NASA is currently working with 16 year old, Alex Longo, to select where the next landing site for the Mars Rover will be. Although Longo has not even graduated from high school yet, that doesn’t seem to bother NASA in the slightest.
“My first experience with space exploration was in 2005,” Longo says. “I was just five years old, and mom and dad had me watch a space shuttle launch.”
In 2004, NASA sent a Rover to a place on Mars called Gusev Crater. Longo is saying that NASA should send their next Rover to the exact same spot as they did 12 years ago. Longo saw that NASA was asking scientists for their thoughts about landing site so he sent his proposal. Within a few days, he received an email inviting Longo to attend the first landing site planning conference. Even though the launch won’t happen until 2020, Longo has been going to the meetings in Washington D.C. since 2014. He recalls how terrifying it was when he was asked to speak in front of 150 NASA scientists.
“Honestly, I was a bit scared,” he said. “Because there are 125 Ph.D.s and grad students in that room, and I probably am by far the least experienced or knowledgeable person there. And I’m giving a presentation to all these people.”
Nine out of Ten people from the All Saints student body said that they would not have been able to do what Longo did. Longo is now working with experienced Mars scientists who agree with his approach. They are working to get a rover back to Gusev Crater. Their proposal is one of eight semi-finalists. Next year, another panel will be held to get that number down to four.