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20 FEBRUARY 2013

Mission Heights Primary School lives up to name

Auckland's Mission Heights Primary School has been on a "mission high" recently, communicating with a crew on a mock Mars exploration mission in the Utah desert.

David  Wilcock's Year four class were able to interact live with the TasMars mission (via Skype), as the team wore spacesuits and explored the Mars-like environment around the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah.

"The students were able to communicate with the team, learn more about their work programme, and about the Red Planet itself," said Mr Wilcock. The classroom link-up was facilitated by KiwiSpace's Education Coordinator Haritina Mogosanu.

Following on from last year's KiwiMars mission, the TasMars 2013 Team has just completed a two-week analogue mission to study planetary science, engineering, biosecurity and human factors at the mock Mars base.

Two members of the crew were from NASA AMES (David Willson and Jen Blank). Blank is also a member of the rover team that landed the Curiosity Rover on Mars in August 2012 and she is a geologist for Curiosity’s CHEMCAM. Willson is an Australian engineer working on Mars exploration technologies. The other two members are Melanie Newfield, Biosecurity manager at  New Zealand's Ministry for Primary Industries, and Emma Braegen, an aeronautical engineer from Australia working for BAE Systems.

"This was an exciting opportunity for students to talk to real scientists doing real exploratory work at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah," said Haritina Mogosanu who was also a Mission Commander at MDRS in 2012.

"Students don't need a passion for Mars, just a passion for knowledge and the idea that anything is possible if you have the courage to try it”, Mogosanu added.

She said that Mr. Wilcock’s class were the consummate junior scientists and came with questions ranging from “What's Mars' atmosphere like?", "How does gravity work on Mars?" and "What is the soil like?”


For more information:

About the TasMars Mission

KiwiSpace ran a two week mission at MDRS from 27 January to 10 February NZST, with a crew of four scientists from NASA, Biosecurity NZ and Mars Society Australia.



KiwiSpace Foundation is a non-profit organisation seeking to inspire the next generation of space scientists. The Foundation aims to showcase the benefits and opportunities that space applications provide NZ; highlight the many opportunities for New Zealanders to work in the global space community; and enhance national space capabilities and education programmes.

To learn more about KiwiSpace, visit 

Haritina Mogosanu
+64 21 269 2908


Mark Mackay
+64 21 622 379
PO Box 301780, Albany, Auckland 0752, New Zealand.



Attached Images

PreviewFile NameSize        

A replica model of the Curiosity Rover at MDRS.jpg
The outreach team of NASA Curiosity rover provided a small replica of the rover to the TasMars2013 crew to use for the outreach sessions with the NZ schools.

571 kB

Mission Heights students, MDRS and Mission Control Wellington.png
The students talking with the TasMars2013 crew at MDRS about the Curiosity rover real size wheel replica via a link provided by the Mission Control Wellington.

87 kB

TasMars2013 Crew in SIM.JPG
During an extravehicular activity undertaken as a full simulation at MDRS, Melanie Newfield, Cdr David Willson, Jen Blank and Emma Braegen.

265 kB

TasMars2013 expedition's crew.JPG
From left to right: Emma Braegen, Melanie Newfield, David Willson and Jen Blank

1.78 MB

TasMars2013 Logo.png
TasMars Logo is featuring a Maori Manaia, symbol of protection - as the expedition has as scientific theme Planetary Protection,as well as the Australian boomerang.

2.84 MB


KiwiSpace Brand Material


KiwiSpace Logo (vertical orientation)

KiwiSpace Logo (horizontal orientation)

Featured Images

The students of Mission Heights School in Auckland, talking with crew Journalist and Mission Specialist Melanie Newfield at MDRS via Mission Control Wellington (Haritina Mogosanu)

The TasMars2013 crew brought along a small replica of the Curiosity rover currently on Mars.


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