Register
Key Dates
Education Plans
Showcase
Resources
FAQ

Key Dates

Touchdown confirmed: We're safe on Mars!

00
:
00
:
00
:
00
Days
 
Hrs
 
Mins
 
Secs
› Visit the Mission Website

Education Plans

Introduction
NASA engineering and education experts discuss how to get students engaged in the Perseverance Mars rover landing and answer audience questions. Watch en Español: Seleccione subtítulos en Español bajo el ícono de configuración. › Download presentation slides

Mission of the week

Welcome to NASA’s Mission to Mars Student Challenge! Over the next five weeks, we will be leading you and your students through how to design, build, launch, and land a Mars mission. Get started by taking a look at what’s coming up. Be sure to register for a full list of tips and resources in your email inbox each week.

Tips of the week

  • These assignments can be done in any order and in part or in full as schedules allow. If you end up missing a week, don’t fret! It’s easy to catch up.
  • All lessons and activities are standards-aligned to Next Generation Science and Common Core Math Standards.
  • Short on materials? In most cases, materials can be improvised. It’s all part of the engineering design process.
  • Whether you decided to embark on the full challenge or just a component or two, you can celebrate your students' achievement with a certificate of participation! See the links below to download a personalizable certificate.

More resources

Learn About Mars
Before they can launch to Mars, students need to learn more about where they're going and why. Moogega Cooper, a planetary protection engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, shares her tips for this key first step to planning a successful Mars mission. Watch en Español: Seleccione subtítulos en Español bajo el ícono de configuración.

Mission of the week

Before they can launch to Mars, students need to learn more about where they're going and why. This week, students will learn more about the Red Planet and determine what they hope to find. This will help them design their mission and plan for launch, arrival, and surface operations.

Tips of the week

  • Scientists, and students, learn about Mars to gain an understanding of what's known and unknown about the Red Planet and to develop questions that have yet to be answered. Once they have determined what’s known and what they want to learn, students will be ready for Week 2 of the challenge during which they will plan their mission.
  • Learning about Mars can help generate new questions about topics that have already been explored. Encourage students to engage their curiosity and think of ways they might get answers to their questions.
  • In addition to the lessons you select from below, encourage students to learn about Mars by perusing NASA’s Mars Exploration website.

More resources

Lessons & activities for this week lessons and activities to choose from Click to expand
Choose a grade level:
Lessons and activities are aligned to NGSS and Common Core Math standards. These assignments can be done in any order and in part or in full as schedules allow.
Plan Your Mission
Elizabeth Cordoba, a payload systems engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, talks about her job on the Perseverance Mars rover mission and some of the important factors to consider when planning a mission to the Red Planet. Watch en Español: Seleccione subtítulos en Español bajo el ícono de configuración.

Mission of the week

Now that we have some knowledge about our destination, it’s time to plan our mission to Mars. We need to plan for a long trip, determine which power source we’ll use, select science instruments that will help us accomplish our goals, make sure everything will fit on the rocket, and stay under budget! Here’s Elizabeth Cordoba, a payload systems engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, with some expert advice about how NASA plans missions to Mars.

Tips of the week

  • Planning a mission involves deciding what science you'll do when you get there, balancing budgets, and choosing the best technology and power systems for your spacecraft. This week’s lessons get younger students thinking about locomotion and tools they might put on a Mars robot, while older students, in grades 3 and up, can play a mission-planning board game. If you’re teaching remotely, you can still play the game together as a class!
  • Students will also want to think about how they're going to get their spacecraft to its destination, when it will need to launch, and where it will land when it gets to its destination. Traveling to Mars can take anywhere from six to nine months, depending on when you launch and the mass of your spacecraft. High-school students can do the actual calculations to determine the next best opportunity to launch to Mars!

More resources

Lessons & activities for this week lessons and activities to choose from Click to expand
Design Your Spacecraft
Before they can launch to Mars, students need to design their spacecraft based on what they want it to do on the Red Planet. Billy Allen, a mechatronics engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, talks about his job on the Perseverance Mars rover mission and some of the important factors to consider when designing a spacecraft. Watch en Español: Seleccione subtítulos en Español bajo el ícono de configuración.

Mission of the week

Now that we’ve planned our mission, it’s time to design – and test – our spacecraft. This week’s activities engage students in the engineering design process. Students must use creative thinking to brainstorm a design, whether it’s for the whole spacecraft or just a part, such as the robotic arm; create a physical model; and then test their model. During testing, students will likely see ways they can improve their model. Encourage them to do so, even if it means starting over from scratch. This is what engineers at NASA do – design, test, redesign, retest – when trying to come up with the best solution for a problem. Here’s Billy Allen, a mechatronics engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, with some expert advice about how NASA designs and tests spacecraft.

