There is an entire project team behind our analogue missions to Mars. The project was made possible with the contribution of extraordinary people who belong to supportive organisations.
We had many brainstorm meetings and ideas run. We set goals, talked about our mission, our objectives and why on Earth undertaking this misson to 'Mars'.
There are four main areas where we decided that we could contribute our knowledge and expertise to "Creating science citizens for the 21st century".
Need for increasing student engagement in science
A paper called "Inspired by science" and commissioned by the Royal Society and the Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor New Zealand Council for Educational Research stated in August 2010:
Changes in society, schooling and science itself, coupled with a lack of clarity of the purpose of science education, have produced school science programmes that are not optimally meeting the needs of any of our students -- neither high achievers headed for science related careers nor the majority who need science for citizenship. Solving this problem requires a long term strategy that takes into account purposes, pedagogies, assessment practices, teacher beliefs and values, resources and the wider community" (Inspired by science, A paper commissioned by the Royal Society and the Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor A. Bull, J. Gilbert, H. Barwick, R. Hipkins and R. Baker, New Zealand Council for Educational Research, August 2010)
Building scientifically literate population is essential for the future success of New Zealand industry. We would like to engage students in science at any early age and use space as a hook for getting them interested. Identifying opportunities for student engagement in ongoing research can provide the link to draw them to a future in science.
Support the new 'Planet Earth and Beyond' curriculum
Earth and Space Science (ESS) is a new subject being introduced in 2012 for years 7-13, based on the Planet Earth and Beyond strand of the New Zealand curriculum. We are working with teachers to allow this expedition to be used for engaging students in this new subject, and to develop supporting education material that can be used in subsequent years for classwork.
Learning for the Mars Science Laboratory
In November 2011 the biggest rover ever built on Earth, Curiosity took off for Mars. It landed in August 2012. KiwiMars 2012 was an excellent prequel to learning activities based on the landing of the Mars Science Laboratory Rover on Mars. The future Mars analogue missions at MDRS will provide a great link to the science that Curiosity is sending back to Earth.
Space education resources are not designed for a local audience
Teachers require relevant and ongoing resources and support to link student learning to the current Science Curriculum. A lot of the learning materials currently used in space science classes are produced abroad, and lack a New Zealand 'flavour'. We wanted to bring the Kiwi flavour in and make these resources relevant to our country. At the end of the day we should never forget that a great New Zealander, Sir William Pickering was a senior NASA luminary, heading of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Passadena for 22 years, where he pioneered the exploration of space.
We hope that our audience will find inspiration here and we hope they will grow up to be the citizens of the 21st centuries that we dream will take humanity forward.
Proud Project Lead