Unit 8: Science Connection

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Martian Meltdown

Imagine taking a trip to Mars on your summer vacation. Be warned, though. The Red Planet isn't exactly a tropical paradise. In fact, it's more like a year-round South Pole, with temperatures averaging a bone-chilling 81 degrees Fahrenheit below zero.


Scientists say Mars might become a sun worshipper's dream in about 5,000 years. “Rather than wearing a spacesuit, you could get away with wearing just an oxygen mask and a thick parka,” said space expert Michael Caplinger. “It would be like standing on top of [Mount] Everest.”

Recent photo images taken from NASA's Mars Global Surveyor reveal that the planet's ice caps are melting at an alarming rate. In fact, scientists say, Mars might become so warm one day that the Red Planet could eventually support life.

The photos show that Mars's polar caps, which consist of frozen water and carbon dioxide, are shrinking as much as 10 feet each Martian year (687 Earth days). Caplinger compares it to ice cubes getting smaller in a freezer over time.

Because the ice caps are melting, additional carbon dioxide is being released into the Martian atmosphere, preventing heat from escaping into space. On Earth, that process is called the greenhouse effect, which, some scientists say, causes global warming.

Scientists say the Martian version of global warming might result in the presence of more liquid water on the planet. And more water, scientists argue, means that life has a good chance of developing.

Word Wise

A warm jacket with a hood: On cold winter days, the students wore their parkas as they walked to school.

To bring into view, to make known: The curtains opened to reveal the scenery.

Being extra, more: We needed additional money for our trip.

To keep from happening: Some believe that taking Vitamin C helps prevent colds.

To bring or come into being: We developed a new kind of computer.

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Write a short story using each of the vocabulary words. Draw a picture to accompany your story.

Data Hunt

Create an ad campaign for travel to Mars in the future. Design a magazine ad to tell people all about the things they can see and do on Mars. Include the year in which the travel will occur. Tell the traveler what they can expect in terms of temperature and weather. List some of the sites that travelers will see on their trips. Be creative!