From left, engineering teacher John Melvin stands alongside Jonathan Luna, Wesley Tavares, Adrienne Davis and Shawn Notto at Shoemaker High School. The four high school juniors were named NASA Scholars and are scheduled to attend a camp this summer at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Four Shoemaker High School students are taking an especially long view of their education experience.

They are completing an online course through NASA in advance of spending a week this summer at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, where they will get a peak at the beginning of a mission to Mars.

From Shoemaker engineering teacher John Melvin’s standpoint, the students are starting a design process heading toward a launch in about 18 years aimed at a surface at least 34 million miles away.

As High School Aerospace Scholars this summer, the Shoemaker juniors will challenge their math, science, engineering and computer science skills while interacting with NASA engineers.

The students from Killeen completed a competitive selection process and received state legislator endorsement. The students — Jonathan Luna, Adrienne Davis, Wesley Tavares and Shawn Notto — are part of the school’s STEM Academy, which focuses on science, technology, engineering and math.

Luna said he was enjoying getting started on the first module of the online NASA preparation course.

While still at the beginning of their experience, the students said it was clearly a great opportunity.

“I want to be an aerospace engineer, so I want to know everything about the atmosphere,” Davis said.

Melvin helped one student attend the NASA event last summer and hopes after these four go that he can urge more students to apply and attend in the future.

The space program is promoting plans to send a manned mission to Mars in about 18 years, meaning today’s high school students will be in their mid-30s, Melvin said.

“They get to be in on the initial design,” the engineering teacher said. “I think this sets them up for success because they will have been thinking about the challenges for a long time.”

“It’s exciting (NASA) is getting ahead, looking at high school juniors,” Melvin said, “that they could be thinking about colonizing a planet.”

Other students interested in space who are current sixth- through ninth-graders may apply for a Space Camp scholarship through the Military Child Education Coalition.

For more information and an application, go to

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