Mission to Mars!


In conjunction with Dr. Claire Cousins of the University of St Andrews and the UK Space AgencyGeoBus has developed the following resources, designed to provide a basis for teaching Planetary Science, and an introduction to using Earth Science to bring together topics across the STEM curriculum. It provides experiments, activities and lesson plans all based on recent and upcoming exploration of Mars, and also includes talking points and supporting activities themed around the popular film The Martian.

The material can be easily adapted for any age group, and can be run as individual lessons or combined to create a small project over a few weeks, which can also be linked to a visit from GeoBus. It is also a good starting point for pupils wishing to carry out a CREST Award focused on space exploration or planetary science – for more information please feel free to contact us.

The Martian: Science Fact or Science Fiction?

Perhaps surprisingly, compared to many other space themed movies, the 2015 hit The Martian is actually quite accurate with only a few points which are completely untrue. The initial activity involves a series of clips from the film (all of which make sense without the context of having watched the whole thing) and encourages discussion as to how true each is, before revealing some of the science involved.

There are a series of follow-up ‘Science Fact or Fiction’ activities which have been designed to compliment the key points of scientific interest shown in the film clips – some are simply activity instructions with points for discussion but several also have corresponding worksheets. The activities can be used individually or as an whole package. If you enjoy using these activities or have any comments/suggestions we’d love to hear from you either via social media, or email.

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Science Fact or Fiction – Rocket Launch (link to video instructions for matchbox rocket)


Plate Tectonics on Mars

This activity provides an introduction to Plate Tectonics on Earth, as well as considering the differences between Earth and Mars. The two systems are modeled using yogurt, bread and crackers and the different types of plate boundary can be demonstrated. The slides go through some of the evidence from images of Mars that suggest it previously had an active system of Plate Tectonics, but no longer does.

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Volcanoes on Mars

This activity introduces the concept of studying volcanoes from a distance by demonstrating that past eruptions can be partly reconstructed and placed in relative age order by mapping out lava flows. A series of volcanic eruptions (vinegar + bicarbonate) are created and the extent and shape of the flows is recorded, then the history of the eruptions is investigated (groups swap ‘final product’ volcanoes to study).

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Geology In A Minute video – Volcanoes on Mars

Terraforming Mars

This activity provides an introduction to the concept of ‘terraforming’ – changing features of a planet system in order to make it more habitable for Earth-like life.

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Landing a Rover on Mars

This activity focuses on the engineering challenges surrounding landing delicate equipment on Mars – pupils are challenged to come up with a landing pod design that can safely land a rover on the Martian surface.

ExoMars 2020 landing considerations (notes on landing site selection + interactive map)

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Mars' Moons
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Useful links and other resources

More information about the UK Space Agency supported ExoMars mission – http://exploration.esa.int/mars/

Geological Map of Mars (USGS)

BGS MarsQuake Project – Aimed at 11–16 year-olds, these activities include modelling and locating meteorite impacts, to better understand the internal structure of the ‘red planet’

Mars lesson plans by NASA – lessons, resources and programs about Mars

Check out the Mars series of our Geology In A Minute videos!