Edison student is one of five Mars Writing Contest winners

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Photo Courtesy of Cynthia Cumming
From left are K-12 science supervisor Stephanie Suriano, Edison Middle School science teacher Martha Van Loon, Anay Badlani and EMS Principal Xavier Fitzgerald.

WEST ORANGE, NJ — Anay Badlani, a sixth-grader at Edison Middle School, was named one of five winners in Scholastic Science World magazine’s Mars Writing Contest. As a prize, Anay received a signed copy of the book “Welcome to Mars,” written by astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

Science World is an educational magazine published by the Scholastic Corporation geared toward students in grades six through 12.

According to the Science World website, “For the contest, students had to imagine that they were part of the first human mission to the Red Planet. While exploring Mars, they encountered intelligent lifeforms. Students wrote an essay explaining to these aliens the similarities and differences between Mars and Earth.”

Anay’s story describes his experiences repairing a Mars Rover and an encounter with a Martian family while adjusting to the planet’s temperature and gravity.

“We are all very proud of Anay and his accomplishment,” Edison Middle School Assistant Principal Steve Melendez said in a release. “Anay is an excellent student who always strives for academic excellence and who has a bright future ahead of him. The staff of Edison Middle School congratulates him on his award.”

Below, printed in its entirety, is Anay’s award-winning essay “Chasing Curiosity”:

My spaceship came to an abrupt halt on a red desert land. I was on a mission to Mars to change the Curiosity Rover’s wheels. I had never been to Mars before. I was very excited to see how different Mars would be from Earth. I opened the spaceship door, and immediately the cold pierced through my skin. I looked at the temperature gauge. It showed -81°F outside. It was colder than a freezer on Earth!

I could not breathe! I quickly put on my spacesuit and checked the air quality meter and the pressure gauge. It showed 96 percent carbon dioxide, only 0.13 percent oxygen and just 7.5 millibars of atmospheric pressure! I stepped out to greet the Martians that had gathered around the spaceship. They looked at me like I was an alien. I wanted to let them know that I was their friend so I offered them my hand. They shook it and I realized that the Martians’ greeting was very similar to ours. I wondered how the Martians could survive in the cold and with no oxygen. I bet their body had evolved to survive in these conditions. I realized that I needed the spacesuit to survive and if I took it off I would be dead because of the cold and lack of oxygen. The pressurized spacesuit also helped to keep my body fluids in a liquid state, otherwise it may boil over and evaporate due to the low pressure and I would die. The heavy air pressure would probably crush the Martians on earth.

We walked to their home to eat. Walking on Mars was like jumping on a trampoline in slow motion. I figured that it may be due to lower gravity. I was curious to weigh myself on Mars. I saw a weighing scale and jumped on it. I weighed only 40 pounds with the spacesuit. My earth weight is 100 pounds with the spacesuit.

I asked them if they had seen the Curiosity Rover, which looked like a toy car. They guided me to the location where they had last sighted it. As we walked through the land, I saw the gigantic volcanoes and canyons. I told the Martians that earth had similar landforms but not as big. I did not see any water around. I asked the Martians and they told me that the water had dried up. I told them that two-thirds of Earth’s surface is covered with water.

We had to climb over a hill on Mt. Sharp and saw the Curiosity Rover. I was surprised to see what it had collected. It had collected Silica, which confirmed the presence of water in the past. I took the wheels off and placed the new ones on. I thanked the Martians for their help and bid them goodbye and boarded my spaceship to come back home to earth. My first mission to Mars was exciting, educational and a big success!