An educational news conference to explore "Why Mars Excites and Inspires Us" begins in NASA Kennedy Space Center's Press Site auditorium in Florida during prelaunch activities for the agency’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) launch. Participants are, from left, Leland Melvin, NASA associate administrator for Education; Clara Ma, student, NASA contest winner for naming Curiosity, Shawnee Mission East High School, Prairie Village, Kansas; Scott Anderson, teacher and science department chairman, Da Vinci School for Science and the Arts, El Paso, Texas; Lauren Lyons, graduate student, Harvard University, FIRST robotics alumna; and Veronica McGregor, manager, Media Relations Office, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
MSL's car-sized Martian rover, Curiosity, has 10 science instruments designed to search for signs of life, including methane, and help determine if the gas is from a biological or geological source. Ma's entry was selected the winner from 9,000 entries in NASA's nationwide student contest to name the rover. At the time, she was a twelve-year-old sixth-grade student at the Sunflower Elementary school in Lenexa, Kansas. Liftoff of MSL aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is planned during a launch window which extends from 10:02 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. EST on Nov. 26. For more information, visit http://www.nasa.gov/msl. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett