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About the Mars Student Imaging Project


The Mars Student Imaging Project (MSIP) is inquiry-based and student-centered allowing students to create and investigate their own research question about the martian surface. We have seen the impact of connecting working scientists and professional outreach educators with teachers and students. Teachers are empowered to engage students in the process of real science by replacing worksheets with the collection and analysis of real data from the students’ own targeted images of Mars. This process lays the foundation for follow-on learning, as students understand how science really works by actually being a scientist.

MSIP is an immersive and transformational way for students in grades 5 through early college to engage in scientific practices as articulated in the Next Generation Science Standards through authentic research experiences.  Through the Mars Student Imaging Project, students will gain important insights and skills that can be applied to all sciences. MSIP incorporates 21st Century Skills such as critical thinking and problem solving, communication and collaboration, information literacy, media literacy, information and communications technology, and flexibility and adaptability when applying their scientific knowledge and reasoning skills to new areas of study. Students will practice these skills throughout this project.

The MSIP curriculum has continued to evolve to stay in step with the changing needs of science classrooms. Changes have been based on feedback from teachers and students, professional evaluations, emerging national education standards, and changes in technology. MSIP reflects best practices in education and has integrated education research. The lessons were developed following the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS) 5E learning cycle and are structured to enable teachers and students without deep knowledge of planetary geology to have successful research experiences. The project is flexible and allows for many avenues of investigation that connect with the traditionally taught disciplines, such as Earth science, biology and chemistry. To support educators wishing to integrate MSIP into their teaching, the ASU Mars Education Team provides online training in the lesson components as well as being available to educators through virtual office hours.

The Mars Student Imaging Project is a collaboration of the THEMIS camera Principal Investigator – Dr. Phil Christensen, the Arizona State University (ASU) Mars Education Program, and NASA’s Mars Exploration Program.  Since 2002 more than 35,000 students have successfully participated in MSIP. The Mars Student Imaging Project gives students the opportunity to learn how science works by letting them do actual inquiry-based science research using a spacecraft orbiting Mars. The students get to make the decisions about the project, conduct the research and communicate their findings to the Mars scientists. Teams of students have the opportunity to work with scientists, mission planners and educators to complete their project.  MSIP can be done through distance learning. There is no fee to participate in the Mars Student Imaging Project.

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