Tips of the week

  • Don't have all the materials listed? That's ok! Common materials found around the house combined with a little ingenuity can result in great designs.
  • Have students first sketch their designs on paper or use technology to create a design. The drawings don’t need to be perfect. Sketching develops spatial awareness skills!
  • Encourage students to be creative and try new ideas. When some of their ideas don’t yield the desired results, treat it as a learning experience. Sometimes we learn more from an unsuccessful attempt than we do from a successful one!
  • Encourage cooperative learning and exchanging of ideas. NASA engineers work together on projects, sharing ideas and striving for team success.

More resources

Lessons & activities for this week lessons and activities to choose from Click to expand
Choose a grade level:
Lessons and activities are aligned to NGSS and Common Core Math standards. These assignments can be done in any order and in part or in full as schedules allow.
Launch Your Mission
Before they can conduct research on Mars, students need to launch their spacecraft. Sarah Elizabeth McCandless, a navigation engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, talks about her job on the Perseverance Mars rover mission and some of the important factors to consider when launching a mission to the Red Planet. Watch en Español: Seleccione subtítulos en Español bajo el ícono de configuración.

Mission of the week

Now that we’ve designed our spacecraft, it’s time to launch our mission. This week, older students will engage in the engineering design process and data collection while younger students will use geometry and develop their spatial skills. Students will learn about Newton’s laws of motion and brainstorm a rocket design. They can then create a physical model, test their model, collect performance data, and redesign and retest their rocket until it's performing at its best. Students will decide how to measure performance. For example, is flight distance or accuracy more important? Here’s Sarah Elizabeth McCandless, a navigation engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, with some expert advice about how NASA launches spacecraft.

Tips of the week

  • Launching rockets is great fun! Caution students to be careful to aim their rockets away from people and to wear eye protection.
  • The simplest rockets involve either balloons or straws. Any balloon will do, it doesn’t have to be a particular shape. If students don’t have straws, encourage them to make a paper straw.

More resources

Lessons & activities for this week lessons and activities to choose from Click to expand
Choose a grade level:
Lessons and activities are aligned to NGSS and Common Core Math standards. These assignments can be done in any order and in part or in full as schedules allow.
Land on Mars
After a successful launch to Mars, students need to land their spacecraft. Erisa Stilley, an entry, descent and landing engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, talks about her job on the Perseverance Mars rover mission and some of the important factors to consider when landing a mission on the Red Planet. Watch en Español: Seleccione subtítulos en Español bajo el ícono de configuración.

Mission of the week

Now that we’ve learned about Mars, planned our mission, designed our spacecraft, and launched, it’s time to land on Mars! Landing on Mars is tricky, and NASA engineers have to do a lot of designing, testing, and redesigning to make sure spacecraft can land safely. This includes designing and testing each part of the landing system, including the parachute, as well as programming the rover's computer to perform each landing maneuver flawlessly all on its own. Just one of the challenges spacecraft, including Perseverance, have to overcome is slowing from nearly 12,500 miles (20,000 kilometers) per hour upon entering the atmosphere to about 2 miles (3 kilometers) per hour by the time they're just above the surface.

Tips of the week

  • Landing on Mars is tough! NASA engineers –and students – must test designs repeatedly and redesign landing systems based on test results. Reassure students that success is rarely achieved on the first try.
  • Encourage students to be creative and use found materials as they solve this week’s landing design challenges.

More resources

Lessons & activities for this week lessons and activities to choose from Click to expand
Choose a grade level:
Lessons and activities are aligned to NGSS and Common Core Math standards. These assignments can be done in any order and in part or in full as schedules allow.
Surface Operations
After safely touching down on the surface of Mars, it's time for students to start operating their spacecraft. Amila Cooray, a mechatronics engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, talks about his job on the Perseverance Mars rover mission and what goes into operating a mission on the surface of the Red Planet. Watch en Español: Seleccione subtítulos en Español bajo el ícono de configuración.

Mission of the week

Having safely landed on Mars, students' rovers are now ready to explore. This week, students will identify areas of geological interest and put scientific instruments to use.

Tips of the week

  • Encourage students to follow their curiosity and engage with lessons and activities in their areas of interest, whether it's rocks, volcanoes, the interior of the planet, or the search for life.
  • Encourage students to engage in engineering activities to understand the technology that enables exploration.
  • When students find the answer to a question they have, ask them if that answer makes them think of other questions they might want to try to answer.

More resources

Lessons & activities for this week lessons and activities to choose from Click to expand
Choose a grade level:
Lessons and activities are aligned to NGSS and Common Core Math standards. These assignments can be done in any order and in part or in full as schedules allow.
Sample Handling
An important part of the Perseverance Mars rover mission is to collect and store rock samples for future missions to retrieve and eventually return to Earth. Aaron Yazzie, a mechanical engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, talks about his job on the Perseverance Mars rover mission and how the rover will collect and store samples on the Red Planet. Watch en Español: Seleccione subtítulos en Español bajo el ícono de configuración.

