Ames High School students in DeAnna Tibben’s Foundations of Earth Science and PreAP Earth Science classes may feel closer to Mars after participating in an interactive, live streamed event with NASA scientists, engineers, former astronauts, and cast members from the movie “The Martian.”

Organizers invited more than 100 high schools nationwide to participate from their classrooms, bringing the “So you want to be a Martian” event, hosted at Kennedy Space Center Thursday, Oct. 1,  to about 10,000 students.NASA

Tibben said the event was designed to spur students’ interest in space exploration and its benefits for science and humanity.

“This event represents a small but critical step in taking humans to Mars, and for making the earth a better place through the discoveries and solutions that happen along the way,” she said.

Tibben has an answer for people who question why we should we care about exploring Mars.

”To get there, we need to learn how to take care of plants, animals, soil, and ourselves,” she said. “We could use those lessons here on earth even if we never leave.”

Some of Tibben’s students said the “So You Want to be a Martian” event helped them connect the high stakes for science learning for humanity’s future.

Ninth grade student Jayna Wanamaker said, “If the Earth becomes unlivable, Mars could be an alternate planet to live on.”

Naomi Biela, also in ninth grade, said she thinks the experience of  contributing their expertise in making the movie “The Martian” helped scientists refine some of the logistics for getting to Mars.

“We still need to work on how to make it feasible to get there and survive,” Biela said. “NASA’s involvement with the movie was important—it sort of helped make a way for a trip to Mars to be even more possible.”

Panelists at the session included:

  • Jim Green, NASA Planetary Science Division Director
  • Bob Cabana, KSC Center Director (and former astronaut)
  • Nicole Stott, NASA astronaut (retired)
  • Mackenzie Davis, actor, “The Martian”
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor, actor, “The Martian”


More about “So You Want to be a Martian”