Remote Sensing Beta Test – Science Activity 3: Mineral Fingerprinting

Remote Sensing: Activity – Science S3 card front

Activity Timing

5 min. Introduction
15 min. Minerals and Spectroscopy
35 min. Explore Data
5 min. Reflect

60 min. Total

Prep Snapshot

Prep Time: 60 min 

At least two days ahead, create tactile spectra graphs and allow them to dry. 

S3 Educator Guide

Mineral Fingerprints Handout

Mineral Fingerprints Audio Files

S3 Data Packet

S3 Science Notebook

This snapshot intended for quick reminders and is not a replacement of the guide. Be sure to use the guide for detailed preparation instructions and implementation scripts.


Spectrometer: a technology that measures the colors of light reflected from an object 

Spectrum: a range of colors 

Remote Sensing Vocab List

21st Century Skills Connections

Critical Thinking

Science Practices

  • Analyzing & Interpreting Data 

Activity Overview

Youth interpret the spectra of reflected light to identify the water-based minerals at each of four potential landing sites, determining which location on Mars has the most evidence of past water. 

Guiding Question

How can interpreting mineral data help us choose a landing site on Mars? 

Youth Will Do

  • Interpret the unique spectral “fingerprints” of different minerals to identify them. 
  • Apply their knowledge of which minerals are evidence of past water when evaluating landing sites. 

Youth Will Know

  • Spectroscopy measures how much light of different colors (both visible and invisible) is emitted by or reflected from a material. 
  • There are many “colors” of light humans can’t see, but engineers build instruments to measure them. 

Videos Related to this Activity

Family Connections Story Prompt

Can you tell me a story about identifying parts of nature that were important to you like plants, rocks, minerals, animal tracks, etc?

Additional Resources

Connecting Across Activities

  • In Science Activity 2, youth used LiDAR data to examine topography.
  • In this Activity, they use another remote sensing technology, spectroscopy, to identify minerals at different landing sites.
  • In Science Activity 4, they will use the various kinds of data they have collected to choose a landing site.