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Press Room

Planetary Society Releases First-Ever Mars Orbital Photo Taken by Elementary and High School Students


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

An international team of nine students -- aged 10 - 16 years old -- made planetary exploration history this week when they directed a camera aboard the NASA Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) spacecraft to image several sites on Mars. The members of The Planetary Society's Red Rover Goes to Mars Training Mission team and scientists from Malin Space Science Systems, which built and operates the camera on MGS, will release three of the Mars images today at a press conference at LEGOLAND California in Carlsbad, California.

The Student Scientists, who were selected from over ten thousand entrants worldwide, include four girls and five boys who hail from across the globe: Brazil, Hungary, India, Poland, Taiwan, and the United States.

During their week in southern California, the Student Scientists worked at Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego to select several sites on Mars to image. The team imaged three sites that coincided with the MGS spacecraft's orbital position this week. Another site was selected as a candidate landing site for a possible sample return mission. That image will be taken when the MGS spacecraft's orbit takes it past the target area some time in the next five months. Michael Malin, Ken Edgett, and Becky Williams of Malin Space Science Systems personally supervised the Student Scientists.

The Student Scientists captured three fascinating images of Mars during their stint at Malin Space Science Systems. The diverse selection includes images of alluvial fan material, with evidence of possible flowing water; the layered terrain of the polar ice cap; and an area in the middle latitudes of Mars that features dunes, valleys and mysterious black boulders--how the boulders got to this area is a puzzle scientists have still to work out.

All of the images, along with accompanying captions and information, can be seen on the Malin Space Science Systems website.

Ken Edgett will present the findings of the Student Scientists at a Student Press Conference at LEGOLAND California on Friday, January 16, 2001. The Planetary Society and LEGOLAND California have invited local elementary and middle school students to attend the Student Press Conference as media representatives from their schools.

LEGO is a principal sponsor of the Red Rover Goes to Mars project of the Society, which is being conducted in cooperation with NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. No government funding is used for this educational project.

The winners are Zsofia Bodo, 16, Hungary; Kimberly DeRose, 14, 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.

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


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.