- the Red Planet - presents a dazzling landscape of polar ice caps,
extinct volcanoes, vast meteorite craters, huge canyons, and global
dust storms. We are in the midst
of an era of Mars exploration that is providing new insights
into the mysteries of our neighboring planet and new ideas about
the life and environment of our own planet Earth. These ongoing
and future missions create an unprecedented opportunity to use
the public’s excitement over Mars exploration to draw visitors
to museums and science centers and generate interest in science
in general. The Space Science Institute of Boulder, Colorado, is bringing this era of Mars exploration
to the American public with its Destination Mars exhibition. The 600 square-foot
traveling exhibition is designed for small science centers. The
national tour is managed by SSI. It was funded by the National
Science Foundation as part of its MarsQuest project.
in a national park on Earth, visitors see some of the wonders of
Mars, such as the solar system’s
largest volcano and a canyon as long as the continental United States. Along the way, interactive
exhibit components introduce visitors to tools scientists use
to explore Mars and some of their most recent discoveries.
A thin slice of the Zagami meteorite—an actual rock from
Mars—is on display under a microscope with a polarizing
light source that reveals its crystalline structure. Examining
Mars rocks may give us clues about whether life has ever existed
on Mars. Visitors can take a virtual tour of some of the main
features of Mars, and then switch to an Earth globe to compare
the Mars features to similar sites on Earth. They can also view
a 1/3 scale model of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover (MER).
An attached computer kiosk lets visitors learn about the mission,
drive a virtual rover, and view an incredible animation of
the launch and landing of the MER. Destination
Mars inspires and motivates both children and adults
to share in the excitement and discoveries of this exciting era
of Mars exploration.