This weekend, is anyone heading out to the desert for MarsFest? Sure wish I'd heard the details earlier, so I could have planned a road trip! At the very least, I hope to give a heads up to other Californians who may be able to drive to Mojave.
Then, it's all about the ANALOG world!
Having done medical analog projects with future Mars missions in mind, and having followed the Mars500analog experiment so closely, I'm always gratified to see scientists and space enthusiasts spread the word about how important it is to examine all the issues involved in reaching the Red Planet.
Don't let the name "Death Valley" scare you off. The location is all part of the point. These days, we have dependable trucks, bottled water, and a healthy knowledge of the survival techniques needed to hold an "other-planetary" educational festival, even in the desert! Like the continual Mars habitat experiments in Utah and Devon Island, the environment drives home just how inhospitable our closest planetary neighbor might be. How can we prepare ourselves to examine the alien environment, survive in hostile conditions, and recognize other-worldly forms of life that might surprise us?
The full MarsFest schedule is wondrously packed with practical activities, field trips, meals and lectures across many Mars-analog terrains, including the Ubehebe Volcano Crater, the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes in Inyo (Curiosity Rover's "rehearsal" site), and Badwater Basin, for examination of isolated microbial life.
So say the many press releases from MarsFest sponsors:
The goal of MarsFest is to raise public awareness about planetary research as well as celebrate the scientific endeavor of the Mars Science Laboratory mission. A suite of instruments, mounted on the Curiosity Rover, is helping to determine if Mars can currently sustain or has ever supported life. Several of Curiosity's experiments were designed by Ames scientists who have also worked in Death Valley, and will be actively supporting the festival. MarsFest will offer insight into these excursions and about Curiosity's findings since landing on Mars in August 2012.
The MarsFest (this is only the second one, but I hope this continues as an annual event in the future!) is created, planned, hosted and conducted by the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI), NASA Ames, NASA Goddard, the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the United States National Park Service.
Hats! Sunblock! Sturdy shoes! And remember to bring your Mars Rover Hot Wheels! ;)