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CV students’ mission on Mars includes online Q&A with scientists

More than 100 freshman science students at Central Valley High School learned about living life on Mars from the researchers and scientists working on simulated manned missions to the Red Planet.

Krista Larsen’s science classes were able to see and talk via webcast to researchers and scientists who are working on the Habitat Demonstration Unit simulator project.

Nine students were selected to ask questions. They submitted them in advance and were chosen from eight schools nationally that were invited to participate. Only one other school actually did, due to problems with setting up the webcast. Larsen said the district’s technology department went above and beyond when they troubleshot their way into the conversation.

Larsen said her experience at Space Camp in 2008, designed for teachers at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Alabama, gave her the contacts to help CV win the chance to join in the webcast.

“I was so excited to get chosen,” Larsen said.

The students were excited, too. Maddy Jarvis asked how the crew members and scientists prepare for medical emergencies such as illness or psychological issues due to seclusion and small living quarters.

“Space is the most interesting thing we learn about in science,” Jarvis said. She and the others selected to ask questions were in the control booth of the auditorium.

“I didn’t get to hear my answer,” she said.

Zach Brommer asked what their biggest concerns were about traveling to Mars, whether it was communication, health issues or resources.

Larsen said the HDU simulates a trip to Mars – it takes six months to get there, they would stay for a year to complete a mission and then come home. Learning about missions to Mars is just a part of her lessons on space, which include NASA’s role in history.

Wryan Parr was going to ask about the climate and terrain on Mars, but they ran out of time.

“I was excited, though,” he said. He would like to one day be an aerospace engineer, so he found the webcast very interesting.

“They are in this field already,” he said. “It’s good to hear from people in the field.”