Mars for Earthlings > Lesson Modules > In-Class Activity 3- Mars life:through the lens of Curiosity

Mars life: through the lens of Curiosity

In-Class Activity 2_Origin of Life

Julia Kahmann-Robinson PhD and Marjorie Chan PhD, University of Utah Department of Geology & Geophysics

Purpose

Students will become familiar with the mission of Curiosity as it regards to finding life on other planets.

Preparation

Resources

Mars Curiosity Habitability Mission video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHLbXTOaw7w&feature=relmfu

Engage

Have students view the following video from NASA regarding the mission of MSL Curiosity:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHLbXTOaw7w&feature=relmfu

Explore

As students watch the video have them be ready to answer and discuss the following questions:

  1. What type of "life" are scientists looking for?
  2. Can instruments on the MSL Rover Curiosity detect life?
  3. What is all life associated with?
  4. What element is necessary for life?
  5. Why would the layering of rocks at Gale Crater be of interest? What might that layering imply?

Explain

Students should define habitability , extinct life, and extant life. They should understand that the "life" on Mars may be very small and primitive if scientists are lucky enough to find and detect it.

Here is a short recommended reading on habitability of Mars: http://www.space.com/19928-mars-habitable-life-possible.html

Elaborate

Extremophiles at Gale Crater

Evaluate

Ask students to study the annotated layering of Gale Crater and present the mineral chemical formulas.

  1. Why are these minerals important to Mars exploration? Could some of them indicate life? Why or why not?
  2. Why might the mineralogy be changing?