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Gretchen Cook-Anderson
Headquarters, Washington
(Phone: 202/358-0836)

Jonas Dino
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
(Phone: 650/604-5612/9000)

October 10, 2003
RELEASE : 03-330
Martian Creatures "Come To Life" During Student Challenge
As spacecraft from several countries approach Mars, NASA 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 Mars 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 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:


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