Some of the most magical images we have of far off places come from our crew of rovers driving around Mars. The paths these rovers take is painstakingly looked over, every detail considered, every turn thought about. In this fun programming activity for kids, we will get to drive a rover into Victoria’s Crater to take some photos! This is a fun STEM activity that lets kids be in charge, telling the parents what to do. And if your program doesn’t work? That’s OK, just change a few lines and see how it goes!
We ran this with our local astronomy club and paired it with SmartLabs Recon 6.0 rovers – it worked out perfectly as the command lines in the paper rovers looked identical to those families put into our rovers to complete their missions! Can’t get enough? We have a much longer course up and down Olympus Mons in our Mission to Mars lab!
Learning about rovers
(Aka great talking points for you while you are engaged in the project)
A snail’s pace: Top distance for rover travel in a day on Mars is a non-jaw dropping, unimpressive 100m. Of course, the rover often stops here and there to sample rocks, take photos or perform other experiments, shortening that distance drastically.
The Energizer Battery: Spirit and Opportunity were engineered to last a max of 90 days on Mars. Spirit endured a whopping 5+ years on the red planet before getting stuck in soft soil. Of course, that wasn’t the end for Spirit, she became a stationary spot for experiments and kept on chugging away for another year! Opportunity, on the other hand, is still functional! It has clocked almost 30 miles on mars and continues to give us interesting data and beautiful images!
Lasers: Curiosity has a laser that can vaporize rocks up to 30 feet away allowing equipment in the scientific suite to analyze the composition of vaporized bits.
The search for water: The search is always on for water on Mars, a key element to life as we know it. Curiosity has another cool beam it can shoot, a beam of neutrons. The speed that the neutrons bounce back from the ground can give Curiosity information about the abundance of hydrogen there!