Mars Rover Member and Parker Alum Speaks With Students

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Parker School alumnus and member of NASA’s Perseverance Rover team on Mars gave a virtual presentation to students at his alma mater about the recent successful landing on the red planet.

On March 26, Parker School’s middle and upper students watched Jesse Tarnas in a 40-minute virtual presentation titled “The Search for Alien Life and a Home on Mars.” He discussed the Mars 2020 mission including details of the rover landing, the ongoing exploration of the red planet, and how this mission will change the future of science and humanity forever.

Tarnas, a 2012 Parker graduate, earned his Ph.D. in planetary science from Brown University and now works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a member of the science team for the Perseverance Mars rover mission. As a member of the NASA rover science team, Tarnas explained to students his role in collecting and interpreting the new surface data from the rover to help determine the best traverse it can take to learn the most it can about Mars and potentially find evidence of fossilized life.

Tarnas also described how his time at Parker influenced his journey to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and offered students the following advice, “work hard, don’t listen to people who doubt you, seek out mentors, find what inspires you and pursue that full throttle.”


“You are in a really exciting position based on when you were born to really contribute to this attempt by humans to become interplanetary,” Tarnas told students. “I look forward to working with all of you as we expand into and inhabit the solar system to create an exciting future for all of humanity.”

The presentation is part of Parker’s new ongoing Big Island Science series aimed to make science exciting and accessible by exploring the natural world on Hawai’i Island. Weekly presentations are led by leading local experts through the lens of western science, culture, and Hawaiian wisdom. Recent topics include the Kilauea eruption, sharks, Hawaiian voyaging, and coral bleaching.


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