Jennifer Heldmann is a planetary scientist. Her team at NASA is looking for water on the moon and Mars. The research will help determine if astronauts can live in these places. Heldmann spoke with TFK Kid Reporter Mira McInnes.
When I was in school, we learned that there was no water on the moon, and that there was no ice. Then we started sending missions there. And the data told us that “Hey, maybe there is water on the moon!” That’s really exciting for a scientist.
If we learn how to use the moon’s water, we can have a base there. Astronauts won’t need to take water with them. They can use the moon’s water. And if you break apart the hydrogen and oxygen in water, you can make rocket fuel.
There are places on Mars where liquid water has been flowing. It’s only a little, but it means that somewhere, somehow, there’s liquid water on Mars. Is anything living in the water? Are there microbes? Could there be life on a planet besides Earth?
We learn how ice and water work in cold environments—when water freezes, when it flows, how to drill into ice. Then we apply that knowledge to other planets.
When I was 10, I saw the movie SpaceCamp. It’s about a group of kids who get launched into space. I loved the movie. When I was in high school, I went to train at Space Camp, in Alabama. It was the most awesome experience ever.
Read as many books as you can. Visit a science museum or planetarium. Email scientists and ask, “What got you interested?” Kids are the future of space exploration. They are going to be the scientists, engineers, astronauts, and artists who’ll make these missions happen.
The biggest question is, “Are we alone?” We don’t yet know if there’s life on other planets in our solar system, or in other solar systems.
Not any time soon. My work is on the ground, making sure astronauts have a safe and productive flight.