Skip to main content

Spotlight on Science Writers: Pascal Lee



A select group of authors who have won or been finalists for the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books have been invited to write or record an introduction to one of their books. We have suggested a few guidelines, but the format and content have been chosen by each author and will be appropriate for their book's intended audience. Science NetLinks will include related classroom resources appropriate for students and educators at the end of each Spotlight on Science Writers post. You can read all the posts in this series here.


Pascal Lee on Mission: Mars:

When I was growing up, humans were walking on the moon. That was such an amazing thing. It made me want to explore planets. I became a planetary scientist, and now, I enjoy every day of my life learning about planets and helping plan their exploration. This century, humanity will experience an even greater journey than going to the moon: the first human mission to Mars!

What is it about Mars that fascinates us? I think it’s because it looks so much like our own planet, and it might harbor life. That is, alien life. Mars could be the closest planet to Earth where extraterrestrial life forms might be found. We’re not expecting little green men, but microbes. We don’t know if Mars has any alien life yet, but as a future Mars explorer, you could help us find out!



Mission: Mars author Pascal Lee with his loyal companion, Ping Pong. (Photo credit: Mars Institute.)

My little book, Mission: Mars, is about helping kids become Future Mars Explorers. I wanted to write a book that would serve as a basic training manual for kids interested in space exploration. Above all, I wanted it to inspire and encourage them to enjoy science and dream big. That’s what my old moon books did for me when I was a kid.



Mission: Mars author Pascal Lee visits a school to talk about Mars Exploration with Future Mars Explorers. (Photo credit: Mars Institute.)

Going to Mars will be such an exciting adventure. Astronauts will travel in a spaceship with parts launched by the most powerful rocket ever. The trip will last up to two and a half years. Along the way, they could visit the two mysterious moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos. Once on Mars, they’d live in a sealed Mars Habitat and drive cool Mars rovers to get around and explore the planet.

But going to Mars won’t be easy. The planet is far away, and surface conditions are nothing short of deadly. We’ll need to wear a spacesuit at all times when outside. Mission: Mars tells kids more about this and other things to get them ready for the great journey. So let’s all buckle up for the ride!



Mission: Mars author Pascal Lee is joined by his dog Ping Pong during a Mars mission simulation in the Arctic. (Photo credit: NASA Haughton-Mars Project / Mars Institute / Kawasaki.)

His book, Mission: Mars, was the winner for the 2015 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books in the Middle Grades Science Book category.

