Mission Control

Mission controllers observe the astronauts working in the M.A.R.S. Base while they use interactive software to monitor their systems and complete related activities. They use software developed by the ACRI Games Technology Lab at La Trobe University which applies the principles of serious gaming to deliver appropriate learning outcomes for primary students.

Climate Monitor

This mission controller keeps track of the conditions both inside and outside the base. The interior conditions lead to an understanding of what is required to sustain life, the exterior conditions to an understanding of the Martian climate.  In effect,this activity involves a comparison of  Mars and Earth. The problems posed for the Climate Monitor extend and test the comprehension of the students with a range of multiple choice, numerical, and single word answer questions. These will build on the concept of systems as described in the VELS Level 4.

The data monitored will include:

  • internal air temperature

  • external atmospheric temperature

  • internal air pressure

  • external atmospheric pressure

  • wind speed

  • solar radiation level

  • concentration of oxygen, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide

  • humidity

 Air Supply Manager

This mission controller manages the Mars Oxygen Generator (MOG) which uses electricity from solar cells to break down water ice into oxygen and hydrogen. Some of the oxygen goes into the air supply, some into the hydrogen fuel cells. Excess hydrogen is vented. This role leads to an understanding of the chemical nature of water as H2O and the concept of change due to the application of energy. Students see how energy is transformed and transferred from solar energy to electrical, to chemical, and then back to electrical energy as described in the VELS Level 4.

Readings monitored include:

  • available ice

  • available electrical power from solar cells.

  • rate of oxygen production

  • volume of oxygen available for air supply

  • volume of oxygen available for fuel cells

  • volume of hydrogen available for fuel cells

  • oxygen pressure in MOG

  • hydrogen pressure in MOG

Water Supply Manager

The water supply for the Base uses waste heat to melt polar ice and then process it for drinking. Students build an understanding of the relevance of science to their own lives and the development of sustainable practices in their local environment. These concepts build on the Science at Work section of the VELS Level 4. They will interact with the scientists in the Mars Base laboratory who are working on water purification.

Readings monitored by the Water Supply Manager include:

  • available ice supply

  • current rate of water production

  • total water in tanks

  • current water consumption

  • status of desalination plant

  • status of filters

  • contamination detectors

Robot Engineer

These mission controllers monitor the operation of a Mars Rover outside the base. They interact with the scientists who are building electrical circuits. Their activities form an introduction to the emerging science of robotics but with an emphasis on systematic knowledge of science and science concepts as described in the VELS Level 4.

Readings from the Mars Rover will include:

  • battery charge status.

  • power output from solar cells.

  • wheel status.

  • video feed from camera

  • status of instrument arm

  • motor temperatures

Energy Supply Co-ordinator

These mission controllers monitor three sources of energy for the Mars Base: fuel cells, solar cells and a nuclear reactor. As they monitor these readings the problems which are presented extend and reinforce the concepts of energy transformation and transference in emerging sciences as described in the VELS Level 4.

The data monitored include:

  • nuclear generator temperature

  • nuclear generator radiation level

  • power available from nuclear generator

  • oxygen reserves for fuel cells

  • hydrogen reserves for fuel cells

  • power available from fuel cells

  • solar cells status

  • power available from solar cells

  • current energy consumption level

Communications Engineer

These engineers are responsible for maintaining the connection between Earth and Mars. They monitor the transmitting antennae on both planets and the status of a satellite relay orbiting Mars. They extend their understanding of data collection as described in the VELS Level 4 and observe the work of Australian scientists at the Deep Space Network facility at Tidbinbilla, ACT as per the Science at Work section of VELS Level 4.

Some of the systems tracked by these mission controllers include:

  • status of the K S Robinson Mars Satellite.

  • status of the Deep Space communications network.

  • Mars Base Antenna status

  • current data transmission rate

  • backlog of data

As the mission progresses, students are presented with problems to be solved until, finally, the mission ends with an evacuation due to either a micro-meteor strike or contamination of the water supply by a Martian virus.