Monday, June 13, 2016

My daughter was a big fan of all things space since preschool. I thought that her interest would fade over time, but this one keeps burning strong. Right now she is very interested to know the answer to this simple question, When will we go to Mars?
Resources for kids interested in Mars program
Image courtesy: NASA

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How Will We Get to Mars?

In March, our local parent organization for gifted kids roped in a real rocket scientist from SpaceX program to give kids a talk on SpaceX, its engines and getting to Mars. It was an interesting lecture... for adults. By the middle of it many kids were fidgeting in their seats, because some of the technical details were a bit over their head. Yet, it sort of reignited Smarty's interest in the topic, and she happily picked up our Kindle version of...

The Martian: Book

A friend of mine has mentioned The Martian to me about a year ago, before it became a major motion picture and said that she thought my daughter would like this book. She was right. Smarty swallowed The Martian in a day, then slowed down and reread it... again, and again, and again. She said that she enjoyed Mark Watney's sense of humor and his creativity and also that the entire world was helping to bring him home. We really need more of these positive and uplifting stories about countries cooperating rather than fighting!
Since the book uses some "salty" language, it was a good opportunity to have a frank discussion with my 9 year old about curse words, their literal and figurative meaning, and the fact that we do not use these words in our family, not even when we are frustrated. She informed me that she would be probably using these words if she were stuck on Mark like Mark, but she did not seem to be bothered by their usage in the book.

The Martian: Movie

After we read the book, we also watched newly released The Martian: Extended Edition. The movie simplified the story somewhat while trying hard to keep true to the book's spirit and to the main parts of the story line. We got a new Blu-Ray mostly because of special features which included a great overview of a real NASA space program and a fascinating panel with Andy Weir, author of The Martian, and various NASA experts about challenges of going to Mars. Smarty was absolutely fascinated by all the details in these special features, but a bit disappointed that an ion drive of Hermes spacecraft in the book was a product of Andy Weir's imagination. I highly recommend getting a new Blu Ray if your child is interested either in space or in movie special effects (or both).

What's Next?

I was wondering if Smarty changes her career plans after watching all these NASA scientists talking about Mars. Well, she did not. She still wants to be a neuroscientist, but with a small caveat. She wants to work for NASA Mars missions and discover ways to help battle effects of weightlessness on nervous system. Only time will tell what she will do when she grows up. In the meantime, she is pouring over Buzz Aldrin's non-fiction book Welcome to Mars absorbing many facts about our challenges in getting there and colonizing it. She is also exploring NASA Mars Mission site which has a special section with activities for kids. She is upset that she is still too young to become part of Mars Exploration Student Data Team, but maybe this opportunity will still be there in a few years,

My friend Ticia from Adventures in Mommydom also has a space fan in the house. They were lucky to visit Houston Space Center and learn more about Mars program. She shares this awesome printable for young Mars lovers - I am certainly going to see what kind of Mars rover might daughter might design!

More Astronomy Ideas for Kids?

From my blog:

Your Turn

Learn more about NASA Mars program and Mars

Are your kids interested in Mars program?

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Ticia said...

We got an opportunity to see Space X a second time and my space crazy son was still asking all sorts of questions.