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Take Me Home, Martian Roads

Difficulty: Easy

Duration: 35 minutes

Materials: Minimal

Download the PDF version (944 KB)


Effective communication and teamwork abilities are critical in the space sector. Mission control personnel need to communicate clearly and concisely with colleagues and the crew on the International Space Station (ISS), and the ISS crew need to follow precise operation commands while conducting experiments, performing spacewalks, conducting interviews, and much more!

On Mars, communication will be much more difficult. Depending on the position of the planets, there can be up to a 20-minute communication delay between Earth and Mars. That means it could take 20 minutes to send a command and 20 minutes to receive a response. As humans move deeper into space, effective communication and teamwork are critical!

Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques acting as the capsule communicator, or capcom, at NASA's Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas. (Credit: NASA/Douglas Wheelock)

Mission description

The Mars All-Terrain Transporter (MATT) rover is caught in a heavy dust storm during a sample-return mission on the red planet. Unfortunately the storm has destroyed the vehicle's solar panels and navigation systems and has scattered the samples collected thus far. A window of communication between MATT, the rover operator, and the navigation team is approaching. The operator is the only one who can control the MATT rover, but the operator cannot see it and is in a different location from the navigation team. The navigation team can see the rover, but not operate it. The navigation team must work together to instruct the operator with specific movements for the rover in order to collect the samples, avoid danger, and return to the Mars base.

Participants can be divided into small teams. Each team will have one MATT rover operator, and everyone else will be the navigation team. The navigation team will communicate rover movement instructions to the operator, and the operator will navigate the rover image through the map according to those instructions. The goals are to avoid dangerous spots on Mars, retrieve important samples, and return the rover to the Mars base within a communication window of 5 minutes.


Breakdown Duration
Introduction and team assignments 5 minutes
Explanation of rules and activity purpose 10 minutes
Navigation team pre-activity discussionTable note 1 2 minutes
Activity 5 minutes
Group reflection 10 minutes
Total 35 minutes


Participants will learn how to effectively communicate under pressure and within a time constraint.


By the end of the activity, participants will be able to:

Mission preparation



The educator may stimulate post-activity reflection by asking open-ended questions.

For example:

Download the participant handout 1 (PDF, 616 KB)

Download the participant handout 2 (PDF, 616 KB)

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