Live From Mars was active July 1996-December 1997.

UPDATE # 5 - October 17, 1996

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

Jan Wee

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.....


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.


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
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
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

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
varying levels of difficulty -- one for elementary, one for middle school,
and one for high school. Expanded clues will assist efforts to identify
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



>>>>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

>>>>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.


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.


*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

      *The LFM Teacher's Guide provides this useful background

*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.


* 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:

If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact
Jan Wee, Passport to Knowledge Education Outreach Coordinator
at 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

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
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]

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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