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DVNP hosts MarsFest this weekend

Death Valley National Park will host the third annual MarsFest this weekend, March 28-30 at the Furnace Creek Visitors’ Center.

MarsFest is designed to elevate public awareness about planetary analog research taking place on Earth, and its associated missions in space such as Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) and the upcoming 2020 missions.

The National Park Service will collaborate again this year with the SETI Institute (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence), various NASA branches and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to bring scientists and the public together to explore the fascinating research being done in this field.

For decades, planetary scientists have come to the park to conduct research and instrument testing. There are several planetary analog research sites that are equivalent to those on other planets and all within the park’s boundaries. Field trips to some of the sites are scheduled for Saturday.

The event is free, requires no registration and is appropriate for all ages.

The keynote speaker will be Dr. Chris McKay, Planetary Scientist within the Space Science Division of NASA Ames, and will also feature scientist-led field trips to analog sites such as Badwater Basin, Ubehebe Volcanic Field and Mesquite Sand Dunes.

The event will also offer guest lectures and special presentations at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center. An additional feature is a “Curiosity Hour” update featuring scientists participating in the MSL Curiosity rover mission, followed by a Q&A session.

For more information contact Terry Baldino at terry_baldino@nps.gov, 760-786-3279.

Schedule as follows:

Friday

7 p.m. – 7:15 p.m. — Welcome from Kathy Billings, Superintendent of Death Valley National Park Welcome from NASA Ames &SETI Institute (TBD)

7:15 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. — Keynote Address: “Planetary Missions and the search for life in dry environments on Earth and Mars”

Saturday

Walks (Meeting at location’s parking lot):

8:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. — Mesquite Sand Dunes: Aaron Zent (NASA Ames Research Center), Mesquite Sand Dunes: Analogs to the Gale Crater Curiosity Site

10:30 a.m. – 12 noon — Badwater: Susanne Douglas (Planetary Science Institute, PSI)

Auditorium Talks

1:35 p.m. – 2:10 p.m. — Working the Mojave with an Eye toward Mars: Use of Analog Sites in and Near Death Valley

2:10 p.m. – 2:45 p.m. — Exploring Other-Worldly Sites, Here on Earth

2:45 p.m. – 3:05 p.m. — BREAK

3:05 p.m. – 3:40 p.m. — In the Ghetto: Rock Colonization Strategies for Survival in Extreme and Prolonged Dryness

3:40 p.m. – 3:45 p.m. — BREAK

3:45 p.m. – 4:45 p.m. — Curiosity Hour update: A brief overview of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover and Q&A

Sunday

Walks (Meeting at Ubehebe Crater parking lot): Brunch at the crater

10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. — Making Mars Work for Ubehebe

A full itenerary is online at www.seti.org/marsfest-2014.

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