A NEW EDUCATION AND RESEARCH project Pathways to Space featuring a spectacular Mars research exhibit where experimental Mars rovers will operate, was launched this week at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney by the Honourable Kim Carr, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research.
Combining a school education programme with robotics, astrobiology and science education research, this project will expose thousands of students to real science and engineering in action.
Its aim is to encourage students to consider science and engineering university courses, enabling them to become future participants in an emerging Australian space programme.
School students in years 10-12 will have the opportunity to plan and execute a simulated robotic mission to Mars in association with university researchers working on real space science and engineering goals.
They will have access to astrobiologists and robotics engineers in Australia and overseas via the high-definition video conferencing technology, Cisco TelePresence, in the Museum’s Thinkspace digital studios, as they consider the science and engineering factors critical to the success of a Mars mission.
Specially created software will allow the students to drive a virtual Mars rover before actually controlling one of the two roving vehicles in the Mars Yard.
Students unable to visit the Powerhouse will still be able to participate in the project, using the Cisco TelePresence facility via the NSW Department of Education ‘Connected Classrooms’ network.
The 140-square-metre Mars Yard has been created with materials closely resembling those actually found on Mars. It also features several genuine artefacts—an Australian meteorite (similar to those found by NASA’s rovers on Mars) and examples of fossilised stromatolites (a form of ancient microbial life that may eventually be found on Mars).
In addition to offering a unique experience for students, Pathways to Space researchers will be carrying out a study to discover the long-term effectiveness of the project and whether it achieves its goal of nurturing a future pool of scientific and technical skills.
Pathways to Space is collaboration between universities, industry and the Powerhouse Museum, with funding from the Australian government.
It has been developed by a consortium of partners led by the University of New South Wales (Australian Centre for Astrobiology, Schools of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, and Physics), in conjunction with the University of Sydney (Australian Centre for Field Robotics), Cisco and the Powerhouse Museum.
The project is supported under the Federal Government’s Australian Space Research Program, a Super Science initiative to develop Australia’s niche space capabilities.
Adapted from information issued by Powerhouse Museum.
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