Sometime in your lifetime, space exploration may lead to a human mission to Mars. The red planet has been a source of fascination for humans, and an inspiration to writers of science
fiction, for many years. As our neighbor in the solar system, Mars has been studied through telescopes, space probes, and most recently, by spacecraft that actually landed on the surface
of Mars. We have taken photographs of the surface of Mars and analyzed the chemical composition of its atmosphere. But we have not yet been able to collect rocks from Mars and bring
them back to Earth for study.
However, we have studied rocks from Mars. Scientists have identified several groups of meteorites found on Earth’s surface as rocks that originated on Mars. Some of these
meteorites appear to include evidence in their structure that life once existed on Mars. What kind of evidence do these rocks hold? Why do scientists think that life may once have
existed on the planet Mars?
Your job in this WebQuest is to learn all about Mars rocks. You will learn about the planet Mars and about space missions to Mars of the past, present, and future. You will find out
what types of meteorites came from Mars, and why these rocks have been identified as coming from that planet. You will discover the evidence that leads scientists to the conclusion
that life once existed on Mars. You will also learn about plans for a mission to Mars that will collect rocks from the planet’s surface and bring them back to Earth for analysis. Finally,
you will answer a set of questions to demonstrate what you have learned about Mars rocks, and about the possibility of life on Mars.
Look at the web sites given here to find the information that will enable you to answer questions about Mars rocks.
- Explore Mars.
Visit this site for articles and data tables about the planet Mars. You can learn about the history of humanity’s quest to understand Mars and about the possibility of human missions
to Mars. Scroll down and click on robot missions to find out more about past, current, and future robotic missions to Mars.
- NASA Human Spaceflight: Science.
Go to this National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) site for information about the evidence for primitive life on Mars. The site describes the work of a joint team of
scientists at the Johnson Space Center and at Stanford University in 1996. These scientists studied a Martian rock that fell to Earth as a meteorite.
- NASA Announces New Evidence Regarding
Past Life on Mars.
At this Discovery.com site you can read an article about new information on life on Mars. The article supports the statements made by scientists in 1996 that a Martian meteorite
called ALH84001 includes magnetite crystals that were produced by living organisms.
- New Evidence Strengthen Claims
of Ancient Life on Mars.
Visit this Discovery.com site to read an article that supports the evidence from Martian meteorites that life once existed on Mars. Martian meteorite ALH84001 is one of 16 meteorites
found on Earth that are believed to have originated on Mars.
- The Whole Mars Catalog.
Go to this Discovery.com site for all kinds of information on Mars. Scroll down and click on searching for life to see a list of articles on Martian meteorites and missions planned
to bring samples back from the surface of Mars.
- Meteorites from
At this NASA site you can find out why scientists agree that at least 12 meteorites found on Earth had their origins on Mars. Scroll down to learn why scientists think these rocks
originated on Mars, and how they arrived on Earth.
- Mars Meteorites.
Visit this NASA site for more information on Mars meteorites. Scroll down to see a table that lists the known Mars meteorites, including their locations, the dates they were discovered,
their mass, and the type of rock they are made of.
1 class period for research and answering the set of questions.
Read through the following set of questions before you begin your Internet research. As you explore each site, look for answers to the questions.
Questions about Mars Rocks!
- How did meteors from Mars arrive on Earth?
- What type of rock are most Martian meteorites?
- What does the term snc achondrites refer to?
- Why is it important to identify the gases trapped inside Mars meteorites?
- What do Martian meteorites tell us about Mars?
- There is a future mission to Mars planned that will send a spacecraft to collect rock samples on the surface of the planet. What is the name and the launch date of this spacecraft?
- Why do we need to collect rocks from the surface of Mars?
- What evidence shows that Mars may once have had liquid water?
- What are some reasons that scientists think living things may have existed on Mars approximately 3.6 billion years ago?
- Based on your research, form an opinion as to whether life once existed on Mars.
In the process of completing this WebQuest, you’ve become informed about the planet Mars, and about the possibility that life once existed there. You have learned about past, present,
and future missions to Mars. You have discovered the reasons that scientists think life may once have existed on Mars. You have also developed research skills as you explored the web
sites given, and identified the relevant information to answer the set of questions above. Do you think materials found in Mars meteorites support the idea that life once existed on
Mars? Why is finding evidence of water on Mars important for future exploration of Mars?