On January 3-4, 2004, The Planetary Society will host "WILD ABOUT MARS" at the Pasadena Convention Center, featuring special guests and "live" images from Mars during NASA's Mars Exploration Rover mission.
Spirit will be the first of the two Mars Exploration Rovers (the other being Opportunity) to touch down on the Red Planet. The rover will bounce onto the Martian landscape and start an exciting new era of exploration. This historic event happens only one day after Stardust travels through Comet Wild 2 to collect samples for Earth return.
Both missions will be celebrated at the "WILD ABOUT MARS" event.
The "live" images and other data featured at "WILD ABOUT MARS" will come from live feeds originating at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). "WILD ABOUT MARS" will keep late hours in order to offer the public and the media a first transmission from the Martian surface on a large screen.
"This is one of the most exciting space events to happen at the beginning of our new century. The Planetary Society's 'Wild About Mars' will give the public a unique experience with live data on a large screen, knowledgeable speakers, and a variety of entertainment. We will bring the complexity and difficulty of such a challenging expedition direct to the public," said The Planetary Society's Director of Projects Bruce Betts.
"WILD ABOUT MARS" will host renowned figures from the science and science-fiction communities, such as Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, author Ray Bradbury (The Martian Chronicles), and TV's Bill Nye the Science Guy.
Images returned from Stardust from its encounter with Comet Wild 2 will also be featured, as well as mission updates on the fleet of U.S, European and Japanese spacecraft converging on the Red Planet. Never before have this many spacecraft descended upon Mars all at once.
During "WILD ABOUT MARS" there will be reports from Student Astronauts direct from JPL's Mission Control and hands-on operation of miniature robotic rovers on simulated Martian landscapes.
"WILD ABOUT MARS" will be held in the Exhibition Hall of the Pasadena Center at 300 East Green Street. Admission ranges from $19.75 (one day) to $38.75 (both days) for adults (less for members of The Planetary Society) and $12.50-$25.00 for children ages 6-16. Under 6 are free. Call 1-877-PLANETS or visit The Planetary Society's website for more information and to order tickets.
The Planetary Society's Student Astronauts are 16 young people from 12 countries who won their places on the team through an essay contest, followed by oral interviews. The Student Astronauts will work with the scientists and engineers overseeing the science payload on the Mars Exploration Rovers, including the panoramic cameras and the magnets, and will analyze new data returned from the rovers. They will rotate through JPL in teams of two, with each pair spending approximately one week at the facility.