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What Is So Special About Pathfinder's Landing Site?
Grades 6-12, One to Two Days

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To show how much students can learn about Mars and the Pathfinder mission by understanding some of the criteria used to select the Pathfinder landing site.

Students examine images showing the Pathfinder landing site at three different scales When examining each image, they discuss what each view adds to their understanding of the landing site. The active demonstrates how images become clues in a mystery story that stimulates students to wonder, question, and speculate. In addition, it shows how students can use the clues images offer to unlock the mysteries of distant plants.

Key Concepts

  • Images are a rich source of information and a stimulus for investigation
  • Scientists are conducting robotic missions to explore Mars.
  • Chaotic terrain is thought to have formed when the removal of subsurfaced magma, water or ice caused a loss of support, and the ground collapsed under its own weight.
  • Chaotic terrain is considered a source for the fluid(s) that created the channels.
  • The large channels, chaotic terrain, eroded land forms, and smooth plain at the mouth of Ares Vallis suggest that Mars experienced tremendous floods.
  • The floods deposited sediment from nearly one quarter of the planet's surface at the mouth of Ares Vallis
  • By sampling the rocks at the mouth or Ares Vallis, scientists can see if their hypothesis about Martian floods is correct as well as learn a great deal about Martian geology.

Skill Goals
  • Analyzing images of Mars for evidence of flowing water
  • Speculating about processes affecting the surface of Mars
  • Identifying some of the key Martian landforms
  • Constructing coherent explanations that are supported by evidence
  • Writing to synthesize and communicate understanding

Student Image Sets

One to Two classes

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