Collage of images and graphics of Mars and Mars missions

This activity is related to a Teachable Moment from April 2018. See "NASA InSight Lander to Get First Look at 'Heart' of Mars."

› Explore more on the Teachable Moments Blog


In this standards-aligned unit, students learn about Mars, design a mission to explore the planet, build and test model spacecraft and components, and engage in scientific exploration. The unit takes students through seven stages, including learning about the planet, planning the mission, designing the spacecraft, launching, landing, surface operations and sample return.



  • This set of activities may be completed in whole or part, and in any sequence.
  • Most activities are best completed by pairs or teams of students.


Ever wanted to take your students on an exciting journey? What if you could take that journey from the comfort of the classroom or out-of-school learning environment? Welcome to Mission to Mars!

Over the course of these lessons, you and your students will learn about and plan a mission to Mars. Your students will apply their creativity and science and math knowledge to explore the Red Planet. Not a scientist or engineer? That's okay! You're going to learn everything you need to know while preparing for and conducting these lessons. And you actually already have some engineering skills, whether you know it or not.

Ready, set, let's go!


Jump to:

  1. Learn About Mars
  2. Plan Your Mission
  3. Design Your Spacecraft
  4. Launch Your Mission
  5. Land on Mars
  6. Surface Operations
  7. Sample Return

Learn About Mars

Students learn about Mars by watching short videos and engaging in mathematics and art activities.

Plan Your Mission

Students engage in the engineering design process to plan a mission to Mars.

Design Your Spacecraft

Now that a mission has been planned, students learn about and build spacecraft, including satellites and rovers, as well as a robotic arm.

Launch Your Mission

Students learn through the engineering design process what it takes to launch a spacecraft.

Land on Mars

Students use the engineering design process to design landing systems that will enable their spacecraft to land softly on the Mars surface.

Surface Operations

Once their spacecraft has landed safely, students are challenged to learn about spacecraft communication, energy management on Mars, surface features and life science.

Sample Return

To conclude a successful mission to Mars, students design a small rocket that will return samples to Earth from the Red Planet.


Explore More

Try these related resources for students from NASA's Space Place: