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Terraforming Mars

  Viking Lander
Mars Mission: The Next 10 Years
Donna Shirley, Manager, Mars Exploration Program, JPL
Sound28.8 kbps
(running time: 30:22)

Excerpt fromRed Mars
by Kim Stanley Robinson,
Bantam Books, 1993

It may seem impossible now, but scientists are seriously considering the problem of terraforming—turning Mars into a living, breathing planet.

Listen to the audio file from Donna Shirley, manager of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program at JPL to find out what exploration plans are already underway. Then enter the world of science fiction with Kim Stanley Robinson’sRed Mars.

To hear the audio file, you need the RealPlayer plug-in.Downloadit now.

Why is the environment on Mars currently unsuitable for human habitation? What technologies would need to be used to accomplish terraforming? How long would it take?

How realistic is the science fiction excerpt? Could some or all of it eventually be possible? Which parts of the excerpt are purely speculative fantasies? How do you know?

What are the benefits of exploring Mars? Are they worth the costs and risks?

Future Plan

  1. Gather all your great ideas and research materials, brainstorm more great ideas with others, and make a plan for the future to answer this question:

How would we terraform Mars? Should we even try it? Why or why not?

  2. Choose one of these styles for your presentation: pursuasive speech, science article, science fiction story.
  3. When you’re finished, present your plan to the class. The presentation should give an overview of the steps in your plan, explain who should be responsible for executing each step, and describe what costs and benefits are associated with the plan. You can enhance the presentation with audiovisual materials, models, and demonstrations. Presentations will be evaluated on:
  • Clear definition of the problem or need.
  • Clear presentation of facts and sources.
  • Organization (beginning, middle, and end).
  • Group participation and attentiveness during other presentations.
  • Effect on the audience.