New Kent Charles City Chronicle

News for New Kent County and Charles City County, Virginia | October 21, 2021

Charles City student plans mission to Mars at academy

By Community Member | October 7, 2010 11:11 am

Allen Black spent a week of his summer planning a mission to Mars.

Black, a Charles City County resident and student from Appomattox Regional Governor’s School, was one of 48 rising high school seniors from across the state selected to take part in the Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars (VASTS) academy.

The academy was held June 26-July 2 at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, and was hosted by NASA Langley in a partnership with the Virginia Space Grant Consortium.

Prior to the academy, students completed a six-month interactive distance-learning program on aerospace exploration that prepared them for their intensive week at NASA Langley.

“The web-based curriculum gave me more exposure to aerospace, science and technology before going to the academy,” Black said. “It also prepared me for the intensive writing and math done at the academy.”

During the academy, he built, programmed, and tested robots, toured NASA labs and facilities, talked with NASA researchers, scientists and astronaut Dr. Roger Crouch, as well as gained solid workforce experience and college credit.

Black worked on the academy’s “Living There” team, which had the primary objective of keeping the astronauts alive from the beginning to the end of the Mars mission.

The team’s main focus was planning for what the astronauts would need once they landed on Mars, such as a way to communicate with others back on Earth.

Other responsibilities included budgeting and adjusting plans accordingly as well as managing resources. Living There was one of four teams that worked together to plan a mission to Mars.

Black enjoys working in groups because “you get other opinions on things and you can bounce ideas off of each other.

“I am so happy I was able to get through the online course,” he said. “It was fun, and I am so glad to be here.”

Though there was some tension among the different groups, Black said that his group got along and worked very well together.

He is interested in mathematics and science and hopes to possibly pursue a career in simulation supervision.

For more information about VASTS or for an application, visit

For more information about NASA research and exploration, visit