Artist's concept of Mars Global Surveyor. Image credit: NASA/JPL

Nine budding scientists can all pat themselves on the back, having become the first-ever elementary and high school students to direct a camera on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft and image Martian sites.

The images from the spacecraft, managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., are available at . They reveal an equatorial region with layers of sediment possibly deposited by flowing water, layered terrain of a Martian polar cap and an area in the middle latitudes of Mars that features dunes, valleys and mysterious black boulders. Scientists don't yet know how the boulders got to this area.

The students, ranging in age from 10 to 16, were members of the Planetary Society's weeklong Red Rover Goes to Mars Training Mission. Under the supervision of scientists at Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, Calif., who operate the Mars Orbiter Camera on board Global Surveyor, the fledgling scientists used imaging data to select areas that coincided with the spacecraft's current orbital position around the red planet. The students also selected a candidate landing site for a possible sample return mission, to be imaged sometime in the next five months when the Global Surveyor's orbit takes it past the target area.

The four girls and five boys, representing Brazil, Hungary, India, Poland, Taiwan and the United States, were chosen through an essay contest from a group of 80 semi- finalists. Information about the students and their training mission is available at .

The Planetary Society's Red Rover Goes to Mars project is conducted in cooperation with NASA and JPL. JPL manages NASA's Mars Global Surveyor mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C., and Malin Space Science Systems built and operates the Mars Orbiter Camera. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

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