Knights on Mars

RMCA Student Astronaut Michael Ceballes radios Earth as shipmates applaud their landing.


Monday, March 20, 2017, is a day forever alive in history. Rocky Mountain Classical Academy eighth-grade Student Astronaut Michael Ceballes landed his crew on the planet Mars, radioing, “Houston, Olympus Mons base. The Knight has landed.”

Thirty eighth-grade students performed a three-hour Mars landing and Earth return space mission at the Challenger Learning Center of Colorado Springs. School Director of Strategy, Innovation, and Development Dr. Steven Pomeroy and Middle School Math Teacher Mr. Bryan Yukawa arranged the experience.

Said Mr. Yukawa, “We spent four hours in classroom lessons to prepare students to maximize their simulator time. This was a capstone-like project that permitted us to integrate astronomy, mathematics, history, and human-to-human skills.” Dr. Pomeroy, a space launch veteran, elaborated, “We utilized those disciplines to introduce orbital mechanics, the challenges of spaceflight, and the need to apply context and theory under stress.”

Each mission differs, explained Commander Joe Magie of the Challenger Center. “Our multi-million dollar simulator responds to student inputs. It then develops status to challenge the crews, based on their decisions. This particular mission became an Apollo 13 scenario.”

In charge of the mission’s science objectives were Student Astronauts Chandler Mason and Alahna Wynter. A simulated fire in their clean room forced an emergency landing. As Martian dust storms engulfed communications, the crew dealt with leaking hydrogen tanks, an oxygen system failure, and an emergency liftoff. Said Student Medical Officer Lacy Garbe, “It was scary fun. I did not want to fail. It was realistic and taught us a lot about teamwork, discipline, and status monitoring. I hope to do another one.”


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