What would life be like if Mars were your home?

As part of the sixth annual Space Day celebration, NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe announced today the launch of the Imagine Mars project at the opening ceremony for "Space Day 2002 Adventure to Mars!" at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C. The project is a national arts, science and technology initiative that challenges young people to imagine and design a livable Mars community of the future.

Co-sponsored by NASA and the National Endowment for the Arts, the Imagine Mars project builds upon the success of the Mars Millennium project and the enthusiasm of its hundreds of thousands of participants, many of whom asked that the project be continued after the nation's millennium celebration in 2000-2001.

Like its predecessor, the Imagine Mars project is a Web-based initiative that provides educators and project leaders with lesson plans, Mars facts and other resources to lead student project teams. The goal is to encourage students to explore their own community, to interact with scientists, engineers, artists, architects and community leaders, and to understand the different planetary environment on Mars. After they've conducted that research, they will decide which arts, scientific and cultural elements would be important to include in their imagined community on Mars.

"Through the arts and humanities, the Imagine Mars project opens the door to scientific discovery for students and teachers who might not otherwise be exposed to the excitement of Mars exploration," said Michelle Viotti, Mars Public Engagement manager for NASA's Mars Exploration Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "The best part is that students are learning what makes life in their own communities so vibrant, even as they're engaging their imaginations in a futuristic Mars experience of their dreams."

The Imagine Mars project draws from curricular materials and concepts developed for the Mars Millennium project Web site, which received more than 10 million hits from around the world. The interdisciplinary, educational nature of the project encouraged learning from students of all interests, and allowed a great deal of flexibility for classrooms in their project participation. For example, students in Fort Worth, Texas, transformed their schools into Mars colonies and their schoolyards into futuristic Mars gardens, while young people in Baton Rouge, La., created special dance movements depicting balance and motion problems that would be experienced by future Mars explorers.

"The Mars Millennium project was amazing. We enhanced our parks. We wrote symphonies. We launched rockets. The kids were on fire with learning," said Ginger Head- Gearheart from the Kennedy Center Imagination Celebration, who participated in the project with the Fort Worth School District. "We are so pleased these educational opportunities will continue to grow as the Imagine Mars project."

Students will continue to share their projects online by uploading artwork and other results to the Imagine Mars Web site at: .

The site contains participation guides, resources for teachers, profiles of artists, engineers, and scientists, and other interactive features.

On behalf of NASA and the National Endowment for the Arts, JPL manages the Imagine Mars Project as part of the Mars Public Engagement program, which seeks to educate the public about scientific discoveries and benefits of NASA's missions to Mars. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

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JPL/Mary Hardin (818) 354-0344