Whitewater student participates in mock mission to Mars

Emma Fero, a senior at Whitewater High School, recently returned from a week at NASA where she planned a simulated manned mission to Mars.

By Dave Fidlin


Emma Fero dreams of one day becoming an astronomer, and an opportunity earlier this summer only heightened that desire.

Fero, who this fall will be a senior at Whitewater High School, was one of 84 female students across the country invited to attend a simulated mission to Mars through a program initiated by NASA.

The students, coming from 29 states, were invited to visit the Johnson Space Center in Houston as part of a project known as Women in STEM High School Aerospace Scholars. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.

“It all seemed so unreal,” said Fero, who aspires to eventually enter into a career working for NASA. “It was a great experience, and definitely unlike anything I’d ever done before.”

Fero and her teammates took part in a number of activities during the six-day summer camp. The participants worked with mentors on staff at NASA and helped develop a plan to launch a missi

on to Mars.

The students also worked through living and working conditions on such a mission and developed the steps necessary to take such an excursion.

Johnson Space Center staff drew up a fictitious budget that participants had to work within to create such a mission. Fero and other students also had an opportunity to ride in a mock vehicle to get a feel for what it would take to launch a spacecraft from Earth and land on Mars.

“The trip was such a wonderful experience,” Fero said. “(It) was awesome to meet and interact with different people from all across the U.S.”

While her newfound skills were a valued part of the trip, Fero said the friendships she forged amid the experience were equally positive.

“It was eye-opening to see other people who want to study and work in the same field that I would like to in my near future,” she said.

NASA and the nationwide STEM program created the simulated activity for aspiring young women as an opportunity to hone their engineering and science skills in a practical, hands-on setting.

Admission into the program, however, does not come easily. Fero said she took part in a rigorous application process, spanning five months, which included taking part on regular, interactive lessons online.

Participants also were selected based on other criteria, including overall academic standing.

“It was definitely a lot of work, but I’m so glad I did it,” Fero said of the preliminary steps she took to take part in the program. “It would be a big dream of mine to one day do something with NASA, so this was pretty amazing.”

Officials behind the STEM program created the partnership with NASA and the Johnson Space Center in an effort to encourage young women to pursue degrees in the otherwise male-dominated fields of science, technology, engineering and math.



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