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Plan your mission and learn to drive the rover

A two part activity to guide teams through the precise mapping and planning of their 60 minute exploration and to practise driving through a simulation of the Mars Yard.

You will need:

  • 2 x 40-60 minutes
  • Mars Yard – Rover Landing site handout
  • To be familiar with the Virtual Mars Yard
  • One computer with web access for at least each mission team (suggest: 4-5 groups of 3-6 members)
  • Have the Mars Yard Maps application open in your browser before the lesson.



1. Our mission requires careful planning, practise and teamwork

Lead the class to understand that real missions of this nature require years of experimentation, teamwork and very precise planning and rehearsal. Let them know that we also need to carefully plan our mission and submit a mission plan to the Mars Lab team for approval before we can proceed. Ask them:

Why do you think such careful planning is necessary?

There are many, many things that could go wrong, don’t get second chances, equipment is very expensive, many unknowns, one wrong command could cause the rover to be lost or damaged, sending commands costs money, time delay (about 20 mins) for radio signals to go between Earth and Mars, conserve energy, don’t want to get bogged.

2. Use digital tools to collaboratively plan the mission

  • Display the Mars Yard Maps app and locate and explore sites of interest. Have a brief discussion about the sites of interest identified by each mission team.
  • As a class, decide which sites of interest you are going to explore as a class in the 60 minutes (recommend one site per team).
  • Name your sites and discuss a possible path between them — starting from where your rover has landed (the landing position is shown on the mars yard – rover landing site activity sheets
  • Draw the mission path on the class Mars Yard Map with the path drawing tool.

3. Watch a video about operating one of our robot rovers


Visit the Mars Lab website and watch a video (on Mars Lab TV) about the general operation of our robot rovers. The basic driving principles of each rover are very similar. So even if your class drives a different rover to the one in the video, the principles are transferrable.


4. Learn to drive the rover using the Virtual Mars Yard

Have each team use the Virtual Mars Yard to learn how to control the rover by driving over the virtual surface.

Then, once they are competent with the controls, have them locate the site of interest they will be driving to during the mission, explore the path to it from the previous site of interest and practise driving the virtual rover along that path. Encourage them to use Mars Yard Maps for more accurate planning.

5. Draw your mission path on your Mars Yard Map

Display the class Mars Yard Map and facilitate contributions and suggestions from all teams to finalise a class mission path.

The Mars Lab team will check your mission map prior to your mission and will use it to guide your class on Mission Day.   End of section

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