Water flows on Mars
Scientists have found evidence of water on the planet Mars
by Gordon Lamont
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To consider the implications of NASA’s discovery of water on Mars and to celebrate human ingenuity.
Preparation and materials
- A kettle containing warm water; a mug, tea bag, milk and some salt.
- A colleague ready to be your tea taster.
- Newsround’s report http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/34377428
- Optional: use the short film Spirit on Mars from a previous assembly, http://www.assemblies.org.uk/pri/1781/spirit-on-mars. This features an earlier NASA mission which also discovered evidence of water, this time below the surface.
- Explain that you are in a bit of a rush this morning and consequently you have drunk Mr/Ms X’s tea by accident! You hope no one minds if you make a fresh cup for him/her now, as the kettle has just boiled.
- The water should be warm but nowhere near hot enough to make tea. Make a show of making the tea with a tea bag, mug and some milk. Then add a tiny pinch of salt - beware of adding too much and making people ill. You should have produced a tepid, milky, undrinkable beverage. Take the drink to the tea taster colleague. This colleague should splutter and comment on how horrid the drink is! He or she could offer the drink to a few pupils to confirm this – the look of it should be enough!
- Explain that you haven’t time to deal with the ‘drink situation’ at the moment as you have an assembly to deliver all about exciting news from the American Space Agency NASA. It has discovered strong evidence of liquid water flowing on Mars. Using its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft, NASA has found four locations on Mars where it has observed changes on the surface that look like flowing water. Alongside this, it has found evidence of minerals usually seen in salty water.
Play the Newsround report above.
- Why does this matter? Explain that we all know that water is essential for life, so this scientific discovery could indicate that there was life on Mars in the past or may even be now. This would be most likely to be simple life, such as microbes, but if this life could exist on Mars, perhaps more advanced and intelligent life could exist elsewhere in our galaxy. It also means that, if humans ever went to Mars, they could perhaps use this water for growing food.
- Perhaps the greatest lesson from this discovery is about the human ingenuity (cleverness) that made it possible; the hard work of scientists and the creativity that enables us as a species to reach for the stars and land on Mars!
- We are discovering so much about Mars, a place that has similarities to the Earth, but is also very different. For example, pure water on Mars boils at 10 degrees or, if salty, at 24 degrees, not 100 degrees as on Earth. This is because of the thin atmosphere on the Red Planet. So Mr/Ms X – I hope you enjoyed your cup of cool salty Martian tea!
Time for reflection
Hard work and dedication.
Creative thinking and team working.
Curiosity and the desire to go to new places . . .
How great to be a human!
Doing the same things again and again . . .
How wasteful to be a human!
Be a great human today!
'Life on Mars' (David Bowie) or 'Mars' from The Planets (Holst)
Song: 'Together' (All About Our School, 13)