Mars Day taps NASA, StarLab and HI-SEAS Crew Member

StarLab_1It’s fun to have an event such as Mars Day at a time when there’s so much more being discovered about the Red Planet. Like the excitement about flowing water, a few weeks ago.

For this year’s Mars Day at Salt River Elementary, we feature three interesting facets of Space exploration and discovery.

StarLabThis is an inflatable planetarium that will give younger grades an interstellar experience. It comes to us through ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration. Just the idea of having a planetarium come to the school turns science into something more experiential. Added to that we have a great outreach team that gives students a ‘tour’ of the night sky, and a hands-on table-top experience.

hi_seas_3Zak Wilson is one of the crew on the Mars Habitat experiment last year. He will be here to conduct concurrent sessions, and be our keynote speaker. Zak, who was part of a 6-member crew lived in a Martian habitat (seen on right) for eight months! It was situated on a volcanic terrain that resembled Mars. More about this experience here.

ASU/NASA. And last but not least, we have the team from ASU’s Mars Space Flight Facility conducting hands-on sessions with grades 3,, 4, 5, and 6. This is the fourth year of our collaboration with this group.

Mars Day 2012 - Kody EnsleyHere’s how Mars Day has evolved.

In 2012, we had our students talk to Kody Ensley, a
Native American who interned at NASA, and worked on Robonaut,

In 2013, we featured Commander John Herrington, former Space Shuttle commander,and the first Native American in Space.

In 2014, we had the Hi-SEAS Mission team, and Dr. Jack Farmer from ASU.

 

Permanent home for Mars Day

One of my other hats is to build content for my school website. This gives me a chance to dabble in some of the areas I used to, in my previous life 🙂

I work with our Web person, Lori Diab, who created this marvelous spot on our website. Lori just happens to be a former IABC Member, so we kinda speak the same language.

It’s a work in progress, but contains:

  • Links to past activities
  • Scientists with whom we have connected
  • Winners of competitions
  • Organizations supporting Mars Day
  • Media reports
  • Interviews – upcoming 
The idea for the page title, ‘Next Stop, Mars’ was from Lori. Which is timely, considering so much being discussed –NASA, and aerospace companies — about humankind’s next planetary home. Astronaut, Scott Kelly, who is the twin brother of astronaut Mark Kelly, is on a mission that begins in March 2015.
Kody Ensley - Tim Olson

Kody Ensley, working on Robonaut-2 at Johnson Space Center. Kody spoke to our students in Oct. 2012.

Mars Day –and a chance to talk to an astronaut!

This year I’m expanding Mars Day (an event I started last year) to the whole school, thanks to the Mars Space Flight Facility at ASU, and NASA.

Students can’t get enough of science. I’ve been amazed at the interest from students as early as in Kindergarten. They already know the name and the spacecraft that put the first American into orbit. Some of them have even begun giving me artistic rendering of the spaceship that will one day take a human to Mars.

I love being able to tell them that by the time they are my age, it’s most likely that a human would be walking on Mars. I liberally borrow from Buzz Aldrin’s breathtaking vision of that time (in “Mission To Mars“) where he shows us blueprints for how we would be “a two-planet species”!

Back on planet earth, we are lucky this year to get Commander John Herrington, the first Native American in Space, to speak to my kids via video hook up. It’s a complex set up, making sure we have a stable connection into the library where students will talk to an astronaut, while the rest of the classes watch the event on their smart boards!

If we could chat with astronauts on the space shuttle, or get a live feed from a robot on Mars, this should not be complicated.

Stay tuned!