Top Minds NASA scientists to share Mars planetary expertise

August 25, 2021 Cranberry Living

Bruce Banerdt, InSight principal investigator, NASA JPL, talks about Mars exploration during the Mars New Year celebration in 2019 in Mars. Submitted photo

More than a dozen NASA representatives will speak virtually at the upcoming Mars New Year festival, sharing their expertise and STEM knowledge with visitors from Mars and beyond.

Mars Borough Mayor Gregg Hartung said that at least 14 people, hailing from both NASA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., will present at the festival.

Speakers at the event include Head Scientist Jim Green, Chief Technologist Douglas Terrier, Senior Scientist for Astrobiology Michael Meyer and Planetary Division Program Scientist Lindsay Hays.

Other NASA representatives, including Mars Rover Program scientist Mitch Schulte, Planetary Science Division scientists Mike Kelley and Stacey Cunningham, Senior Multimedia Designer Tricia Talbert, Public Engagement Specialist Sarah Marcotte, InSight Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt and head of Planetary Division Eric Ianson will also speak.

They’ll be spread across three tents to host demonstrations and interactive exhibits relating to Mars, Venus and the Moon.

“They were excited, that was obvious,” Hartung said. “They were saying that people were eager to sign up and be a part of what’s become actually a special event for them and for us.”

A partnership

The Mars New Year team has been in communication with NASA for a long time. NASA representatives have spoken at the festival in years past.

“In 2015, when we started the first Mars New Year, NASA came to Mars bringing what they could bring, considering that we’re a small town, bringing what would work best for them,” Hartung said. “We did our best to add things to our first event, which only took up two streets in Mars. The NASA people who came really thought it went well for a small town with the name Mars doing this thing, and by doing that and wanting them to come back in 2017, it started the ball rolling with us working with them.”

Other representatives

Some other space experts will also be calling in remotely to the event. The Mars New Year team has arranged for a virtual presentation from the space program in Spain to call in and talk about the work that they do in studying Mars.

“It’s a virtual talkback session with the space agency in Spain that does all the weather forecasting for the planet Mars,” Hartung said. “We’re still trying to see what the timing will be because of time zones.”

Missy Gralish of the Mars New Year board of directors said the committee is thrilled that NASA can participate.

“It is difficult to put into words how pleased the entire Mars New Year board and planning committee are that NASA is returning to the Mars Exploration Celebration for our fourth festival,” Gralish said. “We have a full lineup of amazing speakers, including NASA’s Chief Scientist Dr. Jim Green, who will share the latest on the Mars Exploration Program and NASA’s ambitious plans for the Mars Sample Return mission.”