Remote Sensing Mars

Initial Publication Date: October 23, 2012


This learning module and related laboratory exercise exposes students to remote sensing techniques utilized on Mars.

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Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • Apply the concepts of scale and context in remote sensing imagery.
  • View THEMIS and HiRISE images and interpret major geomorphic features using Google Mars and associated homework activities.
  • Understand how MOLA generates its image data by applying the basic equations in an experiment.

Context for Use

This learning module is meant for adaptation in an introductory earth science course and/or planetary science course. It is advised that the teacher compare Earth-based remote sensing instrumentation for context/reference such as LandSat 7.

Description and Teaching Materials

Compiled In-Class Activities and Homework

In-Class Activity


Teaching Notes and Tips

  • The In-Class Activities can be utilized as homework as well. Students will have a lab-write up associated with the MOLA simulation. All images for the Scale and Context activity are available in References and Resources.
  • For a large class size >20 you may either have a separate lab time/class for different sections or demonstrate the lab with the entire class and employ student participation.
  • We advise instructors to compare Earth-based remote sensing packages such as Landsat 7 for context (see Slides).
  • In preparation for the MOLA simulation In-Class Activity instructors must gather a few materials (see the MOLA simulation for further clarification).


  1. The MOLA simulation Lab write-up will assess the student's understanding of the MOLA instrument and MOLA's utility.
  2. The Google Mars homework will assess whether or not students can successfully navigate the Google Mars software and begin to interpret the data provided by Google Mars.

References and Resources

  1. THEMIS images url:
  2. LANDSAT 7 images url:
  3. HiRISE 13 April 2011 YouTube video:
  4. MRO/HiRISE All HiClips revisited (Feb 2012) YouTube Video:
  5. MOLA images url:
  6. Ping-Pong Lab (NASA):