Students, Teachers Invited to Join Virtual Field Trip to Mars

This Viking 1 Orbiter image shows the thin atmosphere of Mars.
This Viking 1 Orbiter image shows the thin atmosphere of Mars.

This blog post by Evan M. Ryan appeared on the State Department’s Dipnote blog. Ryan is the assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs.

You’re Invited: Join the Coolest Virtual Field Trip to Mars
by Evan M. Ryan

What do a dove, a yerba mate cup, a cowboy boot, a wooden dance mask, and a PlayStation4 video game console have in common? They’re the items that middle school students from Washington, Argentina, Texas, Nicaragua, and New Jersey said they would each bring with them to Mars, to represent their country and to share their culture with fellow crew members on a journey to the Red Planet. You see, President Obama believes that we can send humans on a manned mission to orbit Mars by the mid-2030s, so it’s likely that someone from their generation will be on the Mars landing crew.

To encourage future astronauts, innovators, and change makers to study and work in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) is going on a new type of virtual exchange program with students — we’re blasting off on a virtual field trip to Mars!

The ECA Collaboratory teamed up with NASA’s Digital Learning Network, Google’s Connected Classrooms Program, and the U.S. embassies in Buenos Aires and Managua to host this first-ever international Google+ Hangout to explore the Red Planet. We invite educators and students to join us.

The Mission Mars Virtual Field Trip will take place on Friday, April 25, between 14:00-15:00 EDT (18:00-19:00 GMT), in conjunction with the USA Science and Engineering Festival and in celebration of National Science Week.

With nearly half the world’s population under the age of 30, we hope this unique experience will inspire youth around the world to pursue STEM education and careers.

Education and content experts from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab will present a special lesson about Mars rovers, followed by a short question and answer session via Google+ Hangout on Air. They will engage the five connected classrooms in collaborative science activities, and NASA will use current photos from Mars Curiosity and its Mars Yard to simulate the field trip.

This program is also part of President Obama’s 100,000 Strong in the Americas initiative to increase educational exchanges across the Americas, strengthening a new generation’s ability to reach across borders and solve shared challenges. Many of the Nicaraguan students are participating in the English Access Microscholarship Program, which provides a foundation of English language skills to economically disadvantaged youth.

So tune in to the Google+ Hangout on Air webcast, which will be live-streamed for global audiences at, and ask questions via Twitter using the hashtag #MarsFieldTrip.

Lisa May, the program executive at NASA Headquarters for the Mars Exploration program, will host the live event. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs John Feeley will deliver introductory remarks, along with Dr. Jim Green, NASA Headquarters planetary science division director.

Maybe this will be your first of many trips to Mars! What will you bring with you?