Idaho Students Plan Trip To Mars

Jul 15, 2012

A group of 17 year olds discuss building hydroponic greenhouses on Mars. They’re some of the Idaho high school students getting college credit before their senior year by designing a future interplanetary. The Idaho Science and Aerospace Scholars program has two summer sessions each with about forty students.  The first wrapped up over the weekend. And  a new session begins today Monday.

Samantha Walker’s team was the one overheard talking about what plants would grow best in their Martian greenhouses.  It is responsible for keeping the hypothetical astronauts alive. They have to solve problems like how to shield the explorers from solar radiation that could unravel their very DNA.

“We can live in this cave that we’ve found," Walker explains.  "It is part of a mountain range that we’ve already explored with rovers.”

The students took an on-line course during the school year that culminates in this week-long summer project. They start at Boise State, spend two days at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California, then come back to BSU. Now they’re in four teams each with a role in the mission. One team makes decisions like how long the

mission will be and who gets to go, or as team leader Caleb Rounsevel of St. Maries High puts it…

“We are the mission. We decide what’s happening; everybody else has to kind of integrate with us.”

Rounsevel’s team decided on a ten person, two year mission.

This is the third year Idaho has participated in this NASA program. The goal is to get students excited about science and engineering. For NASA this is also about creating a future work force.

Astronaut Wendy Lawrence spoke to the students last week. She says according to NASA’s best guess, kids in elementary school now will be the first people on Mars and their trip will be planned by students now in high school.