To coincide with Curiosity's successful Mars landing, Buffalo State's Whitworth Ferguson Planetarium will host a Mars Madness Open House on Friday, August 10, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Launched on November 26, Curiosity traveled more than 340 million miles before landing inside Gale Crater on Mars' surface. The journey is part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program—a long-term research initiative that includes robotic exploration of the red planet.
Curiosity's mission is to determine if Mars has ever been able to support life. The rover will tour the planet's terrain for 23 months, utilizing various tools and techniques to collect samples for scientists to analyze.
"One of the great questions about Mars is whether life ever existed there," said Kevin Williams, director of the planetarium and assistant professor of earth sciences and science education. "Curiosity is much larger and more capable than previous rovers. It will be able to travel farther and collect more information that will help us better understand the planet’s past."
The Mars Madness Open House will feature 20-minute sky tours in the planetarium and discussions of the first results that Curiosity has collected. Planetarium staff also will review the "Seven Minutes of Terror," the name given to Curiosity's risky, free fall landing.
The event will also include posters and panoramas from previous Mars rover missions, a scale model of the solar system, activity tables for kids and adults, and a raffle for planetarium gift shop merchandise.
Mars Madness is free to the public. The open house will be followed by the planetarium program, "The Lives and Deaths of Giant Stars," at 8:00 p.m. Attendees who wish to stay for the program will need to purchase tickets. Admission is free for Buffalo State students, $6 for the general public, and $4 for children under age 18, other college students, and senior citizens.