An HHMI-trained biology teacher and two of her high school students are among 13 teams selected nationwide to participate in NASA's Mars rover landings in January.

When Spirit, the first of two NASA Mars rovers, lands on the red planet on January 3, 2004, high school senior Kristen Curtis, junior Katie Reedy, and their biology teacher, Marilou Bebak, will be there. Well, not on Mars, but the next best thing to it—at the Jet Propulsion Laoratory in Pasadena, California, working right alongside NASA scientists and technicians as they gather data from the lander.

They are one of only 13 student-teacher teams selected nationwide to work on the landing of Spirit and Opportunity, a second NASA rover scheduled to land on Mars on January 24. From Nardin Academy High School of Buffalo, New York, the team is working directly with Steven Squyres, principal science investigator for the mission.

Curtis is in charge of the Collaborative Information Protocol (CIP), which maintains the schedule for the entire mission team. Reedy will help schedule press conferences and prepare media information. Bebak, their teacher, will coordinate outreach and assist her team as needed.

“This is a wonderful chance for these young women to experience the thrill of scientific investigation first-hand,” says Bebak.

Participation in the Cornell Institute for Biology Teachers inspired Bebak to apply for the Mars rover project. Supported by a science education grant from HHMI, the Cornell Institute for Biology Teachers introduces science teachers from across New York state to the latest advances in molecular, developmental and evolutionary biology, ecology and genetics. They network to share resources after summer workshops and return regularly to the Cornell campus for updates.

Throughout the Mars mission, the student-teacher team will share their experiences with other students in Buffalo and around the country through presentations, a special section on the Mars Exploration Program web site, and other outreach activities.

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Jim Keeley 301.215.8858