Inhabiting Mars

Concept 1: Why would humans want to inhabit Mars?

Success Criteria

  • I can give reasons for why Mars exploration is important.

This is the state of the world...

The world is becoming overcrowded and Earth’s resources are running out. what will come next?

You and a team of Scientists are tasked with planning how humans could inhabit Mars.

Video: Where Does Your Curiosity Lead? Curiosity is a big part of what it means to be human. It's also the name of NASA's next Mars rover.

Assignment: Create an Informative Poster

Posters must be done individually, and in your own words. This poster can be on paper or online, and roughly the size of an A4 page.

Poster Part 1: Comparing Planetary Conditions

In order to establish a human settlement on Mars, it is necessary to transform the environment so that it is livable. One of the questions scientists are currently pursuing is whether it is possible to "terraform" the Martian surface; that is, can we engineer the planet's surface to make it more "Earth-like?"

Your mission is to familiarise yourself with the environmental conditions on both planets. Investigate the environmental conditions on Mars and compare them to those on Earth.

Using the websites listed below, as well as any others you find, present a table like this in your informative poster. 'Notes' section is OPTIONAL.

Poster Part 2: What makes Mars a good candidate planet for Humans to inhabit?

Research the question above. When researching this question, consider the following:

  1. Location in the solar system.

  2. Climate/weather.

  3. Access to water on Mars.

Video: Wind and Radiation on Mars - Curiosity monitors radiation and spots elusive whirlwinds on Mars.

Video: Curiosity Rover Report - Mars Weather Report - After two Martian years, Curiosity is more than a Mars geologist, scientist and explorer. It's a Mars weather reporter, too.

Video: Curiosity Finds Calcium-Rich Deposits - Curiosity rover finds calcium deposits on Mars similar to those seen on Earth when water circulates in cracks and rock fractures.

Video: Selecting a Landing Site - Scientists get closer to selecting a landing site for the Curiosity rover. This video talks about evidence of water on Mars.

Video: A Guide to Gale Crater - The Curiosity rover has taught us a lot about the history of Mars and its potential to support life. Take a tour of its landing site, Gale Crater.

Video: Seeking Signs of Past Mars Habitability - Unlike previous rovers sent to Mars, Curiosity is a robot chemist seeking evidence of past habitability on Mars.

Video: The Making of Mount Sharp - How a Martian mountain came to be: the story behind Curiosity's current location on Mars. This video also talks about evidence of water on Mars.

NASA's Curiosity Rover

Video: Getting a Rover Ready for Launch - Engineers put the rover through thousands of hours of testing. They did drop tests; pull tests; drive tests; load tests, and many other tests to get Curiosity ready for launch.

Video: Curiosity Rover Animation - Animation shows how the Curiosity rover was launched from Earth, travelled through space, and landed on Mars. It then goes on to show how the rover explores the surface of Mars.

Video: Spacecraft Power - There are no gas stations or power outlets in space. This video explains the type of power system the Curiosity rover uses called "radioisotope power".

Video: How Do You Land on Mars? - This video explain how landing on Mars is done, and the three landing systems used by NASA.

Video: How Hard is it to Land Curiosity on Mars? - This video shows what it takes for a rover to touch down on Mars successfully.

Video: How Do Rovers Drive on Mars? - This video shows how official rover drivers operate the rover from Earth.

Concept 2: What do Humans need to Survive on Mars?

Success Criteria

  • I can describe the process and give the equation for cellular respiration.

Humans need Energy in the Form of ATP

All living things need energy (in a form called ATP) to be able to carry out the 7 life processes below:

  • Movement - Whole organism or parts of it move.

  • Respiration - Releases energy from its food through the process of cellular respiration in cells.

  • Sensitivity - Senses and responds to stimuli.

  • Growth - Grows and gets bigger.

  • Reproduction - Reproduces and produces offspring.

  • Excretion - Excretes and gets rid of waste products.

  • Nutrition - Needs nutrition to get energy.

This forms the acronym:

Energy in the form of ATP is made via Respiration

The energy humans need to survive on Mars is made through a process called cellular respiration.

Humans need glucose (a type of sugar) and oxygen, so that their cells can undergo cellular respiration and produce ATP as a main product, and carbon dioxide and water as by-products.

The respiration equation:

Getting Oxygen and Glucose

How do humans get the oxygen they need for respiration?

We breathe in oxygen from our surroundings. As we breathe in, oxygen enters our nose and travels into our lungs where gas exchange happens. Oxygen diffuses from the air in the lungs and into the blood, which is is pumped around the body by the heart.

How do humans get the glucose they need for respiration?

Glucose is a type of sugar that comes from the food we eat, such as rice and pasta. We mechanically break food down in our mouths and stomachs, and further break it down chemically in our stomachs and intestines. Glucose is absorbed by the small intestines, into the blood.

What are the THREE organ systems needed to get oxygen and glucose to cells?

1) The respiratory system brings oxygen from the air, into the lungs. Oxygen enters the blood.

2) The digestive system chemically and mechanically breaks down food so that it is small enough to be absorbed by the small intestine. The small intestine brings glucose and other nutrients into the blood.

3) The circulatory system is made up of the blood, blood vessels, and the heart. The heart pumps blood (containing oxygen and glucose) to all the cells of the body, so the cells can carry out cellular respiration.

Concept 3: Where does Oxygen and Glucose come from?

Success Criteria

  • I can describe the process and give the equation for photosynthesis.

  • I can explain how respiration and photosynthesis are both necessary for the survival of plants and humans.


Photosynthesis is the process by which plants capture energy from sunlight and turn it into glucose (food), and oxygen.

