Views and Missions in Space

Julia Kahmann-Robinson PhD and Marjorie Chan PhD, University of Utah Department of Geology & Geophysics
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Initial Publication Date: May 30, 2013


This learning module compares early and recent missions to Mars as well as familiarizes students with a common instrument used in NASA mission payloads.

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Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • Become familiar with mass spectroscopy, a common instrument aboard NASA missions
  • Compare the Viking and MSL-Curiosity missions in terms of advances in technology

Context for Use

This learning module is meant for adaptation in an introductory earth science course and/or planetary science course. Students will only need prior basic knowledge of Mars to understand the significance of sophisticated technology.

Description and Teaching Materials

Compiled In-Class Activities and Homework

In-Class Activity


Teaching Notes and Tips

  1. Homework 1 may be used as an In-Class Activity if desired.
  2. If your institution has a mass spectrometer in-house, schedule a visit for the class to view the instrument. Most lab mass spectrometers are at least 10x's bigger than spectrometers used on rovers and/or satellites orbiting Mars.


Each In-Class Activity and Homework set has its own measure of assessment/evaluation.

References and Resources

  1. Image File: Views and Missions in Space (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 2.1MB Nov5 13)
  2. Mass Spectrometer YouTube video:
  3. Viking Mission Documentary:
  4. Curiosity Rover trailer:
  5. MSL Curiosity 7 minutes of terror: