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Press Room

Student Scientists from Around the World Win Spots on Red Rover Goes to Mars Team


Mat Kaplan
Phone: +1-626-793-5100

Nine Student Scientists have been selected from over ten thousand entrants worldwide to serve on the Planetary Society's Red Rover Goes to Mars Training Mission. Ranging in age from 10 to 15, the winners -- four girls, five boys -- will select a possible landing site on Mars for some future sample return mission. The nine winners hail from across the globe -- Brazil, Hungary, India, Poland, Taiwan, and the United States.

The winners are Zsofia Bodo, 15, Hungary; Kimberly DeRose, 13, USA; Bernadett Gaal, 14, Hungary; Shaleen Harlalka, 15, India; Iuri Jasper, 12, Brazil; Hsin-Liu Kao, 11, Taiwan; Tanmay Khirwadkar, 13, India; Wojciech Lukasik, 10, Poland; and Vikas Sarangadhara, 10, India.

"This is the first time members of the public will command a spacecraft instrument on a planetary mission," said Linda Kelly, Education Manager of the Red Rover Goes to Mars project. "Students will actually program a camera on a spacecraft in orbit around Mars to take pictures of the surface."

These remarkable young people were chosen from a field of 80 semi-finalists, who represented 16 nations. 44 nations are participating in the contest.

The Student Scientist team will work with imaging data from NASA's Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) spacecraft currently in orbit around Mars to choose a candidate landing site on Mars. In early 2001, they will travel to Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego, California. There, they will take pictures of their site on Mars with the MGS Mars Orbiter Camera. The imaging will be carried out under the supervision of Michael Malin and Ken Edgett, whose recent announcement of evidence for seepage of Martian groundwater stunned the world.

People everywhere can follow along with the training and progress of the student scientists on the Planetary Society's website.


Another team of students called Student Navigators will explore the simulated landing site terrain with a state-of-the-art rover program now in development at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Students everywhere will be able to follow along with the Student Navigator training and reproduce what is taking place as the Student Navigators select a sample to return to Earth through The Planetary Society's and the LEGO Company's Red Rover, Red Rover network.

The Student Navigator contest is still open. The selection process for Student Navigators involves teleoperating LEGO robotic systems that simulate the process of remote Mars exploration. To enter, applicants must be between the ages of 10 and 16 years old. The deadline for the Student Navigator Journal Contest is November 15, 2000.

Complete rules and judging criteria for the Student Navigator contest can be obtained from the Planetary Society by visiting the web site at or by calling the Society at (626)793-5100 to locate a Regional Center.


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.

The project was developed as an education experiment for the Mars Surveyor 2001 lander mission. That mission has been cancelled by NASA, which is now deciding whether Red Rover Goes to Mars will be part of the Mars 2003 lander mission.


About The Planetary Society

The Planetary Society has inspired millions of people to explore other worlds and seek other life. With the mission to empower the world's citizens to advance space science and exploration, its international membership makes the non-governmental Planetary Society the largest space interest group in the world. Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray and Louis Friedman founded The Planetary Society in 1980. Bill Nye, a longtime member of The Planetary Society's Board, serves as CEO.