CAMDEN, Ark. – Two students and a teacher from Camden Fairview High School will be one of 13 teams from around the country to study with scientists during NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander expedition.
Students Katie de France, 16, and Buck Lucas, 17, along with biology teacher Pam Vaughan, were selected to participate in the Phoenix Student Intern Program and help determine the best location for the robot to land and find water.
Scientists hope to gain insight into whether Mars ever sustained life. The Mars lander is expected to put down on the planet's northern polar region in May or June and examine the icy soil there.
The teams will attend the planned launch of the lander at Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Aug. 3.
For the next year and a half, the Arkansas team will work with scientist Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis in studying the geology of Mars, the mechanics of the lander and the software needed to analyze data sent back to Earth during the mission, Vaughan said.
"It is such an opportunity for my students to have the ability to go beyond Arkansas," Vaughan said.
The teams were selected from about 50 applicants from across the country, said Carla Bitter, education and public outreach manager for the Phoenix Mars Mission, based at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
"We were looking for groups that have not worked with NASA before that have that enthusiasm and that excitement," Bitter said. "We wanted a cross-section of America."
The student teams will meet monthly with their scientist mentors and work on research projects. The Arkansas group will use videoconferencing or teleconferencing to meet with Arvidson.
Next summer, the teams will spend a week in residence at the University of Arizona, participating in the day-to-day operations of the mission.