5 May 1999

Students to participate in Mars Mission

As part of the Space Day '99 celebrations at the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) an announcement was made today giving kids a fantastic opportunity to participate in a planetary mission. Astronaut John Glenn and Bill Nye, TV's Science Guy, announced the project that will give children from around the world the opportunity the chance of hands-on participation in the operation of a Mars rover and robotic arm on the Mars Surveyor mission.

The Planetary Society project, called Red Rover Goes to Mars, will launch in 2001 as part of the NASA/JPL Mars Surveyor 2001 lander mission. Never before has the public been permitted active participation in a space mission. If launched on schedule the Mars Surveyor 2001 lander will land on January 22, 2002.

"We stand on the threshold of an exciting millennium of exploration, one where the global public will become participants in the exploration of other worlds. Red Rover Goes to Mars will take students from around the world to a new frontier -- Mars," said Louis Friedman, Executive Director of the Planetary Society. "We hope it presages a future of more public involvement in planetary exploration."

At the Space Day ceremony NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin, National Air and Space Museum Director Admiral Don Engen; and Vance Coffman, Chairman and CEO of Lockheed-Martin Corporation joined Senator John Glenn and Bill Nye. Red Rover Goes to Mars is part of the Red Rover, Red Rover program - a joint development of the Society, the Center for Intelligent Systems at Utah State University, Virtual Products, Inc., and the LEGO company. Using computers linked through the Internet, students operate robotic rovers built from LEGO components.

Over four hundred Red Rover, Red Rover sites are already established in classrooms and science centers around the world.

Red Rover Goes to Mars will extend the network to the Red Planet itself, where student astronauts will have the first opportunity to participate with the mission scientists, interfacing with a rover and a robotic arm on the lander. The rover will be the Marie Curie, the same type of rover as Sojourner, which was deployed on Mars in 1997. Student scientists and student astronauts will share their work and experiences via the Internet, delivering real mission data to homes, classrooms and science centers around the world.

One experiment on the Mars Surveyor 2001 mission that the students will follow closely is a student designed "NanoExperiment." This experiment will be selected through a competitively judged contest sponsored by the Planetary Society, which is currently underway. The Society will also fund the construction of the flight-ready experiment. Details of this competition - the Student NanoExperiment Challenge - are available on the Planetary Society's web site at http://planetary.org

Red Rover Goes to Mars will begin this year with a worldwide essay competition to select the student scientists. Participants must be born between January 31, 1984 and January 31, 1991. Students, parents and teachers interested in Red Rover Goes to Mars should contact Linda Hyder by e-mail at tps.lh@mars.planetary.org