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In February, I had the privilege of speaking to a class of young, bright-eyed and enthusiastic children at Orange Glen Elementary in California. I was invited into Ms. Alvarado’s 1st grade classroom to share my Mars story. From the first moment, they gave me their undivided attention. Not only that, they were chomping at the bit, bombarding me with fascinating questions about what life will be like on Mars for future astronauts.
I told them about the mythology of Mars and its two moons, Horror (Phobos) and Terror (Deimos). I told them about the fact that people have looked to the skies and tried to understand the Red Planet for centuries, if not millennia. I told them that satellites that have travelled to and orbited Mars have helped us understand its composition, structure, history and revealed a plethora of incredible geological features.
I told them about the highlands and the plains, the mountains and the valleys, the ridges and the lava tubes. Not only did they listen carefully, they wanted to know more. I asked them if they’ve seen shooting stars. A few had. I explained that shooting stars are small rocks, pebbles and grains that burn up as they enter the atmosphere, leaving brilliant streaks across the sky. On Mars, I told them, if you’re standing on the highest mountain in the Solar System, Olympus Mons, the incredible thing is that you would see shooting stars below you! (reader question: do you know why?)
The more I told them, the more they wanted to know. I told them that it’s because of all of this and much more that we want to step foot on the Red Planet. Scratch that, we don’t just want to step foot on Mars, we HAVE to! At the Austrian Space Forum (OeWF) we are focused on helping make this our reality, by incrementally figuring out how to tackle the basic technological, human and environmental challenges posed by a human mission to Mars.
I showed the kids some of the activities that we undertake at the OeWF, providing them with a glimpse of the future: their future. I explained the extensive training we underwent as Analog Astronauts. In addition, I explained that it’s a huge team effort, with over a hundred people from nineteen different countries participating in the last analog simulation mission (AMADEE-15). I explained the science that we conducted in the field and the lessons we’ve learned that help us make the next step.
The kids were completely engaged for over 45 minutes: a miracle for six-year olds! It’s a true testament to the joy, excitement and wonder that kids of that age have for space travel in general. To solidify this point, they all wrote essays and made drawings about Mars, which I have the pleasure of sharing with you. Below you can find a gallery of all of their essays: read them and sit back in the knowledge that our future is safe :)
Gallery: Student essays on Mars
In closing, I’d like to share a few thoughts …
Teachers & parents:
Time with your kids is immensely precious and you have the chance to mould the next generation of pioneers. Grab that opportunity with both hands and give your kids the confidence to sail through the Cosmos, no matter where they choose to go.
This is your time. This is your chance to stamp your mark on the world around you and leave it a better place. Don’t stop dreaming, don’t stop wishing, don’t stop shooting for the stars. We believe in you and your place in the Cosmos. You are all pioneers!
For everyone else:
Our future is in good hands. Take care of this generation. They are going to do some amazing things, whether it be stepping foot on Mars for the first time, eradicating the most deadly diseases or figuring out a way for all of us to live in peace and harmony.
Remember, in the end we are all made of star stuff.
Thank you Ms. Alvarado, thank you kids for inviting me into your world to share mine!
Author: Kartik Kumar
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