As NASA’s Mars Rovers rapidly approach landing, agency
educators are challenging students to learn more about the
“red planet” and to design creatures that could survive in
the harsh Martian environment.

Monday, NASA Quest at NASA’s Ames Research Center (ARC)
launches the “Design-a-Martian Challenge.” NASA Quest is an
educational Web site dedicated to bringing the NASA
experience to K-12 students. The seven-week challenge builds
on the growing excitement about the January landings of the
Mars Rovers and provides students an opportunity to interact
with NASA experts and other students from around the world.

“The Design-a-Martian Challenge is a great opportunity to
have students actively participate in one of the greatest
scientific endeavors in recent history,” said Donald James,
education director at ARC. “With the knowledge gained from
the challenge, the students will be Mars experts within their
families and classrooms when the twin Mars Exploration Rovers
land in January 2004,” he said.

Students will use NASA’s Astro-Venture, a Web site designed
to help researchers understand what makes a planet habitable
and to learn the conditions needed by humans to survive on
Earth, so they can apply that knowledge to Mars. As the
students gain a better understanding of Mars, they can begin
designing creatures that could survive punishing sand storms,
cold temperatures and other harsh conditions.

During the challenge, students will be able to interact with
agency scientists about NASA’s missions to the “red planet”
and Martian creature designs. Internet chats are scheduled
from 1-2 p.m. EST, Wednesday, October 29, and Thursday,
November 20.

“As NASA scientists, we are always looking to encourage
students to take an active interest in science and
exploration,” said Geoff Briggs, scientific director of
NASA’s Center for Mars Exploration. “The Design-a-Martian
outreach program builds on the interest generated by the
recent close alignment of Earth and Mars and the excitement
of the upcoming Mars landings. It’s a great way to spark
students’ interest,” he said.

Final Martian creature designs are due by November 26. The
“Design-a-Martian Challenge” concludes with a webcast
December 3. NASA scientists will update students with the
latest Mars research and progress of the Mars Rovers, and
provide final feedback about the students’ creature designs.

For information about NASA on the Internet, visit:

For more information about the “Design-a-Martian Challenge”
on the Internet, visit:

For more information about NASA Quest on the Internet, visit:

For more information about the Astro-Venture Web site, visit:

For information about NASA’s Education programs on the
Internet, visit: