Press Release

Planetary Society Student Astronaut Meets Colin Powell in India

By SpaceRef Editor
March 19, 2004
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Planetary Society Student Astronaut Saatvik Agarwal was invited to meet US
Secretary of State Colin Powell on the television show India Questions
Tuesday, March 17, 2004. Agarwal was the only high school student selected
to participate (along with 80 college students) in the group discussion,
and was chosen because he worked on the Mars Exploration Rover mission at
the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a Planetary Society Student Astronaut.

Agarwal and the Student Astronaut team – 16 young people from 12 different
countries – worked at JPL during January and February processing images of
the MarsDials located on rovers Spirit and Opportunity. The students
worked in teams of two, each pair at JPL for approximately one
week. Agarwal of India teamed with David Turczi of Hungary from February 6
to 15. MarsDial images are available at
and at

The Student Astronauts were selected by The Planetary Society as part of
the Red Rover Goes to Mars education activity, the first educational
experiment selected by NASA for a planetary mission. Red Rover Goes to Mars
is privately funded by The Planetary Society and the LEGO Company.

Agarwal asked Powell what role countries like India could play in the new
space initiative announced by President Bush. Powell replied that India
and the US have already been cooperating on space and nuclear technology
and will continue to do so in the future.

Many of The Planetary Society’s Student Astronauts have been honored in
their home countries for their participation in the Mars
mission. Nomathemba Kontyo of South Africa was accorded a send-off to
America by South African President Thabo Mbeki and US Ambassador Cameron
Hume. Cheng-Tao Chung of Taiwan has been invited to meet that country’s
president later this year.

Unlike ordinary sundials, the MarsDials on the rovers have no hour lines
because the rovers’ changing positions would render such markings
useless. Instead, the Student Astronauts added hour marks electronically
to the images, using software developed at Cornell in collaboration with
Woody Sullivan at the University of Washington. The MarsDial’s shadow also
indicates the date during the Martian year.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, a division of the California
Institute of Technology, manages NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover project;
Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., manages the science instruments carried
by the two rovers.

SpaceRef staff editor.