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Teenager to Pick Next Landing Site for NASA Mars Rover

Sep 05, 2016 03:40 AM EDT

NASA's next rover mission to planet Mars might be slated for 2020, but that hasn't stopped the space agency from choosing an appropriate landing site. Surprisingly, rather than getting suggestions from one of their many scientists, NASA is getting suggestions from a teenager.

Meet Alex Longo, a fan of NASA's space explorations. The teenager has been following NASA's missions for as long as he can remember. In fact, he started at the young age of 5. Since then, Longo has been in close contact with NASA.

"Each time, they sent me cool space shuttle mission posters or patches," Longo shared. "I'll have my very small say in this, and maybe they'll send me some cool stuff."

In 2014, Longo came across an announcement about NASA's rover mission to the red planet. The agency was looking for abstracts about landing sites from scientists. Inspired more than ever, Longo came up with his proposal and sent it to NASA, and rather than getting the usual posters and patches, Longo was invited to the first landing site meeting.

"At first, I didn't believe it. I thought it was a dream or something. So I just got up, walked away, and a while later I came back and that email was still there. And I was like, 'Wow, I actually just got invited to go to a NASA conference!' How cool is that?" exclaimed Longo.

The meeting was held at a hotel in close proximity to NASA's Washington headquarters. Longo along with his parents went to the conference, where he was the last person to speak up at the session. With more than 125 PhD and grad students in attendance, Longo was "a bit scared" -- but this, of course, didn't stop him from impressing everyone in attendance.

"When he finished, the entire room burst into applause. Everybody recognized how special this was for this young person," shared Longo's mother.

Fast forward to two years, Longo has now teamed up with Mars scientists with one of his proposals in the eight included in the semi-finals. Apart from the rover mission to Mars, Longo had also been invited to the landing site meeting for the first human mission to Mars.

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