The Mars Student Imaging Project allows students in middle school, as well as in high school and college, to break ground on new science projects of their own selection by using the THEMIS instrument on NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter.
Valles Marineris stretches across the planet for more than 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometers). Laying just south of the equator, it is about ten times as long and wide and three times as deep as Earth's Grand Canyon. Students researched the characteristics of landslides across the rift system.
Volcanoes cross the Martian surface. Students compared erosional features on the flanks of several of these features.
Evidence of bombardment from space litters the Martian surface. Students studied and compared ejecta from craters found on lava flows to those located in nonvolcanic areas.
Dust storms blowing across Mars can stir things up. Such storms can take months to settle, covering rocks which may be exposed by the next squall. Students studied the effect of wind erosion on objects exhumed by such storms.
Wind on Mars can reach speeds of up to 60 miles (97 kilometers) per hour. As the wind interacts with features such as craters, they can deposited or eroded debris. The newly created windstreaks can indicate which way the wind was blowing at their birth.
Scientists think smooth-edged splosh craters form when large rocks crashed into water-rich parts of the Martian crust. The smooth edge created by the ejected material indicate that the surface behaved more like mud than dirt or rock. One student project studied the frequency of splosh craters near the Martian poles.
Channels crisscross the surface of Mars. Some may have been cut by flowing water in the planet's past, but others were carved by slow-moving lava. Students studied whether simple channels varied in depth.
Students examined sand dunes on the craters of Mars to determine whether they might cover other pre-existing features on the crater floors. Large, dark, hard-to-shift grains make up Martian sand dunes, and require heavier winds to move them than the dust that constantly blows across the planet's surface.
Canyon systems crisscross the surface of Mars. Students examined some of these features in search of evidence that might indicate whether they formed by water or by other means.
Fracture patterns on a planet's surface can form by the movement of tectonic plates, weathering, changes in temperature caused by ice and lava, or by the cracking of material as it dries. One student project researched several fracture patterns on the red planet.
Dust devils on Mars can be ten times larger than their counterparts on Earth, though they form the same way. Students researched these powerful Martian whirlwinds.
By counting the density of craters within a region, students can determine the relative ages of the craters themselves.
Seventh graders in California discovered a new cave on a Martian volcano as part of the Mars Science Imaging Project.