Students get to speak with a NASA expert about Mars in Richmond Hill

Photo by Anthony Giudice/QNS

Is there life on Mars? That question remains unclear, but there is a NASA rover roaming the red planet, and some Queens kids got a chance to learn more about it.

Students from around Queens who are enrolled in the One Stop Richmond Hill Community Center’s Computer Technology Videoconferencing Program got the chance to learn about Mars and what the future holds in discovering more about our nearest solar neighbor, from an educational specialist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Through a teleconference video call with Michael Hare, education/production specialist at NASA’s Digital Learning Network who is stationed at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX, on July 20 (the 48th anniversary of the Moon landing), the children learned about NASA’s previous missions to Mars and how the landers and rovers that have been sent there over the years got there.

They also got to learn more about how the rovers and landers gather information about the planet, and NASA’s future plans for sending rovers, and eventually astronauts, to Mars.

“This really gives them an opportunity to open vistas, expand their horizons,” said Neme Alperstein, co-founder of the Computer Technology Videoconferencing Program. “It transcends geographic boundaries. It’s live, interactive and in real time, which means it involves the participation and engagement of the child, not just as a passive learner, but as someone who engages with an expert in space science.”

After giving his presentation, Hare opened the floor to allow the kids to ask questions that they prepared beforehand through extensive research. During this time, the children asked Hare questions ranging from Mars’ gravity, to if water has been discovered on the Red Planet.

“I learned about the different rovers on Mars, how they were built, and that they’re still there,” said Melanie who will be going into fifth grade in September.

“I learned that Mars actually has an atmosphere,” Cole, who will be entering the fifth grade, said.

The free program for students runs both during the summer and as an after-school program during the school year, said Simcha Waisman, president of the One Stop Richmond Hill Community Center located at 110-08 Jamaica Ave.

“We help kids to open their minds to the future and see what is available to them,” Waisman added. “We want to give them much more vision and understanding of science and technology.”

Waisman has been running the Computer Technology Videoconferencing Program at the community center for 16 years, and participants have been involved with video conference calls with other NASA experts as well as astronauts on the International Space Station.

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