Mission of the week

One of the most challenging parts of the Perseverance rover mission is collecting samples of Mars rocks and soil, placing those samples into tubes, and leaving them strategically on the surface, where they could eventually be collected and returned to Earth by a future mission. This week, students learn how we sample rocks on Mars and package these samples for return to Earth sometime in the future. Students can also consider how a future mission might collect these samples by programming a video game to do just that. This week is especially fun for students because they’ll be thinking about doing something NASA has never done before – bringing samples from Mars to Earth.

Tips of the week

  • For younger students, use play dough to pre-build a rock for them to core and investigate.
  • Encourage students to keep up with NASA's Mars exploration as we continue to learn more about the Red Planet.
  • Whether you decided to embark on the full challenge or just a component or two, you can celebrate your students' achievement with a certificate of participation! See the links below to download a personalizable certificate.

More resources

Map View: World | United States
Join the adventure with
syncing...
students worldwide!

Share the Adventure

Highlight your students' work from the Mission to Mars Student Challenge.

Education Resources

More Resources from NASA

FAQ

Who can register?
NASA is inviting schools, classrooms, educational organizations, homeschools, and families from around the world to register their students. Students under 18 should be registered by a teacher or guardian. Educators can register once on behalf of their entire classroom or organization.
Why should I register?
You and your students can be part of the excitement as years of planning, research, and engineering culminate with NASA landing the most exciting Mars mission to date. Students will have the opportunity to model different components of a Mars mission while engaging with NASA scientists and engineers along the way. Live programming will be available for students of all grades, and student projects and questions will be highlighted.
What do participants receive?
A guided 5-week education plan for elementary, middle, and high school students with standards-aligned STEM lessons and activities from NASA; a weekly newsletter with links to tips and resources related to the mission phase of the week; video conversations with mission scientists and engineers highlighting how their work relates to what students are learning – plus, ideas to kick-start the weekly challenge; and opportunities to participate in Q&As with mission experts and submit student questions and work that could be featured during NASA broadcasts leading up to and on landing day.
Is there a deadline for registering?
You can register to join the challenge any time between Jan. 8 and landing day, Feb. 18. However, the earlier you register, the more opportunities you will have to participate in events and receive the newsletters with links to education resources and more.
What happens after I register?
Each Thursday, starting Jan. 14, we'll email you a guided education plan for the week ahead along with a video featuring a mission scientist or engineer introducing the theme of the week. Plans will include standards-aligned STEM lessons and activities tied to each week's theme and appropriate for students in TK through 12th grade. Throughout the challenge, you can choose your level of involvement and the activities that are most appropriate for your students. Maybe it’s a busy week and you only have time to watch a short video – we have that for you! Maybe your students are up for more of a challenge. We have lots of options for every age. Younger students will learn the basics while high school students will gain advanced skills. The important thing is to have fun while learning and growing in STEM skills! We'll also send you reminders about online events and opportunities for you and your students to meet mission experts and ask them questions!
Do I have to register to watch the live streams?
You do not have to register to watch the live streams. However, if you would like to submit questions for NASA experts to answer during the live stream, you will need to be registered for the challenge. (If you are not already registered, you can do so by clicking any of the 'register' buttons on this page.) Challenge participants will receive a link and instructions for submitting questions in the newsletter that goes out the week prior to each event. Participants will also receive event reminders from Eventbrite, which will include information about submitting questions.
Will recordings of the live streams be made available?
Yes! Recordings each live stream will be made available at the same link where they are broadcast. The link will also be available on the event listing in the Key Dates area above.
Do we have to do every lesson and activity each week to participate?
You can choose your level of involvement and the activities that are most appropriate for your students. Maybe it’s a busy week and you only have time to watch a short video - great! We have that for you! Maybe your students are up for more of a challenge - great! We have lots of options for every age.
What if my students are joining the challenge late or miss a week?
No problem! It's fine to combine two themes into one week or even skip a theme. Do what works for your students. A quick way to catch up is to simply watch the short introductory videos for each week and one of the Mars in a Minute videos.
What if my students don't have all the materials?
The materials lists contain suggested items, some of which can be found at home. If students don't have access to certain materials, they can get creative in finding substitutes or coming up with design solutions that use different materials, including things they may have at home. For example, if an activity calls for a straw and students don't have straws, have them look around for straw-like substitutes such as paper rolled into a straw! If they need string and don't have any, how about dental floss or sewing thread? Improvising is encouraged!
Are these activities aligned to any standards?
All activities in the Mission to Mars Student Challenge are aligned to NGSS science or engineering standards, and/or Common Core math standards.