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Students and Teachers to Explore Mars

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Old July 18th 03, 07:18 PM
Ron Baalke
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Default Students and Teachers to Explore Mars

PASADENA, CALIF. 91109. TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011

Nancy Lovato (818) 354-9382
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

RELEASE: 2003-100 July 18, 2003

Students and Teachers to Explore Mars

While the ultimate field trip might someday be an actual journey to
Mars, NASA is doing the next best thing - giving high school teams the
opportunity to explore Mars by working on specific research projects
during the Mars Exploration Rover missions, set to land on the red
planet in January 2004.

Two programs designed to involve students in exploration and discovery
enable high school teams to experience a space mission from launch
through landing. Teams from 13 schools are participating in the Athena
Student Interns program. The Mars Exploration Student Data Team has 51
participating schools. Advance studies will prepare the students for
participating in the mission when the two rovers, Spirit and
Opportunity, begin exploring Mars.

Participants in the Athena Student Interns program will work with
mentors from the Mars science team and aid in data analysis. The
students and teachers in the program will each spend a week at NASA's
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., while the rovers are
operating on the surface of Mars. Before arriving at JPL, the students
will learn about the geology of Mars, the scientific and mechanical
capabilities of the rovers, and the software needed to visualize the
data that will be returned to Earth during the mission.

NASA is committed to developing programs to inspire students and give
them hands-on experience to encourage the future scientists and
engineers who will be crucial to space exploration. "More and more,
we're trying to involve students directly in our missions, to give
them real research opportunities," said Michelle Viotti, manager of
NASA's Mars Public Engagement program at JPL. "They are our next
generation of explorers."

Teachers will be part of each team and will help students in their
investigations of Mars and its geologic history. Students will relay
their experiences to other students in their schools and communities
and to the public in order to share the excitement of exploring Mars.

Jaunine Fouche, a teacher from the Milton Hershey School in Hershey,
Pa., said, "This program isn't simply about the student interns. It
is about them learning and passing on their passion and fire to
others. It is about inspiring, and it is about seeing and believing
in the potential of children even before they see it and believe it
for themselves."

The 51 teams participating in the Mars Exploration Student Data Team
program will use data from Mars-orbiting spacecraft to help
characterize aspects of Mars from the atmosphere to the surface that
affect the rover missions. Two NASA orbiters, Mars Global Surveyor and
Mars Odyssey, are actively examining the planet. The Mars Exploration
Student Data Team will help compare orbital data to rover-collected
data for "ground truthing," which means using ground-level
observations to verify interpretations of remote observations.

"We can look around at our environment and surroundings and see the
many similarities and differences we might share with other planets,"
said Joe Aragon, a teacher from Laguna-Acoma High School, New Laguna,
N. M. "Learning about them will help us appreciate, respect and know
this planet, and perhaps shed some light on our place in the solar

Future explorers in the Athena Student Interns Program were selected
from around the country, including Alabama, California, Colorado,
Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and
Texas. Athena is the name of the main instrument payload on each
rover -- the toolkit the rovers will use to analyze rocks and other
features on Mars.

The Mars Exploration Student Data Team teams are from 24 states plus
the District of Columbia and an American school in Bolivia. The two
programs will closely complement each other, just as both landed and
orbital science teams work closely together in planetary missions.

Additional information about the Athena Student Interns Program, the
Mars Exploration Student Data Team, and the Mars Exploration Rovers is
available online at



http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/classroom/students/mer .

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena,
Calif., manages the Mars Exploration Program's Mars Public Engagement
efforts on behalf of NASA.



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