Explore the red planet during Mars Day at the Air and Space Museum

The Mars rover concept vehicle is on display until 3 p.m. Saturday. It will roll on to appearances next month in New York and Georgia.

(WTOP/Kristi King)
Therrin Protze, chief operating officer for the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, demonstrates the concept vehicle’s laboratory. The 23-foot-long vehicle can be split in two to become a scout vehicle and a habitable laboratory.

From left: Gabriel Parker, Dana Jondahl, and Bilan Walker pose with the Mars rover concept vehicle. (WTOP/Kristi King)
From left: Gabriel Parker, Dana Jondahl, and Bilan Walker pose with the Mars rover concept vehicle. (WTOP/Kristi King)

An early edition Mars rover will be on display at the National Air and Space Museum's Mars Day. (WTOP/Kristi King)
An early edition Mars rover will be on display at the National Air and Space Museum’s Mars Day. (WTOP/Kristi King)

Mars Day at the National Air and Space Museum runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday. The Mars rover concept vehicle will be at the museum until 3 p.m. on Saturday. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Mars Day at the National Air and Space Museum runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday. (WTOP/Kristi King)

(1/6)
From left: Gabriel Parker, Dana Jondahl, and Bilan Walker pose with the Mars rover concept vehicle. (WTOP/Kristi King)
An early edition Mars rover will be on display at the National Air and Space Museum's Mars Day. (WTOP/Kristi King)
Mars Day at the National Air and Space Museum runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday. The Mars rover concept vehicle will be at the museum until 3 p.m. on Saturday. (WTOP/Kristi King)

WASHINGTON — Friday is Mars Day at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.

“Scientists in the Air and Space Museum come down, and we have a variety of stations and programs,” museum geologist Ross Irwin said.

In addition to learning about past, present and future missions to Mars, Irwin said there will be family activities. You can see a real meteorite from Mars and the same models of spacecraft that landed on the red planet.

“You can see different generations of Mars rovers here at the museum and see how they have increased in size over time,” Irwin said.

Also on display is a concept vehicle based on NASA-engineer specifications. The Mars rover concept vehicle depicts what the next generation of astronauts might be driving during future manned missions to Mars.

“Hopefully a child who’ll maybe go to Mars in the 2030s will look at this vehicle and say, ‘I want to drive that!’” said Therrin Protze, chief operating officer for the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

So why care about Mars? Irwin gave three reasons:

  • It offers insight on the early history of the solar system. “The earth is being constantly eroded … but on Mars you have this time capsule from the early history of the solar system,” he said.
  • Mars is the best place for future astronauts to explore and work. “You can spend long periods of time there,” Irwin said. “You don’t tend to waste away because of low gravity. You have the ability to cover long distances on the surface.”
  • It’s among the best candidates for a place where life might have originated early in the solar system’s history  — “when you had water, rivers and lakes on the surface.”

To help promote interest in the red planet, every fifth grader in America can get a free ticket to visit the Kennedy visitor complex, which is about a 50-minute drive from Orlando, Florida.

“We always say that Disney is fantasy and we’re fantastic. We’re the real thing,” Protze exclaimed.

Mars Day is Friday only between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. The Mars rover concept vehicle will be at the museum until 3 p.m. on Saturday.

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.


Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

© 2017 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up