The Universe in the Classroom

Responsible Exploration: Protecting Earth and the worlds we explore from cross contamination


The Rise of Life on Earth by Richar Monastersky, National Geographic vol. 193(3), March 1998,

Life Beyond Earth by Joel Achenbach, excerpts from the January 2000 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC,

Planetary Protection: Safeguarding Islands of Life by multiple authors The Planetary Report. Vol XIV, number 4, July/August 1994, pages 3-23

Astrobiology: Discovering New Worlds of Life by Charles C. James and Cindy Lee Van Dover, Science Scope, Nov/Dec 2001, v 25(3) p42-45

Ad Astra feature issue on Astrobiology:
All 8 articles on various aspects of the search for life, entire issue is available online, including an article about Planetary Protection, Bring 'em Back Alive — or at Least Carefully! by Race and Rummel

Ad Astra Special Issues: Astrobiology Has Arrived Jan/Feb 2002
6 articles and two full pages of astrobiology references and websites. (p 42-43) including: A Sense of Place: Planetary Protections' Role in Astrobiological Exploration by John Rummel and Margaret Race


1. The very first issue of "The Universe in the Classroom" featured a section called "The Activity Corner" with an activity relevant to this latest issue about life on other worlds. With all the imaginative creatures in summer movie releases from Star Wars to Men in Black, "Invent an Alien" is an exercise that will challenge both your students' imaginations and their grounding in the environmental realities of other worlds:

2. Putting a different twist on the above activity Astro-Venutres is an educational, interactive, multimedia web environment highlighting NASA careers and astrobiology research. Designed for grades 5-8, students are transported to the future and become part of a team searching for habitable worlds and get a chance to "build a planet".

3. Strange New Planet
ASU Mars K-12 Education Program 6/99. Adapted from NASA Education Brief "EB-112: How to Explore a Planet" 5/93. Strange New Planet brings insight into the processes involved in learning about planetary exploration. This activity demonstrates how planetary features are discovered by the use of remote sensing techniques. In this activity, the teacher gets to invent some interesting planets for the students to explore.

4. Fingerprints of Life

5. Searching for Life
Science must have a working definition of life. These activities encourage students to think about the characteristics of life and about the possibility of looking for life on Mars. The first three activities from Destination: Mars set up criteria for recognizing life. The other activities use the criteria for more advanced investigations.

6. Destination Mars
Lesson Five: Searching for Life on Mars

7. ExoQuest is a multimedia educational product developed at NASA Classroom of the Future™. It creates links between students and scientists at NASA and other research organizations, integrating NASA’s experience and expertise into the middle school and high school curricula. Several current and future NASA missions provide support for research in astrobiology; and, with the cooperation of the researchers involved, this project reflects and utilizes this wealth of information. For a full description, go to:

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