Program 4 Missions to Mars

After viewing the video and participating in one or more of the Hands-On Activities, students will be able to:
• describe the progress in our knowledge of Mars from the 19th through the 20th centuries
• discuss the history and development of the technologies and human infrastructure which permit scientific exploration (rockets, spacecraft and science teams) and the human engineers who build, test and control the robots
• understand the importance of recent discoveries about the past and present status of water on Mars

Program Description
From ancient times Mars' reddish color and erratic motion in the sky (at times it appears to move backwards across the night sky as seen from Earth) have made the "Red Planet" easy to recognize, and an abject of awe and fascination. In this program students learn about assumptions based on 19th century telescopic observations of Mars, contrasting them with new views and data from recent spacecraft.
• "The Red Planet: Fiction becomes Fact" (3:32) tells how early observations of Mars by the Italian, Giovanni Schiaparelli, and the American, Percival Lowell, were misinterpreted as revealing "canals" built by alien civilizations to transport water around an arid, desert planet. In contrast we see recent images from Mars Global Surveyor (MGS), whose camera has revealed small features, impossible to see from Earth, that some researchers do indeed interpret as being caused by an out-gushing of short-lived liquid water.
• "The Triumphs of Mars Pathfinder and Global Surveyor" (5:28) shows how the invention of rocketry by the American, Robert H. Goddard, (and others in Russia and Germany) led to the development of spacecraft which have replaced our fuzzy distant pictures with crisp close-ups. Students see the technical development of the Mars Pathfinder spacecraft and its Sojourner rover, which touched down safely on Mars in July 1997. The extensive tests of its novel airbag landing system are described, along with the tension and excitement of the entry, descent and landing on Mars.
• "Water on Mars" (3:48) presents more evidence of "gullies" which may have been caused by sudden flows of liquid water, which MGS Mars Orbiter Camera scientists say could have been very recent. The program ends by showing hyper-realistic computer animation of the 2 large and capable rovers being readied for missions to Mars in 2003, and tests of a Martian spacesuit aboard one of NASA's "Vomit Comet" jets for possible future human missions.

NASA's Mars Program Scientist, Jim Garvin, says that the success of MGS's "Mars Orbital Laser Altimeter", or MOLA, puts us in a time like that right after Lewis and Clark began to chart the American west. Members of the Pathfinder project including project manager Tony Spear and rover scientist Joy Crisp describe the thrill and tension of working on this ambitious mission. Mission scientist Matt Golombek provides an overview of mission results, and concludes by describing what you might see and sense if you were actually standing on Mars.