Satisfy your “Curiosity” about Mars

In preparation for the Aug. 6 landing of the Mars Science Laboratory’s Curiosity rover at Mars’ Gale crater, future astronauts, scientists and armchair space travelers are invited to the National Air and Space Museum July 13 for “Mars Day!” to learn all they need to know about the “Red Planet” so they can out-geek their friends and impress their coworkers.

Mars Day! will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the museum’s National Mall building and feature presentations and fun family activities throughout the museum. Presented by the museum’s Center for Earth and Planetary Studies, this annual event enables visitors to interact with staff scientists and experts from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and NASA.

Visitors who are curious about Curiosity will have the opportunity to ask Mars Science Laboratory science team member John Grant about the mission’s goals and the new high-tech equipment on the rover, they can tour Mars landing sites with the museum’s Google Earth Station and learn about the rocks and minerals Curiosity may find in Gale Crater with planetary geologist Jim Zimbelman.

An artist's concept of NASA's biggest-ever Mars rover Curiosity examining a rock on the Red Planet. Image courtesy of NASA Science News

Additional Mars Day! displays and activities include:

  • Presentations from NASA’s Planetary Science Division director Jim Green and Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars Exploration Program, about missions of exploration
  • Planetary geologist Ross Irwin will talk about the history of water on Mars
  • Mars Radar—Visitors can learn how to see beneath the surface of Mars with planetary geophysicist Bruce Campbell
  • Mars on Earth—Planetary geologist Bob Craddock will talk about geologic features that are common to both Earth and Mars and what can be learned from them
  • Mars art and story times for kids
  • A full-scale model of the Mars Exploration Rovers currently operating on Mars and information about the ongoing mission with planetary geologist Ross Irwin
  • MARSIS—Planetary scientist Tom Watters will talk about radar mapping of Mars on the European Mars Express mission
  • Polar Places—Visitors will learn about the Martian polar regions and how Antarctica can be a laboratory for studying Mars, with planetary scientists Maria Banks, Gareth Morgan and Michelle Selvans
  • Red Planet Quiz Show with Martian of Ceremonies Meghan McCarthy
  • Views of the surface of Mars in 3-D and detailed high-resolution images straight from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
  • An actual Mars meteorite from the National Museum of Natural History
  • Robot Explorers, a hands-on activity that allows visitors to maneuver small robots
  • An informative planetarium show will display Mars as seen from Earth and from orbit

For more information visit the Mars Day! website.


Posted: 28 June 2012
About the Author:

Isabel Lara does media outreach for the Communications Office at the National Air and Space Museum. She enjoys dealing with the diverse requests the museum receives every day—from inquiries about ice on Mars and impact basins on Mercury, to satellites, spacesuits, airmail, famous aviators and even Hollywood movies.