Tucson may not be quite as “Mars crazy” this week as it was in 2008 when the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary lab began operating the Phoenix Mars Lander and its science experiments, but interest in the red planet remains high locally as NASA prepares to land another science lab on Mars.
The car-sized Mars Science Laboratory named Curiosity, is scheduled to reach Mars at 10:31 p.m. Sunday.
Before that happens, you can hear about this continuation of Mars research from UA scientists at a downtown event Saturday afternoon.
On Sunday, you can watch the landing live on the multiple big screens of an astronomy-themed bar on Fourth Avenue.
On Monday evening, you can be briefed on “the latest news from Mars” by an Arizona State University veteran of several Mars missions.
— The UA’s Science Downtown exhibit hosts its “Tucson Lands on Mars” day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
Speakers include, Peter Smith, who led the Phoenix Mars Lander mission and his LPL colleagues Alfred McEwen and Shane Byrne, who run the HiRISE camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
The UA Science Downtown “Mars and Beyond” exhibit is in the Rialto building at the corner of East Congress Street and Fifth Avenue.
Special activities Saturday include making volcanoes and craters, painting planets, hunting for meteorites, and operating robotic arms. Admission is $9, adults; $5, children; $7 students, seniors, and military.
— The Sky Bar, 536 N. Fourth Ave., will hold its “Mars Landing Party” beginning at 8:30 p.m.
It features a live feed from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratories on the bar’s three 120-inch high-definition projectors and screens.
The entry, descent and landing are scheduled to begin at 10:31 p.m.
— On Monday at 7 p.m. the Astronomical Society of the Pacific will host a free talk on “The Latest News From Mars” by geologist Philip Christensen of Arizona State University at the Doubletree/Hilton Hotel, 445 S. Alvernon Way.
Christensen, a Regents' professor with ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, is a veteran of NASA exploration of the red planet.
He has built remote infrared sensing instruments for two Mars orbiters and two rovers.
Much of Christensen's work over the past three decades has focused on the geology of Mars and he will discuss the geology of Gale Crater, where Curiosity will land to begin forming two years’ of mobile science experiments.