Time is running out. The Planetary Society's Red Rover Goes to Mars program will soon select Student Scientists to join the space science team of an actual Mars mission. Students worldwide, ages 9 to 15 years old, can enter contests to become Student Scientists or Student Navigators on the Red Rover Goes to Mars Team.
Red Rover Goes to Mars, a joint educational program with the LEGO Company, is the first time individuals from the general public will be allowed to be part of a planetary exploration mission. Children have two opportunities to participate -- as Student Scientists or as Student Navigators. Children who apply to become Student Scientists can also apply to become Student Navigators.
The deadline to enter the Student Scientist Selection Essay Contest is June 15, 2000. The deadline to enter the Student Navigator Journal Contest is November 15, 2000.
Student Scientists will work with actual data from the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft currently in orbit around Mars, as well as with data from the Viking mission, to pick a landing site for a future sample return mission to Mars. They will then travel to Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego, California to create the commands for the MGS Mars Orbiter Camera to take a high-resolution picture of the landing site they have chosen.
A full-scale Mars terrain will be constructed based upon the work of the Student Scientists and from children around the world who submit their drawings in a yet-to-be-announced contest. Student Navigators will explore that simulated Mars terrain with a robotic vehicle.
"Students are doing science and engineering -- real science -- when they explore the real Martian surface, and they are doing real engineering when they build their own rover and try to direct it on a remote landscape," said Bill Nye the Science Guy, member of The Planetary Society's Board of Directors. "When human explorers eventually do go to Mars, they will use robotic vehicles to explore the planet's surface, so the robotic vehicles with Red Rover Goes to Mars will give students an excellent sense of how to investigate an alien terrain."
Originally, Red Rover Goes to Mars was designed to allow students to be part of the Mars Surveyor 2001 mission, which included a lander, the Marie Curie rover and a robotic arm. That lander mission has been cancelled. Despite that cancellation, the Red Rover Goes to Mars project is moving forward in its new revised format. However, contest parameters were originally designed for the anticipated Mars Surveyor 2001 mission.
Complete rules and judging criteria can be obtained from The Planetary Society by visiting the website.
The Red Rover Goes to Mars program is an outgrowth of the Red Rover, Red Rover program -- a joint development of The Planetary Society, the Center for Self-Organizing and Intelligent Systems at Utah State University, Visionary Products, Inc., and the LEGO Company. Using computers linked through the Internet, students teleoperate robotic rovers built from LEGO Dacta components. 400 Red Rover, Red Rover sites are already established in classrooms and science centers worldwide.
Red Rover Goes to Mars is sponsored by The Planetary Society and the LEGO Company, with Liberte Yogurt of Canada, Science Magazine, and the AAAS Directorate for Education and Human Resources, in cooperation with NASA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Malin Space Science Systems, ASU Mars K-12 Education Program, and Visionary Products, Inc. The LEGO Company has been a principal partner with The Planetary Society in the development of Red Rover, Red Rover.