A student astronomy team from Odisha, known as the Navonmesh Prasar Student Astronomy Team (NaPSAT), has been selected to participate in the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge that will be held next year in April 2021.

The group of 10 school students aged between 14 to 19 will be flying to Huntsville, Alabama, in the US to represent India in the international competition staged by the American space agency, as per the team’s official website. The group is working on building a “human-powered” rover that will move on the surface of Mars.

NaPSAT is an initiative of Bhubaneswar-based Navonmesh Prasar Foundation that houses space enthusiasts and aims to create curiosity among school, skill development, and university students in Space and Astronomy. The selected 10 members have been shortlisted from about 800 willing participants. The team works on various projects like systems, rovers, rockets, satellites, and astronomy to participate in various international events.

Anil Pradhan, the Navonmesh Prasar Foundation founder, spoke with news agency ANI and said that it was happening for the first time that a school team from India was selected for this challenge.

Pradhan said that they created a team during COVID-19 time and identified 10 students from Odisha. They provided them with training and later applied for NASA Rover Challenge. Anil revealed that the interdisciplinary team has school students as well as ITI students, adding that the team is making a rover that can move on the surface of Mars and would be human-powered.

He added that NASA had sent them an invitation for the 2021 event, and they will be sending their rover over to the US soon. To meet all the expenses involved, the foundation is also raising funds.

A team member Ankan Mondal elaborated upon the technicalities of the Mars rover. He said that their rover will be able to handle the weight of two persons and will be capable of moving on the terrain of Mars as well as the Moon.

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