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Space Day's Second Annual Student Survey Reveals Kids' Insights about Mars Exploration

Press Release From: Space Day
Posted: Thursday, May 2, 2002

As the Mars Odyssey transmits vivid new images from the Red Planet and exciting clues about the potential for life, students across the United States believe the most important value of Mars exploration is to determine if life exists beyond our planet. The results of the second annual Space Day Student Survey, conducted in cooperation with USA TODAY Education, offered interesting insights from youngsters about space.

The Space Day survey, announced today at the Opening Ceremony at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, probed the perceptions and priorities of our future generation of space pioneers about Mars exploration. More than 2,600 students nationwide participated in the online survey. Nearly 70% of the respondents were between the ages of 9 and 12, with approximately equal representation of girls (51%) and boys (49%).

"The results of the survey demonstrate that students continue to have an interest in space exploration, science and the benefits that can be derived from exploring worlds beyond our own," said Dr. Joyce Winterton, associate director of Education Programs, USA TODAY Education.

In addition to learning about life beyond Earth (which 35% of the respondents feel is most important), the students ranked other reasons for Mars exploration including: to seek the potential for humans inhabitance (24%); increase human knowledge (18%); use as a base for further forays into the Solar System (15%); and lastly, to learn more about Earth (9%).

A vast majority of students believe human exploration of the Red Planet is within the realm of their lifetime, with approximately 70% of the respondents suggesting that humans will land on Mars in the next 10-20 years. Nearly a quarter of the students intend to travel there themselves.

"It's exciting and encouraging that the spirit of exploration is alive and that students see it occurring in their lifetime. Indeed, these may well be the children that make it a reality," said Orlando Figueroa, director of NASA's Mars Exploration Program.

Some other interesting student opinions were:

  • An overwhelming number of respondents want to go to Mars as scientists (42%) versus 22% who would prefer to travel as tourists, 16% as pilots, 11% as journalists and 10% as architects;
  • The tool of choice to take along is a fairly equal split among a camera (33%), a computer (31%) and a food processor (29%).
  • Thirty percent wish to study Mars rocks to locate fossils, while 29% of respondents want to use rock study to determine what humans may be able to use once they land there.
  • Music and family continue to be important, with 32% of students wanting to take CD players to Mars and 28%, their family photos.
  • Rock climbing far outweighs any other activity considered to be most fun on Mars (51%) and the favored mode of transportation is the jet backpack (52%).
  • The next destination, according to 37% of the respondents, is the planet Pluto.
  • To view the survey in its entirety, visit education.usatoday.com. For additional information about Space Day, the award-winning educational initiative dedicated to advancing science, math and technology education by inspiring young people about space, visit www.spaceday.com.

    USA TODAY Education is one of 75 Space Day Partners. Its goal is to offer young people a better understanding of the people, places and events that impact their lives. It works with teachers, students and parents to provide relevant and timely resources for learning.

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