Going Further

  • Book/Author Resources
    • Pascal Lee's website includes some of his drawings and paintings.
    • Scholastic's page for Mission: Mars includes videos from Pascal on a variety of Mars-related topics (including whether there are aliens on Mars).
    • Pascal answers five questions for Science Book a Day.
  • Mars
    • Listen to the Science Update on the Mars 500 Mission to hear about a crew of six volunteers who embarked on a simulated, 520-day Mars mission.
    • In the Mars Hotel Science Update, you'll hear about research to try to make long distance space travel more comfortable for astronauts.
    • Robotics: At Your Command lets you drive on the moon by simulating two approaches to robotic exploration, a similar experience to driving the Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, launched back in 2003. While both rovers had an expected mission life span of 90 Martian days, Spirit kept working until 2010, and Opportunity continues to traverse the planet. Opportunity now holds the record as the rover that has traveled the most distance, having covered more than 26 miles during its time in space. It's currently exploring Marathon Valley, part of an impact crater.
    • Journey to Mars is NASA's website for the human travel to and exploration of Mars.
    • Mars Institute is an international, non-governmental, non-profit research organization dedicated to advancing the scientific study, exploration, and public understanding of Mars.
    • Mars for Students includes a challenge for students to create a livable Martian community, images from the planet, and paper models to build some of Mars' rovers.
    • Actor and educator LeVar Burton shares Mars space probe MAVEN’s story in a NASA PSA.
    • Curiosity Has Landed: Relive the nail-biting terror and joy as NASA's Curiosity rover successfully landed on Mars the night of August 5, 2012, PDT (morning of August 6 EDT).
    • NASA’s Curiosity Rover on Mars: A Photo Roundup: Check out this blog post from 2012, tracking Curiosity's launch and landing on Mars.
    • Curiosity Update: More Photos, Links, and Resources has even more resources about astronomy, engineering, and space exploration relating to NASA's Mars Curiosity rover.
    • Watch Phoenix Mars Lander: Entry Descent and Landing, a short film about the design challenges faced by the quest to land the Phoenix Mars Lander near the north pole of Mars in May 2008.
  • Our Solar System
    • In this Planet Size Comparison animation, you can find out the dimensions for each planet as well as how they compare in size.
    • The Planet Mass Comparison interactive helps visualize the differences between any two of these objects by putting them side by side on an old-fashioned balance scale.
    • The Planets App provides several different ways for you to get information about objects in the sky.
  • Elsewhere in Space
    • Amazing Space uses the Hubble Space Telescope’s discoveries to encourage you to learn about the universe.
    • GoSkyWatch Planetarium App allows you to identify and locate stars, planets, constellations, and more by touching the screen or by pointing to the sky.
    • The NASA Visualization Explorer App provides visualizations, animations, and images of our sun and the universe.
    • In the Images of Our Solar System video, artist Michael Benson and planetary scientist Dr. Nancy Chabot discuss the intersection of art and science at the opening of the Planetfall art exhibition.
    • In this video, photographer Michael Benson discusses the Planetfall art exhibition and its depiction of the intersection of art and science.
    • In this video, a panel of scientists working in space science and on space missions describe their careers, talk about how they became space scientists, and offer advice to middle-school students in the audience.
    • Gravity Launch is an app where you try to get a rocket to its destination to learn about gravity.
    • In the Waving to Aliens Science Update, scientists are debating whether or not we should actively try to contact intelligent extraterrestrials. 
    • SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, is looking for more recruits to hunt for aliens with their home computers. Learn more in the SETI at Home Upgrade Science Update.
    • National Optical Astronomy Observatory is the national research and development center for ground-based night-time astronomy.
    • NASA's Kids' Club provides an abundance of information, images, and interesting things to do on astronomy and the space sciences.
  • Microbes
    • MicrobeWorld is a fantastic site for all individuals interested in microbiology and/or biological sciences in general.
    • Microbial Life Educational Resources provides expert information about the ecology, diversity, and evolution of microorganisms.
    • In this Science Update, hear how microbes can travel from country to country on clouds of dust.
    • In this Science Update, hear about how every person may have a very different mix of microbes living inside them.
    • In this video from the 2014 BioBlitz, learn about a lab that has introduced the PhyloChip, which can test for the presence of microbes.
    • In this Bacteria Ballistics Science Update, you'll hear about an unusual experiment that explores whether microbes from Mars may have once seeded the Earth.

Related Educator Resources

  • Our lesson to accompany the book asks students to consider and understand the type of planning involved in designing a mission to another planet.
  • Scholastic's Teacher’s Guide (pdf) offers suggestions for using the book in the classroom and includes Common Core and STEM connections.
  • "Generation Mars: Reading Today to Realize Your Dreams" by Pascal Lee for Huffington Post explores the potential for missions to Mars and how reading non-fiction and STEM books can inspire kids to be a part of those missions.
  • Mars for Educators, hosted by JPL, includes lesson plans and other curriculum resources, information about upcoming teacher workshops, and an imaging project you can run with your students.
  • The Science NetLinks collection Celebrating Space Exploration offers a bounty of resources to help students learn more about NASA and discover the history and future of space travel.
  • Exploring the Solar System introduces students to earth's moon and the eight planets in our solar system.
  • In the GeoHunter lesson, students explore the geological history of Mercury and the other terrestrial planets, Venus, Earth, and Mars and to form hypotheses about them.
  • In Make a Mission, students explore the purpose and constraints of technology by preparing a spacecraft for a mission to Mercury.
  • In this lesson, students can build on existing knowledge of microbes, focusing on the relationship between microorganisms and foodborne illness.
  • This lesson focuses on Pasteur and his discovery of microorganisms.
  • If your students are interested in missions to other planets, they may find resources from our collection on MESSENGER: A Mission to Mercury, which concluded earlier in 2015, interesting.




Related Focus Areas