SARAJEVO (Reuters) – Schoolchildren in the Bosnian village of Jezero waited with great excitement for an attempt by NASA on Thursday to land on an ancient lake bed on Mars which is named after their tiny hometown.
NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance, the most advanced astrobiology lab ever flown to another world, is due to make a landing attempt on the ancient lake bed after a seven-month journey from Earth. Scientists hope to find signs of fossilized microbial life.
Before students are due to watch the historic landing live on video beam in their school courtyard, they are planning to hold a friendly volleyball match between sides called “Planet Earth” and “Planet Mars”.
“This time we’ll cheer for the Planet Mars,” joked Snezana Ruzicic, the mayor of the Jezero municipality in western Bosnia.
Jezero, which means lake in most Slavic languages, had been chosen as a name by NASA because it shares similar geological characteristics to the vast, rocky crater at the edge of a remnant river delta, which was carved into the red planet billions of years ago.
When the town, home to just over 1,000 people, learned about this in 2018, everyone found it “very, very positive and also odd news”, said Ruzicic, who had then checked the information through the U.S. Embassy in Bosnia and established links with NASA.
Seven months ago, Jezero’s schoolchildren watched the launch of the Mars rover from Earth.
“They were thrilled and joyful and drew their visions of the Mars in the streets,” Ruzicic told Reuters in a telephone interview.
She hopes that excitement about the Mars exploration will put her tiny town on the map.
“Through the Mars rover’s both launching and landing we’ve got a free promotion of our town,” Ruzicic said. “Now we need investment for Jezero to stay on and survive.”
(Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)