Questions for ‘Preparing for that trip to Mars’

Niki Werkheiser and Quincy Bean, members of NASA’s 3-D printer team, examine parts produced on a prototype of the first 3-D printer to be sent to the International Space Station.

Fred Deaton/NASA

To accompany feature “Preparing for that trip to Mars”


Before Reading

1. Why is it important for people to go out and explore space?

2. If offered the opportunity, would you travel to Mars? Why or why not?

During Reading

1. Name three aspects of space travel that researchers are working on to allow astronauts to travel to Mars?     

2. Why did NASA switch from studying potatoes to test-growing lettuce for astronauts?

3. In planning how to feed astronauts, what tools are researchers using to grow foods in space? 

4. Based on the article, what makes growing plants in space challenging?     

5. What types of fuels can researchers use to send spacecraft into the solar system?     

6. What are the advantages of nuclear-heated fuel?     

7. Is the fuel dangerous?  

8. How might 3-D printing aid in a mission to Mars?     

9. How does 3-D printing in space work differently than on Earth?     

10. What was the first tool astronauts asked for when given a 3-D printer in space?

After Reading

1. Why is research into better technology for space travel important? 

2. What other advances do you think astronauts will need to get to Mars?


1. If humans are to colonize Mars, who should be in charge? Should the new Martians follow the laws of the particular country or countries that send people to the Red Planet? Or, should colonists develop a new set of Martian rules and regulations? Perhaps there should even be a new set of interplanetary or solar system laws. What would you choose? Explain your reasons.