Hawai'i Space Grant Consortium, Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, University of Hawai'i, 1999

Mars Landform Identification Teacher Page
Activity developed by Dr. Peter Mouginis-Mark.

To identify landforms on the surface of Mars using Viking Orbiter spacecraft photographs.


Photographs taken from orbit give us closer looks at the surface of Mars. The fun part is knowing what you're looking at and that's what this activity is all about.

Students will need to know the following vocabulary of landforms on Mars:

Additional on-line resources for Mars images and Mars mission information:

About Mars from the Mars Team Online.

Center for Mars Exploration at NASA Ames's Research Center.

Mars Exploration Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Mars Global Surveyor MOC Images from Malin Space Science Systems.

Determining the age of surfaces on Mars from Malin Space Science Systems.

The Mars Millennium Project education initiative.

This Activity

This activity uses seven photographs taken by Viking Orbiter cameras to show nine different features on the surface of the Mars (defined above.) Students identify which features are present in each photograph. A "Mars Landform Identification" student chart is provided to record answers.


Print out copies of the Mars photographs for this activity.
Make copies of the blank "Mars Landform Identification" student chart.
Print out copies of the answer chart.

In Class

This activity can be used as a group or individual culminating experience for students who have been studying Mars. The vocabulary words can be given as a separate assignment before the landform identification.


Compare student charts with the answer chart and discuss any discrepancies. Were some landforms easier to identify than others? Did shadows (sun angle) help make some features easier to see? Which landforms would you like to stand on?


Use the latitude & longitude coordinates on each photo to locate the areas on a map or globe of Mars.
Research and discuss Mars missions past, present, and future.

Go to Mars photographs for this activity.

Go to Mars Landforms Student Chart.

Go to Mars Landforms Answer Chart and labeled photographs.

Return to Mars Activity Index.

Return to Hands-On Activities home page.