Skip to main content

Remote Sensing and Mars

Youth explore the idea that NASA scientists are interested in finding evidence of past water on Mars that would indicate habitability. They are challenged to select one of four landing sites for a rover by examining high-resolution images of landforms on Mars.

robot and mars
Youth Will Know
  • NASA is interested in learning whether Mars could have once supported life.  
  • Life on Earth depends on water.  
  • NASA spacecraft take pictures of Mars and send the images back to Earth as data. 

Activity Downloads

Remote Sensing and Mars Educator Guide
pdf 1.89 MB
Remote Sensing and Mars Science Notebook
pdf 493.11 KB
Remote Sensing and Mars Data Packet
pdf 2.02 MB
Landforms Glossary
pdf 1.16 MB
Landing Ellipses
pdf 171.76 KB
Activity Trivia Icon


The Educator Guide has a script, materials list, and prep directions. Be sure to have it open and ready to help guide you through every activity. 

  • Read through the entire PLANETS Science Series guide. 
  • Print or copy Science Notebooks, one for each youth. 
  • Print or copy, and staple Data Packets, Landforms Glossary, and Mineral Data Sheets, from the Educator Guide (color if possible), one for each group. 
  • Print or copy Landing Ellipses and cut out for each group. 
Activity Trivia Icon

Guiding Question

  • What do scientists want to learn about Mars, and why is it necessary to land on the surface? 
  • What makes a good landing site? 
  • What NASA remote sensing data are available to help choose a landing site? 
Activity Trivia Icon

Youth Will Do

  • Compare landforms on Earth and Mars.  
  • Interpret image data to find safe and scientifically interesting locations. 
Activity Trivia Icon

Did You Know

Mars still has water; it is just mostly in the form of ice at the poles or trapped in minerals and underground. 

List icon

Quick Tips

  • The Viking, HiRISE, and CTX images are at different scales. The ellipses are to be traced on the CTX (10 km scale bar) images only. 
  • If your Data Packet prints out small, your landing ellipses will be too big. Have your students draw their own with a pencil. 
List icon


Data: information that is collected through scientific investigation 

Evidence: information or data that supports an idea, claim, or belief 


Curiosity’s Seven Minutes of Terror

Activity Timing

5 min
10 min
Formulating Science Questions
15 min
Introduce the Challenge
10 min
Explore the Visual Data
10 min
Wrap Up
50 min