Inspiring the Next Generation of Explorers

Nat Geo Wall of Covers

For hundreds of years, people have dreamed of reaching worlds unknown. And now, brilliant scientists are innovating, and artists are envisioning, a way for humans to explore planets across the universe. Through their work, our journey to Mars is more than just a dream, it’s quickly becoming a reality.

On Monday, November 5 we were able to celebrate this progress at National Geographic, as they played host to the National Geographic Channel’s Mars Season 2 premiere where winners of the Project Mars Competition were recognized. Along with National Geographic’s gracious accommodation, the event was sponsored by AIA and Aerojet Rocketdyne.

The Project Mars Competition, led by the SciArt Exchange and NASA, pushed artists across the world to share their vision for the future of humankind through short films or posters, to inspire the next generation of scientists and NASA commanders.

At a reception lined with winning posters (and a mashed potato bar), those passionate about the Red Planet, including NASA scientists, engineers and students were able to step into the shoes of students from across the world to experience the Martian journey through their eyes. First place poster winner Adrianna Allen attended the event and spoke about her passion for astronomical art.

Mars Premiere Speakers

Following the reception, the audience was greeted by three speakers looking to inspire the next generation. Gary Knell, Chairman of National Geographic Partners, challenged the audience – and our world – to look up. To look up at the stars and space and feel wonderstruck at the beauty and potential for us all.

AIA President & CEO Eric Fanning

Our President and CEO Eric Fanning spoke on our responsibility to encourage students of every age to explore careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Through programs like the Project Mars Competition and the Team America Rocketry Challenge, we’re able to motivate more students to discover STEM and become the next leaders within the industry.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine shared our country’s immediate plans to go back to the Moon, and our future goal of making it to Mars. As Administrator Bridenstine expressed, we’re primed to return to the Moon because it is a stepping stone to the Red Planet. According to the administrator, there’s science to explore, technology to test, and more for our country to accomplish to fully prepare us for putting a human on the Red Planet.

With a wide-eyed audience of students and aerospace experts focused on the potential of space exploration, the theatre lights dimmed to bring the Project Mars winning films to the big screen. For film Grand Prize winners Divya, Mayukh and Subigya, and Innovation Award winner Ricardo, seeing their stunning works aired at National Geographic prior to a screening of one of the network’s most popular shows was surreal.

NASA Admin. Bridenstine Addresses the Room

After the viewing of “Rendezvous with Mars,” “92Mars” and the premiere of Mars Season 2, the lights rose on a panel of leading minds in aerospace innovation and art, moderated by the Washington Post’s Christian Davenport. Ellen Stofan, Director of the National Air and Space Museum; Gareth Edwards, Director of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Godzilla, and Monsters; Christyl Johnson, Deputy Director for Technology and Research Investments of NASA Goddard; and Stephen Petranek, author of How We’ll Live on Mars, simply mesmerized the crowd with their takes on how we will put a person on Mars.

Christian Davenport; Ellen Stofan; Gareth Edwards; Christyl Johnson; Stephen Petranek

The panel also brought some laughs, as Gareth Edwards described how the planet Scarif in Star Wars Rogue One: A Star Wars Story came to be. In a classic case of mistaken identity, a Starbucks barista misheard “Gareth” and wrote “Scarif” on the cup instead.

For the Project Mars winners and everyone in attendance, it was not only a night to remember, but a glimpse of our promising future of human space exploration.