Early Monday morning, crowds of people across the world gathered to watch the “sky crane” winch down the new multi-billion dollar NASA rover onto the surface of Mars, via the organization’s live stream. Though undoubtedly far past their bedtimes, many scores of kids were watching too, whether at “space parties” with their parents or online.
It doesn’t have the draw of the manned adventures of the past, but the Curiosity mission could advance our understanding of the universe in ways we can’t imagine now, especially if definitive signs of water or life are found. It’s certainly a good ‘launching point’ for getting your kids interested in space and science, one that earns kids’ notoriously fleeting attention spans.
Even if they didn’t watch the landing, NASA has released some interesting games and apps directed at younger audiences of late. There is a free downloadable Xbox 360 game that simulates the rover’s descent, controlled via the Kinect control system. Another lets iPhone/iPad users explore the rover via interesting augmented reality technology that makes it appear as if it is right beside you. Finally, a free online game lets players mock up and send satellites, learning a lot about the complicated nature of these endeavours along the way.
NASA may not get all the media attention this summer, but Curiosity is something kids might be hearing about in the classroom when they get back to school. These programs are a fun way to get them thinking about the fall without even knowing it…
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[Huntsville Times, Wired, YNN, GamerLive, NASA]