18 July 2012
I had a very nice surprise when I came in to work today: a large box from Dunoon Grammar School in Scotland!
A while back, Hugh O’Donnell, an English teacher at Dunoon contacted me, inquiring if I might be willing to answer some student questions about MSL. He is organizing an awesome interdisciplinary project in which students produce a piece of Mars-themed writing. They will also have Mars-themed lessons in classes ranging from Science and History to Religious and Moral Education and English. Even better, early next year, students will be working to develop a realistic Mars colony, a project very reminiscent of the one that I did in high school that inspired me to become a planetary scientist. I have always loved how planetary science can tie together many disparate subjects and I think this is a great example of using Mars as a unifying theme in education.
Oh, I suppose you’re wondering what was inside the iridescent box with MSL wheels? Well, somehow Mr. O’Donnell and his students knew that I like the many strange and wonderful types of candy that they have in the UK because the box contained an assortment of snacks, along with a bottle of Scotland’s famous Irn-Bru. When I visited Scotland back in 2005, I was informed that it is the only place in the world where Coca Cola is not the #1 soft drink. I had to try some of the famous Irn-Bru of course and it was quite good, so I’m excited to have some more to enjoy!
Also inside the box was a very nice copy of the science fiction anthology “Life on Mars”. There are a lot of big names in the author list, and I can’t wait to read it! Even better, the pages inside the front cover are signed by Mr. O’Donnell’s class, wishing good luck for the upcoming MSL landing:
As if that was not enough, the box itself opened up to become a diorama of Mars! It’s a work of art, with little paper Mars rocks, and the moons Phobos and Deimos flying overhead in a starry sky. Unfortunately, I think the contents of the package shifted and crushed what was once a little folded paper rover, but I have attempted to put it back together. There was also a mylar balloon bearing St. Andrew’s Cross (the Scottish flag), but at first I thought it was a parachute for the little paper rover to use in its descent.
I’m posting about this great package here on the blog to publicly say “Thank You!” to Mr. O’Donnell and his students at Dunoon for the thoughtful gifts. I will be bringing the snacks to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in a couple of weeks to share with the ChemCam team during mission operations. It means a lot to those of us on the team to know that people around the world are going to be watching along and wishing us luck as MSL approaches Mars. Here’s hoping for a successful landing so that everyone can follow along for years to come!