JPL Open House
During the 2002/2003 school year, 5th and 6th grade students from the Montessori School of Corona (MSOC) created a Mars landscape and 3-6 year olds from Montessori Children's House in Cypress, California created an Imaginary Island landscape. Both projects were created using papier mâche. Both groups of students also built robotic rovers to send on a mission to explore the landscape created by the other school. The culmination of the project was displaying their work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory 2003 Open House, where they demonstrated how their rovers worked while answering questions asked by the thousands of Open House visitors who stopped by their booth. NASA's twin Mars Exploration Rovers were scheduled to launch the following summer.
In May of 2004, two of the students (who by then were in 6th grade), again went to the JPL Open House where they joined students from Mesa Union School (Ventura, California) for a second year, to talk to visitors and answer questions about their project. That year, the two NASA rovers, Spirit and Opportunity had been exploring Mars for approximately four months.
JPL will host the 2005 Open House on March 14th and 15th. Students will have another opportunity to discuss Mars and robotics with Open House visitors and the two Mars Exploration Rovers will have been exploring the surface of Mars for nearly a year and a half!
In August 2005, another spacecraft will launch towards Mars. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) will join the Mars Global Surveyor (launched in 1997) and Odyssey (launched in 2001) in orbit. Building on those earlier missions, MRO will gather additional data and take new images of the planet's surface using three very distinct camera systems. The Mars Color Imager (MARCI) will take large scale color snap-shots. A context camera will zoom in to get more detail not visible in the MARCI image. Finally, the powerful HiRISE camera will capture very high resolution detailed images of the planet's surface.
MSOC students have once again created a Martian landscape to display at the JPL Open House. This time it will be a three-dimensional globe representation of Mars using data from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (the MOLA instrument is currently orbiting Mars aboard the Mars Global Surveyor). In order to explore this spherical landscape, parents and students are developing the Imagiverse Reconnaissance Orbiter (IRO).
IRO will utilize a pin-hole camera, decorated with gold foil and solar panels to make it look like the MRO spacecraft. The tiny camera will observe the planet's surface from a mechanically-constructed orbit.
After two full days, the students at MSOC and Mesa Union had a fantastic showing of their Mars project. They received thousands of guests as they ably answered questions and demonstrated all that they had learned. It was a success and after the day was done, the students helped pack up the displays. Seen here, we can see that the children had a long busy day, but they can take in the fact that they did a job well done!
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