Martian Mission

I. Course description:

So when are we going to Mars? Can we send a manned mission to Mars? Should we send a manned mission to Mars? In this class, students will delve into these issues through research, discussion, inquiry, engineering and simulations. While making a case for a manned mission to Mars, students will also study rocketry, astrobiology and the environment. Students will have a teleconference with a NASA astronaut, observe moon rocks close up, build the most accurate rocket, design mission badges, work in mission teams, and debate the relevant issues. The final project will be a written proposal for a Mars mission which will be sent to NASA.

II. Instructor’s educational preparation and current employment:

Bachelor’s of Science in Education from the University of Missouri – Columbia, 1997. Master’s of Science in Education from the University of Missouri – Columbia, 2001. Teacher of Chemistry and 7th grade science at Blair Oaks School in Jefferson City, MO from 1997 to present.

III. Rationale for inclusion in a program for gifted students:

This course is appropriate for academically gifted high school juniors in several ways. It provides socially relevant issues for the students, challenging problem solving opportunities, it gives students a chance to have a voice in a larger world, it provides motivating learning opportunities as well as giving them a chance to expand their knowledge on socially relevant science issues.

NASA will be making their final decision on whether to send a manned mission to Mars in the next ten years. These students will soon be of voting age. They will soon have the capability to help steer the decisions of our country, either through the careers that they choose or the votes that they cast.

This course will give academically gifted high school juniors the chance to learn new things, to interact in a socially relevant way and to solve complex problems are. This issue is going to need gifted decision makers in the near future, and these classes can help pave the way for successful and thoughtful decision making.

IV. Major topics covered:

Astrobiology. How can we keep the astronauts happy and healthy on a long term space flight? What are the ingredients necessary for life? Could life have existed on Mars? Strategy
Engineering. What is the best design for a long distance manned vehicle? What is the best layout and design for a Martian base?

Environment. Should our resources be used for a manned mission to Mars? How could a mission to Mars help us with resource shortages/population pressures? Is it realistic to think of Mars as a solution to our problems?

V. Pre-requisite knowledge:


VI. Learning objectives:

By the end of the three weeks, the scholar should be able to know how to:

  • Conduct Internet, library and primary source research.
  • Describe the main purpose and results from the most recent NASA Mars probes.
  • Know how to conduct a professional interview via email.
  • Understand the basics of rocketry.
  • Develop a human mission to Mars.
VII. Primary source materials:

“Voyage to Mars”, by Laurence Bergreen.

VIII. Supplementary source materials:

NASA videos, poster, lithographs, printed information.

IX. Computing and the Internet (if applicable):

Email NASA scientists, research latest developments on Mars exploration via the Internet.

X. Typical classroom strategies:

Discussion, research, debate, modeling, group problem solving, analysis.