NASA is already planning where could they land their next rover mission to Mars, and young Alex Longo may have a say on it. The teenager is a NASA fan, and after the agency asked scientists their opinion on where to land the rover in 2014, Longo decided his suggestion was worth sharing, and for his surprise, NASA thought the same.
One of the leading ideas on the matter, the 2020 mission landing site on Mars, is Alex Longo proposal to land the rover at Gusev Crater. The crater received NASA’s rover Spirit back in 2004, and it found evidence that suggested there might have once been life on the red planet.
Longo is from Raleigh, North Carolina, and was 14 years old when the agency asked him to be a part of the first meeting to discuss the 2020 rover’s landing site. NPR reports the boy could not believe it at first.
After sending a detailed paper with his proposal, NASA sent Longo an email with the invitation and the teenager said he just got up and left the room. He thought it was a dream, but after a while, he came back and the email was still on his computer screen.
The meeting was held in a hotel near NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. and Longo got to the meeting with his parents, who drove him there. He was the last speaker of the conference and got a round of applause for his idea. Longo’s proposal is to give Gusev Crater a second chance due to what rover Spirit found at the place.
Longo confessed he was scared at the time of the meeting. There were 125 Ph.D.s and grad students in the room. He knew he was by far the least experienced or knowledgeable person there. And he had to give them a presentation.
Other scientists currently support Alex proposal, and his idea is one of the eight semi-finalists. Next year the recommendations will be reduced to four.
Alex Longo before being part of NASA’s meetings regarding Mars mission 2020
Space enthusiastic Alex Longo said he had been a fan of space exploration as long he can remember and confessed his first experience with the field was in 2005. Longo was just five years old, and he said his mom and dad had him watch a space shuttle launch.
The launch inspired Longo, and he later decided he was going to go into space himself, and he would be the first person to walk on Mars.
Alex started following NASA missions through the agency’s website and in 2014, he saw the announcement that would bring him to be part of 2020 mission to Mars. NASA was requesting abstracts from scientists to suggest landing sites and Longo, who had written to the agency in the past, started developing his proposal.
NPR says Alex stated each time he had written to NASA; he had received “cool” space shuttle mission posters or patches. He thought writing to the agency was a way to have a tiny say on the subject. He also thought he might get some “cool stuff.”
The boy was going to send his idea when he decided he would show it to his mother first. Laura Longo said she sat down a took a look at his son’s work. She thought his son was going to get more swag if he sent the document, NPR reports.
Longo’s mother stated that at the meeting she had to focus on her breathing to not fall out of the chair. But at the end, everyone burst into applause, and Laura Longo felt everybody recognized how special his son was.
The North Carolina teenager has also been invited to a NASA-sponsored conference that will choose a landing site but this time for a human mission to Mars. Longo thinks that if he is planning to be the first person in Mars, he should have a say on this landing site as well.