Feature

MarsQuest Exhibition Project
08.14.03
We are in the midst of a decade of Mars exploration that will provide discoveries about Mars, and insights about our own planet Earth. Images sent from Mars dazzle us with our first views of polar ice caps, sprawling extinct volcanoes, vast meteorite craters and huge canyons.

In order to engage the public in the adventure of Mars exploration, the Space Science Institute of Boulder, Colorado (SSI) developed a 5,000-square-foot traveling exhibition called MarsQuest: Exploring the Red Planet.

entrance way for the MarsQuest Exhibit
MarsQuest Exhibit Lobby

MarsQuest is one of the largest public outreach projects ever developed by the planetary science community. During its six-year tour, MarsQuest will reach two to three million people, including many families and school groups.

This unique exhibition provides visitors with a first-hand look at Mars, and gives them the opportunity to make their own observations through a vast array of activities, virtual experiences, and multimedia presentations organized around several Mars sites, each representing a different geologic formation.

picture of students looking at a portion of the MarsQuest exhibit
Students peering at the MarsQuest diorama of a possible future
Mars mission
Like sightseers in a national park on Earth, visitors to MarsQuest see some of the wonders of Mars, such as the solar system's largest volcano and a canyon as long as the United States. Along the way, interactive exhibit components introduce visitors to tools scientists use to explore Mars and some of their most recent discoveries.

The MarsQuest exhibition is currently winding-up a fully booked three-year national tour, (ending August 2003). MarsQuest has been so successful that the tour manager, the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC), is now scheduling a second three-year tour to begin in early 2004, when Mars exploration will again be in the news with the landing of NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers. These ongoing and future missions create an unprecedented opportunity to use the public's excitement over Mars exploration to draw visitors to museums and science centers, and to generate interest in science in general.

The Space Science Institute developed the MarsQuest exhibition and refurbishment with major funding from the National Science Foundation and NASA.

The 5,000 Square-Foot Exhibit

The MarsQuest Exhibition currently includes a 40-minute planetarium show narrated by actor Patrick Stewart and a comprehensive education program comprised of workshops for museum staff and teachers.

Interactive stations allow visitors to:
  • Compare the temperatures and gravitational forces of Earth and Mars

  • Study images of Mars as a scientist does, theorizing and questioning the meaning of what is seen

  • Touch a model of Valles Marineris

  • Assemble images to create new views of Mars

  • Maneuver a Mars Rover within a Martian terrain
...and much, much more.

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Dedicated to excellence in
space science research
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For the second three-year tour, the Space Science Institute will refurbish the exhibition, remove several components, and add new pieces that incorporate the latest Mars research and imagery. The enhanced exhibition will include an interactive component that allows visitors to examine a slice of a meteorite that scientists believe came from Mars, a Mars weather station, and updateable components that will bring ongoing Mars research and discoveries to visitors.

Other new components include:
  • An Aeolian Landscape interactive, where visitors can change the speed of wind sweeping across a simulated Martian landscape

  • A Dust Devil interactive where turning a knob activates a liquid vortex pulling sand into a swirling dust devil

  • A full-scale model of a Mars Exploration Rover on loan from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory

MarsQuest Education Workshops

picture of students at the MarsQuest exhibit
Young visitors experience the fog basin in the Canyons area of the
MarsQuest exhibit
At each venue that hosts the MarsQuest exhibition, SSI conducts workshops for museum educators, docents and local teachers. The workshops are designed to inspire and empower participants to extend the excitement and science content of the exhibition and NASA's Mars Exploration Program into classrooms and museum-based education programs in an ongoing fashion.

The MarsQuest workshops leave a legacy that remains after the exhibits leave. SSI is committed to strengthening the infrastructure of informal science education through these professional development activities. Dr. Cherilynn Morrow, SSI's Director of Education and Outreach, was responsible for developing the workshops and manages this aspect of SSI's Mars Education Program.

MarsQuest Online

screen capture of MarsQuest Online
MarsQuest Online
SSI's overall Mars education project was enhanced in 2003 by the launch of an interactive Web site http://www.marsquestonline.org. The site lets visitors continue their exciting exploration of Mars with innovative web learning experiences, including interactive simulations (3D flyover, Drive a Rover, Fly to Mars), information about the red planet and other resources.

The Web site is also a great resource for museum staff to learn about Mars and how to incorporate Mars activities in their institution's education programs, such as floor demonstrations, mobile outreach programs and camp-ins.

MarsQuest Online is a cooperative project between TERC of Cambridge, Massachusetts Space Science Institute and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and is funded by NASA and the National Science Foundation.



For more information on the MarsQuest exhibit, please visit the Web sites below.

MarsQuest Web site
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MarsQuest Itinerary
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MarsQuest Online
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