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Scientist discusses her role in exploring red planet

November 30th, 2013 10:46 pm by Nick Shepherd

Scientist discusses her role in exploring red planet

Ever wonder what it would be like to roam the surface of Mars? 

Scientists from around the world wondered the same thing, and began a program to do just that. One of the scientists who works on the program was in the area speaking about it this week.

 Melissa Rice, a postdoctoral scholar at the California Institute of Technology, spoke about the Mars rover program to students, educators and the public at Northeast State Community College.

“This is a really rare time in history that we live in right now,” she said. “We have not one, but two robotic cars on Mars driving around.” 

Rice grew up in Seattle, but her extended family lives in Kingsport. She comes back every year for Thanksgiving.

When Rice came to Kingsport for Thanksgiving last year, her grandmother, who volunteers at the Gray Fossil Museum, set up a lunch talk by her at the museum. It was so successful that plans were put into place to host another talk.

So Rice’s grandparents, Hazel Rice and Barbara and Parker Trent, went searching for another venue that might have interest in hearing someone speak about Mars. They made contact with the Bays Mountain Astronomy group, which led to Rice speaking at Northeast State.

Rice didn’t always know she wanted to be a scientist. She said her first career choice as a child was a ballerina.

“I was not a space geek. I never watched ‘Star Trek.’ I never had a telescope or a chemistry set as a kid,” she said. “I never guessed I would have become a scientist. … It wasn’t until college that this stuff reached out and grabbed me.” 

For an expanded version of this article, please see Sunday's print edition or our expanded electronic edition.

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