NASA has shortlisted a suggestion by a high school student in the US, along with seven others, for choosing the landing site next Mars rover mission, scheduled to launch in 2020. Alex Longo proposed to land in the same site where NASA’s rover Spirit had landed in 2004 – a site called Gusev Crater.
Spirit found some intriguing potential signs that there might have once been life on Mars, and Gusev was worth a second look, according to Longo. The teenager, who is yet to finish high school, came across an announcement by NASA in 2014 seeking abstracts from scientists to suggest landing sites for the rover mission to Mars, and sent his ideas.
NASA replied with an email inviting him to attend the first landing site planning conference. Longo was scheduled to speak in the last session of the meeting.
“Honestly, I was a bit scared. Because there are 125 PhDs and graduation students in that room, and I probably am by far the least experienced or knowledgeable person there,” Longo was quoted as saying by npr.org.
Longo has now teamed up with some more experienced Mars scientists who also favour going back to Gusev Crater. Their proposal is one of the eight semi-finalists shortlisted by NASA. In a meeting next year, four finalist teams will be announced.