Lockheed Martin brings Mars Experience to students
ORLANDO, Fla. — On April 6, 2017, Lockheed Martin showcased its Mars Experience Bus to students at Walker Middle School. The vehicle is a modified school bus that aims to bring the experience of Mars exploration to students across the United States.
Riders who board the bus are given a first-person view into traveling across the Martian terrain. Panoramic displays show the extraterrestrial landscape in detail and provide data on temperature, ground speed and more. Moreover, the voice of the “autopilot” describes the rapid temperature changes and high winds, among other things, that future astronauts would experience on Mars.
The event was part of Lockheed’s Generation Beyond program to promote to students, teachers and parents the importance of STEM education, which is an acronym referring to the academic disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math.
“This program is about giving the students of the younger generation something to focus on, something to motivate them, to challenge them to do something,” Tom Mirek, Lockheed Martin’s vice president of engineering and technology, told SpaceFlight Insider.
Generation Beyond includes a classroom-based curriculum that uses space exploration to inspire students to pursue STEM careers.
“The program is important to me personally because that’s how I became an engineer,” Mirek said, referring to the importance of STEM-based inspiration. “The Apollo program, watching the Moon landing, is what stimulated me and why I’m speaking as an engineer today and in my position right now.”
Mirek said his hope is that the students at Walker Middle School, as well as other students around the country, will get the same feeling and think about how fascinating and interesting being an engineer is.
Lockheed believes the first person to visit Mars is likely in school today. The bus has been touring the country since August 2016 and has stopped at various schools and public events along the way. Although the Mars Experience is targeted toward K-12 students, it is designed to provide a unique experience for people of all ages.
Next, the Mars Experience Bus will be at the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, April 8, 2017, in a special event open to the public. In addition to the bus, there will be other Lockheed-sponsored activities for children and families.
Lockheed encourages students to seek out careers in STEM fields where they can work on projects such as the Orion program, part of a joint venture between the company and NASA that aims to send humans to Mars by 2030.
In addition to Generation Beyond, the company and its employees volunteer at schools, robotics competitions, and many other events promoting STEM education. Lockheed said the United States faces a shortage in engineers and other STEM professionals and there could be 2.4 million unfilled jobs in these areas by 2018.
Video Courtesy of Lockheed Martin