Five Indian students are among nine students selected from all over the world as `Student Navigators’ for participation in an exploratory mission to the red planet Mars organised by Planetary Society, USA. The students are (figures in bracket indicate the age)

Primary Team:

  • Avinash Chandrashekar, India (11)
  • Bhushan Prakash Mahadik, India (13)
  • Shaleen Rajendra Harlalka, India (16)

    Back Up Team:

  • Harikrishnan Ramani, India (11)
  • Kamalayazini S P, India (12)

    Apart from the above students, two Student Navigators from India, Srikanth Sridharan, Bangalore and Sastry Laksmi Narayan Vadlamani, Bangalore, have also secured honorable mention for outstanding journals among eight others in the world.

    The other students selected from all over the world are: Daniel Jan Hermanowicz, Poland (10), Kevin Hou, USA (12), Kimberly DeRose, USA (13), Jacqueline Cherie Hayes, Australia (16), Paul Nicholas Bonata, Australia (16), Kevin Kuns, USA (10), Esteban Gomez Pineda, Venezuela (16)

    The winners will have the opportunity to live and work in a simulated Mars base here on Earth while participating in tele-operation of Marie Curie Rover and Robotic arm on another world. This unprecedented opportunity requires bright, dedicated students who understand rover mechanics and command sequencing as well as the Martian environment and make new friends around the world.

    The students were selected by ISRO, which was the national coordinator, through a selection process including a questionnaire round, journal writing contest involving questions on rover operations and its behaviour on simulated Mars base, presentation on their journal, rover parts assembly, group discussions and interview. ISRO had forwarded the names of twelve students to the organizers for final selection. Of these 12, five students were selected from among 51 from all over the world who were telephonically interviewed by an international panel of judges. The Student Navigators were selected in the age categories 10-12, 12-14 and 14-16. It is indeed a matter of great pride that all five Indian students who were telephonically interviewed have been finally selected.

    Student Navigator candidates are divided into two teams: Student Navigator Team (Primary Team) and the Student Back Up Team. Both teams will receive nine month of intensive training via the Internet. During mission operations, the Student Navigator will take shifts living and working in the simulated Mars base and student Navigator back up team will serve as media representatives keeping the major networks and the newspapers as well as the local media groups informed about the daily activities and progress of Red Rover Goes to Mars Navigators and scientists.

    It is to be noted that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), USA is launching a probe `MARS SURVEYOR 2002′ for exploration of the planet Mars. The mission offers opportunities to the students all over the globe to participate in this exploratory mission. In a simulated Mars base, the team of Student Navigator will participate in the operation of the Rover and the Lander Robotic Arm on Mars. Working with them will be Student Scientists who will define experiments to be carried out on Mars.

    Under the programme, sponsored by the LEGO Company with Liberte Yogurt of Canada; science magazine and the AAS Directorate of Education and Human resources and co-ordinated by the Planetary Society of USA, students from all over the globe have been selected for participation in this mission through a rigorous selection process.

    It may be recalled that three Indian students namely Vikas Sarangadhara (10), Bangalore, Tanmay Sanjay Khirwadkar (13), Nagpur and Shaleen Rajendra Harlalka (16), Udaipur have already been selected as Student Scientists sin September 1999 and are among the nine globally selected. Shaleen Rajendra Harlalka, Udaipur is one among the two students who is selected both as Student Scientist and Student Navigator. The other student hails from USA.

    The Student Navigator training begins immediately and will culminate with actual hand-on training at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in October 2001. The Mars Global Surveyor images, as suggested by Student Scientist for imaging with the Mars Orbiter Camera, will also be released by Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego, California. The first phase of the planetary Society’s Red Rover Goes to Mars Training Mission was an outstanding success. For the first time ever, students selected targets to be imaged by a spacecraft in orbit around Mars. These nine Student Scientists made history when they operated the Mars Orbitor Camera on board the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft, and made news when they discovered a mysterious group of dark boulders on Mars and this could not have happened without their involvement.