Three U.S. schools were recently chosen to watch a special viewing of the launch of NASA's latest Mars mission to study the atmosphere of the Red Planet. As Arizona Public Radio's Justin Regan reports, 2 of those schools were in northern Arizona.
Last week, students from Puente de Hozho Elementary School in Flagstaff gathered in the school gym to watch the launch of the MAVEN spacecraft. The unmanned craft will orbit Mars collecting research on its atmosphere.
For this 5th grader, Tanya, it was one of the most exciting days she's ever had at school. "I usually wake up in the morning like, ah! I don't want to go to school today. But, today was, like, a Monday that I wanted to get up more."
NASA officials say the MAVEN will collect data to see how the planet's atmosphere and climate have changed over the years. Puente de Hozho is a trilingual school focusing on English, Spanish and Dine - a native Navajo language. It was chosen for the project through a NASA grant awarded to the Indigenous Education Institute.
Fifth grade teacher Luis Mellow says some native communities have a very spiritual connection to space. "What I think is they're trying to create the link between their beliefs and what these new discoveries are," Mellow said. "And then try to put them together to make a new way of thinking about space, and what's going on in real life today."
The other Arizona school chosen for the viewing was the STAR school, near the Navajo Nation. It's the country's first completely solar powered school. NASA officials say the MAVEN will likely arrive at the Red Planet in September, 2014.