The first program consists of several components at Cedar Wood Elementary, a K-5 school, in the Everett School district. Teacher Fran O'Rourke developed a "Let's Do Launch" program which is a simulation of the launch process performed by NASA with the space shuttle project. Students participate in a launch from start to finish and, over a six month period, develop an invigorating interest in language, math, science, and technology while they experience first hand the thrill, the challenge, and the unique adventure of simulated space travel. The students developed computer presentations, and interacted with the community and media. The Press Corps' assignment was to study CNN so they could emulate the professionals. In stead of emulation, the student "Press Corps" invited the local press and network television to the launch along with CNN: the local network station then turned the microphone over to the students to conduct the interviews.
In 1994 Ms. O'Rourke and colleagues Brigitte McAllister and Jill Beck, in collaboration with other Cedar Wood staff, parents and community members built on the success of "Let's Do Launch" to create a mission focused on the exploration of Mars. In Mission to Mars, students researched Mars, learned about past, present and future programs and developed proposals for the final event at the end of their project. They transformed one portable classroom into the planet Mars, and another into a Mars colony over the five month period.