The Curiosity, an SUV-size vehicle, is roving the surface of Mars, collecting information on soil, rocks, and other data that scientists hope will enhance their understanding of the red planet.
Soon, students from across the country will be roving, virtually, right along with it.
Beginning Wednesday, Dec. 12 at 1 p.m., Eastern time, a trio of organizations will be hosting a "virtual field trip" to Mars, which will give students and teachers detailed information on the rover's mission and its work. The virtual program, titled "Journey to the Extreme: Your V.I.P. Pass to Mars," also will be archived for schools' future use, for those who miss the initial launch.
The program will include information presented by scientists and engineers who have worked on the rover project, including Leland Melvin, NASA associate administrator for education and an astronaut, and Dave Lavery, program executive for NASA's solar system exploration and the Curiosity's mission.
The project is a joint effort of the i.am.angel foundation, NASA, and Discovery Education. (The i.am.angel foundation was launched by will.i.am, a founding member of the musical group the Black Eyed Peas.) The virtual trip is part of an overall, five-year project called i.am.STEAM, meant to engage and inspire students through interactive projects to consider "STEAM"-related fields—or those focused on science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math.
The virtual program's primary audience is students in grades 3-12, with a focus on middle school, Discovery officials say. While the event can be used in the classroom, they note that the archive will allow students, families, and other school officials to return to the resource after the event. Pre-virtual trip activities, which are aligned with academic standards, are available for download on www.iamsteam.com.
Photo of the surface of Mars courtesy of NASA.