Life on Mars - Logistics

10 min introduction
20-30 min design experiments
35-50 min conduct experiments (some tests may need to be left overnight)
20-30 min discuss experiments

Groups of 2-3 students

For all tests:

  • A copy of the Testing Martian Soils handout for each student
  • permanent markers
  • masking tape or labeling tape
  • hand lenses

For soil samples, enough for a class of 30 students in teams of 3:

  • 30 ziplock bags
  • 3 cups clean playground sand (no organic material should be present so carefully strain or wash the sand if necessary)
  • 8 packages fast-acting yeast (2 ounces total)
  • 4 Alkaseltzer® tablets, crushed

For nutrient milkshake:

  • 500 ml distilled water
  • 85 g table sugar (around 6 tablespoons)
  • 85 g all purpose white flour (around 6 tablespoons)
  • 1 liter bottle or flask

For agar plates (see Life Trap activity for ordering information):

  • 50 sterile disposable plastic 15 mm x 100 mm Petri dishes
  • 15 g agar agar powder
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes
  • 40 g table sugar (around 3 tablespoons) ** Unlike the plates made for the Life Trap activity, sugar is required for agar plates that yeast will happily grow on. If your agar agar powder is pre-sweetened, then no additional sugar is necessary. **
  • 1 liter distilled water
  • stove and large pot for preparing nutrient agar and steam sterilizing the Q tips
  • Q tips
  • paper towels
  • bleach

For organic molecules tests (see Testing for Life activity for ordering information):

  • Copy of test station directions at each test station (see Testing for Life activity)
  • Biuret solution
  • Benedict’s solution
  • Iodine tincture
  • beakers or cups
  • test tubes
  • test tube racks
  • eye droppers
  • trays or bins to keep the materials for each test station
  • small 100 ml beakers or squeeze bottles to contain test reagents
  • Optional: large squeeze bottles of water (500 ml disposable plastic water bottles are fine) for rinsing test tubes at test stations rather than going to a sink
  • large beakers or cups to dump waste materials
  • hot plate or source of boiling water
  • insulated containers such as a thermos or Styrofoam cup for creating a hot water bath
  • Optional: thermometers to monitor the temperature in the hot water bath
  • disposable latex gloves

For microscope test:

  • dissecting scope, although a light microscope at low power will also work
  • slides or Petri dishes

Optional for introduction:

  • computer with digital projector to show students slide shows or videos of the Mars Exploration Rover Mission (see Sources section for details)