The Planetary Society,
USA and the LEGO Company, USA, and other sponsors, in cooperation with National
Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), USA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory
and Malin Space Science Systems, USA, is conducting this worldwide competition
for selecting 'Student Navigators' who will participate in a real exploratory
mission of the planet 'Mars'.
The preliminary selection of the Indian entries
was carried out through 16 designated regional centres: Science City at
Chennai, Nehru Planetarium at New Delhi, Visvesvaraya Industrial &
Technological Museum at Bangalore, Raman Science Centre at Nagpur, Inter
University Centre for Astronomy & Astrophysics (IUCAA) at Pune, Nehru
Science Centre at Mumbai, Birla Industrial & Technological Museum at
Calcutta, Kerala Academy of Sciences at Thriuvananthapuram, Panorama &
Science Centre at Kurukshetra, Vikram Sarabhai Community Science Centre at
Ahmedabad, and Regional Science Centre at Bhopal, Calicut, Lucknow,
Bhubaneshwar and Guwahati.
ISRO, the national coordinator for the program,
short listed 41 students for the national semifinal. The final 12 students were
selected through group discussions and interviews held at ISRO Satellite
Centre, Bangalore on January 10 and 11, 2001. The students were also required
to assemble a Rover kept at ISRO Satellite Centre and maneuver the same through
remote command. The evaluation of the students was carried out by an expert
scientists' panel led by Prof B V Srikantan, former Director of Tata Institute
of Fundamental Research, Mumbai. The names of the 12 students were announced at
the valedictory function held at ISRO Satellite Centre this afternoon
(11.01.2001). Prof U R Rao, Member, Space Commission and former Chairman, ISRO
was the Chief Guest and Dr P S Goel, Director, ISRO Satellite Centre presided.
The 41 students invited for selection along with their mentors also met Dr
Kasturirangan, Chairman, ISRO and other scientists of ISRO in the evening.
(From L to
R)Abhishek Vijay Thakur, Mumbai, Arjun Shankar, Bangalore, Avinash Sastry,
Bangalore, Kautabh Rajeev Mote, Pune, Shaleen Rajendra Haralalka, Udaipur,
Siddharth Chaturvedi, Bangalore, Srikanth Sridharan, Bangalore
(From L to R)Sastry Lakshminarayan Vadlamani, Bangalore, S P
Kamalayazhini,Pondicherry, Bhushan Prakash Mahadik, Mumbai, Harikrishna Ramani,
Chennai, Avinash Chandrashekar, Chennai
The final selection of
the students for the 'Student Navigators' will be carried out by the Planetary
Society. Once selected, these Student Navigators will explore the simulated
landing site terrain on Mars with the state-of-the-art rover program now in
development at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, USA. Students everywhere will be
able to follow, along with the 'Student Navigator' training and reproduce what
is taking place even as the 'Student Navigators' select a sample to return to
earth through the Planetary Society and the LEGO Company's Red Rover Network.
It may be recalled that the Planetary Society
selected three students from India among nine from all over the world as
Student Scientists under the Red Rovers Goes to Mars Training Mission announced
in November 2000. In all, more than 10,000 students participated in the contest
held in India for the Student Scientists and Student Navigator programme.