Is a Mars Sample Return Mission Too Risky?
A Public Hearing Case Study
Department of Chemistry
University at Buffalo
Following a public hearing format, this case study allows students to explore the scientific and public policy issues surrounding the advisability of a return mission to Mars for further sampling and, more generally, the question of whether or not there is life on that planet. The case was developed for a non-science majors course called “Great Discoveries in Science” and serves to illustrate the scientific method and the importance of interdisciplinary efforts in scientific research.
- Examine how the scientific method is used to develop a scientific hypothesis, and how new information is used to reevaluate an existing hypothesis.
- Illustrate the importance of interdisciplinary efforts in scientific research.
- Critically evaluate interpretations of experimental data through the labeled release and GC/MS experiments on Viking.
- Define the criteria needed to establish whether something is living.
- Raise general awareness of the planned Mars Sample Return Mission.
- Undertsand how public hearings are used to shape science policy in the United States.
- Examine cost/benefit analysis and the element of risk in formulating public policy.
- Develop possible alternatives to the Mars Sample Return Mission as currently planned.
KeywordsMars; Mars Sample Return Mission; Viking; search for life; space exploration; NASA
Topical AreasPolicy issues
Educational LevelHigh school, Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Type / MethodsDilemma/Decision, Public Hearing, Role-Play
Subject HeadingsScience (General) | Astronomy |
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