Ad Astra is a unique project that brings the excitement of exploration to students in poor regions of the world. We exploit curiosity, an essential human trait, to promote inquiry-based learning and unlock their potential. 20 kids from Rio de Janeiro’s City of God favela will be selected and, through a hands-on curriculum, develop reasoning skills and learn about Astronomy. Ultimately, through an arrangement established for AAA, students join the frontiers of exploration, selecting targets on Mars for imaging by NASA’s HiRISE mission. Exposing the surface in high resolution, students contribute to cutting-edge science and gain a demonstration of their potential. An after-school program will be offered, and students will be paired with local professionals for internships. With empirical skills and empowerment, graduates will embark on a lifelong journey that will boost their economic prospects and promote social mobility through education.

The implementation consists of an international and a local team. In the international crew we have mostly Americans, except for Lyra, who is Brazilian. The local team is composed of astronomers and educators in Rio de Janeiro, from several institutions. The program is done at the Instituto Presbiteriano Álvaro Reis (INPAR), a 100 years-old institution, originally an orphanage, that today coordinates extra-curricular activities for the youth of the City of God.

The pilot program was done in partnership with the Museum of Astronomy; last year with OAD funding we expanded our contacts to the City Planetarium, the Museum of Life, and we started a promising partnership with the Museum of the Republic, one of the major museums in Brazil. These partnerships will increase our reach and our prospects for sustainability.

Funds from OAD were used to support an internship for a student from the 2018 edition at the Museum of Life, and to pay 30% of the college tuition of a student from the 2015 edition, majoring in biomedicine.