Exploring Mars

Lead Research Organisation: Science made simple
Department Name: Head office


Through an interactive science show which combines presenter-led demonstrations with 3D video fly-throughs of the Martian surface, we will show audiences that space exploration is an exciting and current scientific field in which the UK is a significant partner. Planetary science is by nature interdisciplinary, drawing on all STEM subjects. This project aims to encourage students to make these links, and to connect with core-curriculum science at the various key stages.

The project will promote UK contributions to planetary science by drawing on STFC-funded research. This will include results from past and current orbital and rover missions, as well as looking at future missions such as ExoMars Rover and ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter. We will inspire students to consider careers in STEM, in particular by using Mars exploration as an inspirational theme for current and future challenges in science and technology.

We will also gather together a series of classroom resources, based on a combination of updating existing materials from ESERO-UK, ESA and NASA, with some newly produced content from the project team.

We will incorporate Mars resources into existing primary and secondary teacher training CPD programmes (Space Made Simple, ESERO-UK).

Planned Impact

SMS will publish the evaluation of the pilot project on our website along with our other project evaluations:

In addition, we are involved in many relevant networking events such as the BIG event and the Science Communication conference. Members of SMS staff always attend these events and we would aim to be actively sharing learning from this project with other practitioners. On the astronomy side, we will submit talks and posters to suitable conferences, e.g. UK National Astronomy Meeting, ensuring that the professional research community is also aware of the education and outreach activities associated with this project.

Public audiences will be exposed to the project through our regular appearances at major events like AstroFest (London, February), the International Astronomy Show (Warwick, October) and SolarSphere (Builth Wells, August), as well as events associated with e.g. Stargazing Live (national, January). We would apply to significant science festivals such as Cheltenham (June), and eventually would hope to have materials suitable for display at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition (London, July) as part of an ExoMars area.

After the pilot performances, the show will become one of the catalogue of shows offered to schools by SMS. We employ regional presenters to ensure that our programmes can be offered in all areas of the UK. If the pilot proves popular and is heavily booked by schools, we will apply for further funding to duplicate the show and offer it at a subsidised rate in multiple areas of the UK, giving the project a bigger legacy beyond this initial pilot phase. This is already the case in Wales, where the National Science Academy of the Welsh Assembly has funded the AstroCymru outreach programme (led by Roche) until April 2018. This will allow us to offer the shows developed here at subsidised rates throughout this period.

We are also currently working with the UK/US research partnership (Science Live) on understanding the impact of Live Science Events - and we would hope to be able to share our learning with them to contribute to the long-term academic study they are undertaking. For more information about the Science Live project, see here:

In terms of marketing the resource to schools we will use our existing schools channels which include direct mail, teachers' e-newsletter, talks at TeachMeet events and social media. Our partnerships with Cardiff University and AstroCymru mean we are often asked about events for schools on these subject areas, so we would also capture these enquiries and send information about the show to interested parties.

SMS currently have over 2,300 twitter followers and 2,100 likes on our Facebook page and also 1,538 people who actively subscribe to an e-newsletter. Many of these are teachers and educators. The Faulkes Telescope Project has a mailing list of ~450 UK science teachers, and access to the ESERO-UK national network (through Roche).

The educational partners in this project all have very strong reputations, both in the UK and internationally, for delivering high quality products, and have excellent track records in the areas that will be key to the success of this proposal (i.e. project management, classroom resource development and evaluation, development of innovative and engaging shows).

We have extensive networks of contacts in general STEM education, science communication, and within the more specialised astronomy/space science education/outreach areas. Dissemination of the results of the evaluation will occur via publication in suitable journals (e.g. Communicating Astronomy with the Public), and as part of the research work of PhD student Sophie Bartlett.


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Title Creation of script for new schools show 
Description This project has had a 6 month no cost extension so we have yet to deliver the final show to audiences yet but we have finished creating the script for the show in conjunction with scientists at the OU and science communication specialists at Science made simple. 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact The show will shortly be piloted in local schools so we can test out the content. 
Description Cheltenham Science Festival - performance of Exploring Mars show 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Performance of the Exploring Mars show at Cheltenham Science Festival
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description Exploring Mars Pilot show, Buckingham Primary School, MK18 1TT 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 208 primary school students attended a pilot version of the Exploring Mars show for formative evaluation purposes.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description Exploring Mars pilot presentation, Gilbert Inglefield Academy, LU7 3FU 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Exploring Mars second pilot presentation to improve content ready for Cheltenham Science Festival performance
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017