameras by August. They made several useful suggestions based on their common and diverse experiences in building and testing cameras, which we are now trying to incorporate into our near-term plans. In general, however, they thought we were ready to proceed, which was good news. The Mars Global Surveyor review was for the entire mission: spacecraft, science instruments, launch vehicle, and the system of people and computers that will run the spacecraft after launch. The intent of this review was basically boiled down to one question: Is Mars Global Surveyor ready to launch next month? The review included the president and several vice presidents of the division of Lockheed Martin that built the spacecraft, the director of the Mars Exploration Office at JPL, JPL's Chief Engineer, and several highly experienced engineers and scientists from NASA research centers, private industry, and universities. To attend this review, I had to fly to Denver from San Diego Wednesday afternoon (after driving home the night before from Pasadena). The meeting began at 7:30 AM. Both general and specific items of interest or concern were discussed until after 6:00 PM by more than 20 different "presenters," including the Project Manager and several of his deputies. My presentation, which lasted about 20 minutes in mid-afternoon, discussed spacecraft testing at Cape Canaveral in which the Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) had participated, some repairs we had made to the camera since the last review, some of the potential problems we might face between now and launch, what we were doing to prevent anything going wrong, and what we would do if something did go wrong. This was much the same that everyone also presented, but each for their own portion of the mission. Because more is riding on the results of this review, the presentations were very honest, and the board's questions very probing. I think the general view was that the mission is in good shape and ready to launch, but that there were still things to worry about. I'm writing this journal entry on the airplane flying back to San Diego. It's been an exhausting week!
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