Minnesota teacher with NASA research ties celebrates Mars rover landing

Kimberly Lykens, a Coon Rapids biology teacher, interned at NASA while work was underway on the new Perseverance Mars rover.

The landing of NASA’s Perseverance Rover on Mars was a moment Coon Rapids High School biology teacher Kimberly Lykens wouldn’t miss.

"All day I was talking to my students about how great of an experience this is going to be to witness," said Lykens.

Calling it a once-in-a-decade opportunity, Lykens invited students Thursday to meet virtually to watch history unfold.

"Being able to cheer together for a success that we’ve had as a world, as a human species, it almost brought tears to my eyes," said Lykens.

Her emotion was sparked by a personal connection to the space mission happening millions of miles away. As a college student, she spent two summers interning at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

"When I was working at JPL, we were looking for more bio-signatures, so they are molecules that are signs of life," said Lykens.

That’s exactly what this robotic explorer is set out to do.

"Yeah, it does feel really good," she said. "I’d like to say that it’s a very small portion, I only worked there for two summers, but yeah I feel like I played a very small part in it, and I’m very humbled by that."

Lykens has been a teacher for seven years, encouraging students to reach for the stars.

"Obviously we have down days, even I do as a teacher, but being able to see those moments of passion and excitement, still during this time is really great. It’s honestly what I live by," she said.