Chinese, U.S. students join hands to explore Mars

2008-01-27 18:50:50 Xinhua English

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 27 (Xinhua) -- In the first-ever program of its kind, teams of U.S. and Chinese high school students on Sunday started a joint program to explore Mars at Arizona State University (ASU).

The nine-day program involves 16 Chinese students and eight of their counterparts from Arizona Nogales High School, the ASU said in a statement.

Together, the space-minded students will take part in the China Youth Space Academy at ASU's Mars Space Flight Facility.

The university's School of Earth and Space Exploration is an international leader in space science, with instruments operating both in orbit and on the surface of Mars.

Each student team, consisting of both U.S. and Chinese students, will decide on a Mars geological problem to solve. Then the teams will command the Mars Odyssey spacecraft, which is in orbit around the red planet, to take images and data to solve the problems, the statement said.

In the final step, the student teams will analyze their data and report on their findings, just as working scientists do.

"The Space Academy program was created to excite high school students from the U.S. and China about careers in space science and engineering," said Jennie Si, professor of electrical engineering in ASU's Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering and director of ASU's China initiatives.

The Chinese students were chosen through an academic challenge joint partnership between ASU, the Chinese government-run Web site, China.com.cn, and Flying Spirit International Ad (Beijing) Co.

More than 12,000 students registered to take an online test that evaluated the students' knowledge of the solar system and space exploration. Then 40 semi-finalists competed in November 2007 for two days to produce the 16 winners.

ASU Vice President for Research and Economic Affairs R. F. Shangraw led a delegation of five ASU faculty and staff members to serve as judges for the competitions held in Beijing.

"The Chinese students who entered the Space Academy competition were all very impressive," said Philip Christensen, director of ASU 's Mars Space Flight Facility and the designer of the instrument on Mars Odyssey that the student teams will use to study Mars.

The China Youth Space Academy is one of the many ways ASU's School of Earth and Space Exploration is educating the next generation of space explorers.

"The China Youth Space Academy will carve a new path in cross-cultural learning," Jennie Si told Xinhua in an interview. "ASU is committed to finding and developing brilliant minds from around the country and the world."