Therefore, plants provide the reactants that all living things need for cellular respiration.

The photosynthesis equation:

The Link between Photosynthesis and Respiration

Photosynthesis and cellular respiration are connected through an important relationship. This relationship enables life to survive as we know it.

The word equations show that the reactants and products of aerobic respiration and photosynthesis are opposites:

  • Aerobic respiration uses oxygen and produces carbon dioxide

  • Photosynthesis uses carbon dioxide and produces oxygen

Photosynthesis makes the glucose that is used in cellular respiration to make ATP. The glucose is then turned back into carbon dioxide, which is used in photosynthesis.

Oxygen on Mars

Concept 4: What conditions do plants need to grow on Mars?

Success Criteria

  • I can describe the different steps of a fair test.

  • I can describe and identify the dependent, independent, and control variables in experiments.

  • I can carry out a fair test exploring what conditions a a plant needs to grow.

Plants can provide us with both the oxygen and glucose we need to carry out cellular respiration and survive on Mars. Both how exactly can we grow them. What conditions are required for plants to grow?

To maximise the amount of photosynthesis (and therefore growth) a plant can carry out, we need to ensure plants have sufficient amounts of water, carbon dioxide, and light.

For this concept, you will learn how to design and carry out a fair test to explore what conditions a plant needs to grow.

The Scientific Method

Aim: A statement on what you are trying to find out.

Method: A list of simple, clear, and numbered steps of what you will do – and how it will be repeated by another person.

Results: A section containing raw and/or data, tables and graphs collected.

Conclusion: A few sentences on what your results tell you – linked back to the aim.

Discussion: A paragraph that brings in science ideas to explain your results, improvements, how you managed to control the other variables and why (to ensure accuracy and reliability).

Types of Variables

Concept 5: How are we going to get to Mars?

Success Criteria

  • I can describe what forces are and how the affect objects.

  • I can name the forces acting on moving objects and represent their size and direction with diagrams.

Now that we have an idea of what we will need to survive on mars, we need to plan how we are going to get to Mars.

The main difficulty in the journey is leaving the surface of the Earth with all the equipment and supplies to start a settlement on Mars.

Can you name any forces involved in the launch?

What is a Force?

A force (F) is a push or a pull. It is measured using a unit called Newton (N). Forces can change:

  • The shape of an object.

  • The speed of an object.

  • The direction of an object.

What are some types of Forces?

There are several types of forces, and here are a few:

Thrust Force

Thrust is the force that forcefully pushes an object from itself.

For example:

  • Jet fuel is combusted by an engine to thrust a plane forward.

  • Energy is used by muscles to thrust a sprinter forward.

Friction Force

Friction is the force that always opposes an object's motion, as surfaces rub against each other.

Weight Force

Weight force (W) is the force pulling objects towards the centre of the Earth, due to gravity.

Support Force

Support force is the upward force on an object that is in contact with another stable object.

How are Forces Drawn?

All forces acting on an object can be shown on a free body diagram. The size and direction of the force is shown by arrows.

The size of each force may also be shown in its units, ‘Newton’ or ‘N’.

Rules for drawing a Free Body Diagram

  1. The object or ‘body’ is usually shown as a box or a dot.

  2. The forces are shown as thin arrows pointing AWAY from the centre of the box or dot.

  3. All arrows should be labelled to show the type and size of force.

Balanced vs Unbalanced Forces

Compare these two diagrams in terms of direction and size of the net force.

Reminder: Forces acting in opposite directions subtract or cancel each other out.

Balanced Forces

When two forces acting on an object are equal in size but act in opposite directions, we say that they are balanced forces.

Unbalanced Forces

When there is a change in the shape, movement, or direction of something, we know the forces acting on it are unbalanced (unequal).

Measuring Forces

One of the instruments used to measure forces is the force meter. The unit of force is called Newton (N).

To calculate weight force due to gravity, multiply the mass of the object by acceleration due to gravity, which is 10m/s.

Concept 6: We're Going to Need a Better Rocket!

Success Criteria

  • I can define chemical reactions.

  • I can represent chemical reactions as word equations.

  • I can explain how to make hydrogen gas and test for it.

Chemical Reactions as Word Equations

Chemical reactions occur when different substances react together to create new substances.

Just like baking a cake, different 'ingredients' or 'reactants' react to form the final 'product'.

When writing chemical equations, arrows mean 'to produce/make' and + signs indicate two or more reactants or products.

Hydrogen Gas can be Used as Fuel

Making and Testing Hydrogen Gas

You will need: test tube, test tube rack, splint, 1cm piece of magnesium, bottle of hydrochloric acid, Bunsen burner, heatproof mat.

  1. Put your safety goggles on!

  2. Add approximately 1mL of hydrochloric acid into your test tube

  3. Place the 1cm piece of magnesium into the test tube (make sure it is in the liquid), IMMEDIATELY cover the test tube with your thumb

  4. Wait a minute until you feel the the pressure building up under your thumb

You are making hydrogen gas and are trapping it in the test tube.

  1. Light the splint

  2. Remove your thumb and place the tip of the burning splint into the mouth of the test tube

Choosing Materials for your Rocket

It is important to explore what materials are most suitable for rocket designs, taking into consideration properties such as:

  • Density - the mass of a substance per volume.

  • Malleability - ability to bend or be shaped easily.

  • Reactivity - tendency of a material to undergo chemical change.

  • Conductivity - how easily electricity can pass through the material.

Research the differences in properties of metals and non-metals like plastics and ceramics. Theorise the ideal material(s) for your rocket ship.