|Life on Mars?
Topics: Ecological relationships QCA 8d, inheritance and survival, QCA 9a, the solar system and beyond QCA 7L
STOP PRESS! JUNE 20 2008
Scientists say they have found the "smoking gun" that convinces them they've found water ice on Mars. Chunks of bright material unearthed by NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander have vanished after around four days. The only explanation is that they vaporised when exposed to the Martian atmosphere.
So, maybe there was once - or is still - life on Mars. In this activity students study information about conditions on Mars and then create an imaginary Martian life form - what will its features be? How does its features help it to survive?
This 'topical' has been updated from the version originally published.
In this activity students study information about conditions on Mars and then create an imaginary Martian life form - what will its features be? How does its features help it to survive?
11 - 14 (KS3)
Ecological relationships QCA 8d - animals and plants are adapted to ensure survival
Inheritance and survival QCA 9a - characteristics are influenced by environmental conditions
The solar system and beyond QCA 7L - differences between features of the Earth and Mars
What I'm looking for is for students to explain what Martian life might be like.
What I'm looking for is for students who can use their knowledge of adaptation to make sensible suggestions about life on Mars
Running the activity
This activity is designed to take about 20 minutes.
To start the activity, you could ask students what they have seen in the news about the current missions to Mars. Then ask them to discuss - which came first (on Earth) - plants or animals?
Page 1 sets the scene – the Phoenix Lander has found water in the form of ice, on Mars, so maybe there could once have been life there. The 'photographic evidence' are chunks of bright material which vanished again after around four days. Scientists believe they are pieces of ice which vaporised when exposed to the Martian atmosphere.
Picture credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Texas A and M University
Page 2 sets the task. It includes information about how life evolved on Earth as well as information about the conditions on Earth and Mars. This information should help students to plan their imaginary life forms. The temperature data is rather uncertain - different sources give very different values. The data selected indicates that some of the water on Mars could be liquid.
As a plenary, ask students to share their drawings and explain how the life forms' features will enable them to survive in Martian conditions. You could then try getting students to choose the best feature of each life form and make a composite life form!
Further possible discussion questions
Why is water needed for life?
Mars has low air pressure - how would this affect a human body?
What has happened to the water on Mars?