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MSIP: Frequently Asked Questions

What grade level of students can participate in the Mars Student Imaging Project (MSIP)?
Students in grades 5 through college sophomore level can participate in MSIP.
Will college students have a chance to be involved in this program?
Yes. Undergraduates will be able to participate in MSIP, although they will be evaluated completely separately from the 5 through college sophomore level students.
Will a 5th grade proposal be evaluated the same way as a college sophomore level proposal?
No, proposals submitted by students in the 5th grade will not be evaluated using the same criteria as a college sophomore level proposal. We realize that students in the upper grades will submit proposals with a higher degree of science background than students in the lower grades.
Can a group of students simply submit a Mars Science Team Proposal and become involved in MSIP?
No, for starters, students must have an adult facilitator to lead their team. Secondly, there are a set of simple procedures to follow in order to be involved.
How many students can be on a student team?
There needs to be a minimum of 8 students but there is no maximum number of students that can be a part of any team. It is important, however, to make sure that all students who are on the team are committed and dedicated members.
Is MSIP only for Arizona schools?
No. MSIP is a national program.
Who do we contact to participate or for other questions?
Please contact Jessica at jlswann@asu.edu or Leon at lmanfred@asu.edu to participate in MSIP.
Will a school need special equipment to participate in the distance-learning format?
To run JMARS, all you will need is a simple internet connection.  No need to ask your IT department to allow you to download.  The program runs straight through your computer's browser.  However, it is recommended you test the site first to ensure it will load past your school's firewall. To participate in teleconferences, you will need a speaker phone that can be muted and a way to display a PowerPoint presentation. For internet or video conferences, generally having computers connected to the internet is a minimum; however we would need to discuss your video conference capabilities prior to connecting for use of this and/or other technologies.
How will the student teams get their targeted THEMIS image?
On-site teams will acquire their image and download it from the spacecraft log when they are at the Mars Space Flight Facility. Distance-learning teams will be emailed their THEMIS image.
How long will MSIP be available for student teams to participate?
MSIP has consistently received funding for over a decade.  There is no indication that this program will be terminated anytime in the near future.  
Can you explain independent research format?
The independent research format is one in which students will work much more independently with their teacher rather than directly with the MSIP staff. Teams involved in this option work with previously taken images of the Martian surface to analyze, rather than propose to take a brand new THEMIS image of Mars. This format also allows teachers and their students to participate in nationwide teleconference.
Will all the student teams be able to image a site on Mars?
The distance learning teams are able to propose to image a site on Mars and if their proposal is accepted, they will be able to use the THEMIS visible camera. These accepted teams are sent the software necessary to choose a site on Mars they would like to image that supports their research.
How much does it cost to participate in MSIP?
There is no cost for teams that participate in MSIP.
How can we be sure to submit a proposal that is written in a format that the MSIP staff is looking for?
There is a Proposal Template provided in the MSIP Resources that your teacher should encourage you to follow as you put together your proposal and conduct your research. You can see look at a examples of MSIP team proposals on the MSIP Team Results page.
How do we know what research to do for this project?
Two of the downloadable guides are Mars Image Analysis and Question Mars lessons. These lessons will provide you with some starting background research. Also provided on our website are links that give you many resources for your research. One of the best resources to look at are images that are available on the THEMIS website and the JMARS program. Projects from previous years and student teams are also available on the MSIP Team Results page that can serve as good examples for your teams.
How do the MSIP teams know what site on Mars to image using the THEMIS camera?
Based on the scientific question the student teams asks, they will need to find features on Mars that will enable them to gather evidence that will assist them in answering their scientific question. Approximately two weeks before students are involved in the distance-learning portion of their project, they will examine the orbital track of the spacecraft and will make a final choice of what they would like to image on Mars.

Where is the Mars Space Flight Facility?
The Mars Space Flight Facility is located on the campus of Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona. This is the home of scientist Dr. Phil Christensen, the Principal Investigator (PI) of the THEMIS camera.
Can I participate from home or my school?
Yes, MSIP also has some wonderful ways to participate through distance learning. Just contact us for more information. jlswann@asu.edu
What are the benefits of the distance-learning format?
The distance-learning format allows teams to complete their research of Mars and take a new image of Mars without ever leaving their school. Also, individual MSIP teams do have the opportunity to communicate with scientists and Mars Education staff at the Mars Space Flight Facility via internet, video or teleconferences.
What are the procedures to be followed in order to be involved with MSIP?
The first step is to submit the MSIP Interest form. From there, depending on which format you will participate, there is a checklist and set of procedures available at the Activity Format link of our website.
Are student teams really going to be able to use the THEMIS camera to image a site of their choice?
Yes. For student teams that submit acceptable proposals, they will be able to use the same targeting software that our science team uses to target their own image of Mars. Teams will receive a targeting link with 36 orbital tracks to choose from.  Students teams submit a target request and those commands are sent up to the Odyssey spacecraft and THEMIS camera.
Once student teams receive their image, is the project over?
Not at all. Once student teams receive their image and begin to analyze it (and many other archived images of Mars) they will need to look at their original research question and use these images to gather data allowing them to answer their question. Once students have finished conducting their research they will need to submit a final report and an MSIP Team Results outline for consideration for publication on our MSIP Team Results website.
What is the THEMIS camera?
THEMIS stands for Thermal Emission Imaging System. THEMIS is a visible and infrared camera. Students involved in MSIP should focus on visible wavelength images of Mars, as those focus on the morphology or landforms on the surface.
What will the THEMIS image look like?
There are many examples of THEMIS visible images available at the THEMIS website.
Studies have shown that participation in experiential education projects increase student’s interest in science and technology and also increase the retention of students continuing on in STEM and graduating college. Participation in the Mars Student Imaging Project gives students, teachers, and the general public the opportunity to experience space exploration by studying images of Mars taken from the Mars Odyssey Spacecraft. This opportunity gives students the opportunity to engage in real NASA science and help NASA scientists answer important questions about Mars. Participation in MSIP will help students see what is possible through the lens of exploration.