Inquire, Engage, and Explore: The Mars Student Imaging Project

Taking Photos of Mars!
THEMIS is one of the Mars Odyssey instruments The Inquire, Engage, and Explore: The Mars Student Imaging Project web seminar, produced in collaboration with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Arizona State University Mars Education Program, was held on Thursday, December 7, 2006, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern time. The presenter was Paige Valderrama Graff, Assistant Director of the Mars Education and Outreach Program within the Mars Spaceflight Facility, School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. The presentation focused on the Mars Student Imaging Project. In this project students use the THEMIS instrument aboard the Mars Odyssey spacecraft to take images of planet Mars for scientific analysis.

Nineteen (19) participants were present in addition to the presenters and the NSTA staff. Participating educators represented the states of California, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Puerto Rico, and Washington.

In this presentation Paige Valderrama Graff described the Mars Student Imaging Project, MSIP. This project, designed for middle and high school students, allows participants to use the THEMIS instrument aboard the Mars Odyssey spacecraft, (currently orbiting the planet Mars), to take a photo of the Martian surface and do real science. Students work in teams to craft a proposal indicating the location on Mars (latitude and longitude) that they would like to photograph and the reasons behind their selection. When approved, students analyze their image with the assistance of NASA scientists and their teacher. At the end of the program, all MSIP students and their teacher receive a copy of their image as a memento of their experience.

Each THEMIS image represents an area 18 km wide

Web Seminar participants asked many questions about the MSIP and how to get their students to participate. Before looking at a few THEMIS images to simulate the work that MSIP students are tasked to do, Ms. Graff explained that each image is of an area 18 km wide and that the Sun is always located to the left of the image. With this information, teachers were able to identify different features, like craters, gullies, and flood islands, etc, and estimate their sizes. The work students do in the Mars Student Imaging Project is similar to the work planetary scientists do to learn more about Mars and the solar system. All participants received a copy of NSTA's SciGuide about Mars, the Red Planet.

Here are some comments provided by the participants at the end of the Web Seminar:

  • "The seminar made me aware of a wonderful tool in the study of Mars for classroom use."
  • "We are in the process of updating our Planetary Science Course and including more up-to-date information for middle school students. This real-world application is great! The scientific thinking processes involved are perfect for middle school students."
  • "Absolutely wonderful! I was just thinking how I could get my 8th graders interested in looking at the planets in preparation for the state testing. This is a GREAT program and I never would have known about it if NSTA hadn't done this web seminar."
  • "At first I was unsure about whether or not I would incorporate this program into my classroom. I will definitely try to incorporate it! My students will be very engaged in the process of science through this."

Thanks to the participants and the presenter for the learning opportunity, the interactions, and a job well done!

Web Seminar: Mars Student Imaging Project - Resources

See a recorded version of the Web Seminar.


For more information contact

Back to Top

Underwritten by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory