DURHAM, N.C. — As each day passes, the world gets a better look at Mars as the NASA's rover continues to send pictures 105 million miles back to Earth, but one Triangle teacher and his students are getting an even better view.
For Howard Lineberger and two of his Durham Academy students, the images are not just pictures, but an experience. They make up one of only 13 school teams nationwide chosen to work alongside the actual rover scientists.
"Knowing that I'm part of this program that's bringing these pictures back, bringing back information about Mars," student Adam Steege said.
"It's an incredible opportunity to be able to be involved with this mission and work with some of the best planetary scientists in the country, some of the best in the world," student Craig Daniel said.
Lineberger, a geologist, gets to apply what he knows about Earth's rocks and minerals to the Martian landscape. For example, the mineral, Olivine, is found in North Carolina and on Mars.
"I started looking for rocks that they might be interested in. Certain colors can clue you in," Lineberger said. "If they're lighter in color, they might indicate that the crater was once full of water, which they're hoping."
It is more than rocks that are causing a ruckus. Lineberger and his students get to see Mars the second-best way they know how.
"The pictures are extraordinary. I can't imagine what it would be like to see this completely alien landscape in person," Daniel said.
The best is still to come for the Durham Academy team. Soon, the three will spend a week at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., helping scientists collect data and interpret images from Mars.