PASADENA, CALIF. 91109. TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011

Contact: Diane Ainsworth



       Educators and students ... get your passports and become virtual travelers to Mars!

       NASA won't leave the public on the launchpad when the first two Mars-bound spacecraft in a decade-long program of Mars exploration blast off from Cape Canaveral, FL, this fall.

       Teachers and students visiting NASA host sites across the country will be able to follow these spacecraft to Mars and learn about the latest scientific discoveries through a series of "electronic field trips," designed to engage the public in international plans to continue exploring the most Earth-like planet in the solar system. If that isn't enough, virtual travelers will be transported to the surface of Mars on July 4, 1997, to see Pathfinder's landing site on an ancient flood plain known as Ares Vallis.

       It's all part of a new interactive series of telecasts, called "Live from Mars." NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in partnership with The Planetary Society in Pasadena and a program called "Passport to Knowledge," is inviting teachers across the country to attend a workshop on July 20 -- called "The Mars Virtual Teacher Training Conference" -- to learn more about the broadcasts and discuss plans for bringing them into classrooms via the Internet, video conferencing and public television. The conference will be held at NASA Headquarters, 300 E St., S.W., Washington, D.C.

       The Mars Virtual Teacher Training Conference will take place in conjunction with a three-day celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Viking landing on Mars. During the workshop, JPL will introduce a new educational CD-ROM on the next two missions to Mars, distribute classroom instruction modules to augment the Passport to Knowledge telecasts and outline NASA's objectives and strategies for exploring Mars over the next decade. Elementary, middle and high school teachers may participate remotely via the Internet and video conferencing.

       "Live from Mars" will consist of four telecasts airing before and during the Mars Pathfinder and Mars Global Surveyor missions. Cosponsored by NASA, the National Science Foundation and public television's K-12 Learning Services, the telecasts are part of a recent Internet initiative which created "Passport to Knowledge," an innovative approach to science education using interactive television and online computer networks to break the barriers of time and space.

       Since its inception in 1994, Passport to Knowledge has aired several award-winning educational programs.

       "Live from Antarctica" brought contemporary research on such topics as Emperor penguins, Weddell seals, continental drift and the dynamics of ice sheets to classrooms all over the country. "Live from the Stratosphere" transported students to the stratosphere aboard a NASA jet to learn more about the ozone hole, ultraviolet radiation and the interaction of Earth's upper atmosphere with the solar wind. "Live from the Hubble Space Telescope" allowed youngsters to work with leading astronomers in analyzing the results of Hubble telescope observations of Neptune and Pluto.

       The first two telecasts of "Live from Mars" are tentatively scheduled to air from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 1996, and 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday, April 24, 1997. A third telecast originating from JPL, home of the Mars Pathfinder mission, is being planned for Pathfinder landing day on July 4, 1997. The telecast, which will include the first pictures of the Martian surface to be taken by the spacecraft, will be followed by a fourth program to be scheduled in the months ahead. All telecasts will be broadcast on NASA TV and at scheduled times on public television.

       For additional information on the July 20 Mars Virtual Teacher Training Conference, contact Dr. Cheick Diarra, educational outreach director in the Mars Exploration Program Office at JPL, telephone (818) 354-5428; Andrea McCurdy, NASA K-12 Internet Initiative, via e-mail to; or Jan Wee, Passport to Knowledge, via e-mail to

       Updated information on the Passport to Knowledge programs is available on the World Wide Web at Continually updated information on the 1996 Mars Pathfinder and Mars Global Surveyor missions is available on the Internet at

       Workshop registration forms and agendas can be obtained by writing or calling Judy Cole, Mars symposium coordinator, Science and Technology Corp., 101 Research Drive, Hampton, VA, 23666, telephone (804) 865-8721, or by sending e-mail to

6/14/96 DEA