Virtual Mission

Destination Mars

Mission Goal: Select one of Mars's moons to be our next base.

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Grade Level 5-8

Earth and Space Science

Stay In My Classroom

A base on Deimos or Phobos? Your students decide.

Researchers are ready to explore Mars, but there’s one problem—more than 40 million miles separate Earth from the Red Planet. This distance makes it impossible to travel back and forth between the two planets while completing our research. We need to build a base on one of the Red Planet’s moons, Deimos or Phobos, that will allow us to send a spacecraft to the surface of Mars and back in the fastest and safest way possible.

Your students will work in teams to select which moon is best to build our base by analyzing three sets of data collected by rovers on Deimos and Phobos.

The team’s research efforts come to a halt when they encounter a critical emergency. To successfully explore Mars’ moons and complete the mission, your students must work together to protect the rovers and restore communication, analyze the data from their experiments, and select a moon to build a base.

Featuring Former Astronaut Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburber

Kick off your Earth and space science unit with our interactive Destination Mars simulation, where students experience real-world STEM careers, and are placed into teams to conduct research and collaborate to find solutions to urgent challenges.

While Destination Mars primarily focuses on Earth and space science themes, it also integrates physical science topics.

Integrate our pre-and post-mission activities into your lesson to expand students’ understanding of space science and technology.

“I always love to see how engaged our students are when they experience missions. They always come away feeling so confident and excited about their accomplishments.”

- Teacher from Illinois

Learning Objectives

  • Learn about the two moons of Mars: Phobos and Deimos

  • Understand and analyze the surface features of Mars and its two moons

  • Troubleshoot and solve problems using the engineering design process

  • Collaborate with peers to achieve a common goal

  • Enhance scientific vocabulary

  • Approximate program time: 1 hour

  • Pre- and post-lesson activities available

  • Closed captioning available

  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) aligned

  • Common Core State Standards (CCSS) aligned

  • Internet connection required

  • Device with audio/video capability required

  • No personal student data collected

Pre-Mission Astronaut Training

Prepare your class of astronauts for a rich Destination Mars experience by teaching them about rovers, solar weather and radiation.

Post-Mission Challenge

Students confront scientific misconceptions by sharing what they learned in Destination Mars to help others. In this challenge, students will produce a 2-minute NASA Spotlite animated video.

In Partnership

Destination Mars was made possible with support from Northrop Grumman.

Pre- and post-mission activities were made in partnership with NASA and the National Institute of Aerospace.