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Hands-On Activities

Hands-on activities for home, school, and science center

One of the most exciting things about missions to Mars is that many key aspects of what NASA researchers and engineers are doing can be simulated in simple hands-on activities that are both lots of fun, and deeply informative. Here are some of our favorites, as well as links to many more, developed by NASA and other researchers.

Activities 1-5 relate to the rockets used to launch the Mars Exploration Rovers, the relative size and position of Earth and Mars in the solar system, landing safely on the surface of the Red Planet, and operating on that surface using a combination of human instructions and robotic intelligence. You'll see many of these activities, or similar ones, implemented on camera during COUNTDOWN TO MARS: if you've got questions about how to make them work--at home, in school, or in other informal science settings--sign up for discuss-mars, and ask away! (Classroom teachers: you can find more formal versions of these activities by checking out EDUCATORS.) We'd love to hear your feedback and comments.

Rocket Science 101
Rocket Science 101 Worksheet
Kids explore rockets by blowing up a balloon to different capacities and calculate the distance and speed of the balloon.

A model Solar System, built of youngsters! Size, scale and structure of the Solar System
Kids represent planets to form a scale model of the solar system.

The Incredible Egg-Drop Challenge (landing safely on Mars with airbags)
This activity was originally written to simulate the Mars Pathfinder landing on Mars. The Mars Exploration Rovers will use the same airbag system that the Pathfinder used. This is a great activity to explore landing an egg safely on Earth.

Rovers from Junk (rolling round the Red Planet)
Pizza boxes, yogurt containers, empty toilet paper rolls, paper towel rolls, and a crutch are some of the materials we've found that make great rovers. Try this activity and let us know what you found were the best materials.

Build a Robot out of Humans (operating on Mars)
Working in teams of 5 kids explore the difficulty of operating a rover on Mars from Earth.

Earth Mars Comparisons
Students compare features on Earth to features on Mars in order to understand some of the images taken by the Mars Exploration Rovers.

Solar System Distance Activity
Calculate the distances between the planets using Astronomical units and make a distance model of the solar system using beads and string.

Sundials on Earth and Mars
Bill Nye and some of the ATHENA science team transform a calibration tool into the first sundial to land on Mars. And you can make a replica which tells time here on Earth.

The following NASA Activities are part of NASA Rockets Guide

3-2-1 Pop Rockets
Make a rocket using paper, a FUJU film canister and antacid tablets. A great activity that kids love!

Rocket Racers
Make a balloon-powered racer using a Styrofoam tray, pins, tape and a flexible straw.

The complete NASA Rockets Guide