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PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE - To MARS with MER Not Your Typical "Rock" Tour: Mars Rocks with P2K's Marsapalooza

Mars Smart Lander
What in the world is Marsapalooza?

It's part science, part education, part rock concert tour - and all a part of "To MARS with MER's" effort to bring the Mars Exploration Rovers mission to students and the public.

A team of youthful scientists and engineers (the "M-Team") will visit five cities across the country to raise public literacy about the Mars mission, reaching out to students in underserved communities, and presenting themselves as role models to inspire the next generation of explorers.

The tour is the product of a unique partnership involving the National Science Foundation, NASA, Passport to Knowledge, and several museums, planetariums, and science centers across the country.

Marsapalooza kicks off on December 2nd in New York City at the American Museum of Natural History. The tour is the partnership's take on Lollapalooza, a concept introduced by alternative rock group Jane's Addiction's front man Perry Farrell as slang for "something or someone striking or unusual." Marsapalooza aims to capture the spirit of a true rock concert tour, complete with special lighting, a video, and its own musical soundtrack, while communicating the message to young people that science and math are cool.

Mars Vehicles
A diverse group of scientists and engineers make up the M-Team: Jim Rice, Deborah Bass, Zoe Learner, Kobie Boykins, Adam Steltzner, and Shonte Wright.

After opening in New York, the tour heads to the Naval Observatory in Washington on December 3, the Adler Planetarium in Chicago on December 4, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science on December 6, before wrapping up in Los Angeles on December 8. The public will have a chance in each city to meet with the M-Team, and K-12 students will have the opportunity to participate in hands-on activities and demonstrations related to the science of the Mars Exploration Rovers mission.

The twin rovers, named Spirit and Opportunity by an Arizona third-grader, will arrive at Mars in January. They'll go to work examining rocks, using more tools than the much smaller rover of NASA's 1997 Mars Pathfinder mission. One of the messages the M-Team hopes to convey about the Mars Exploration Rovers mission is how exciting and extremely challenging it is to land and operate a rover on Mars.

"Making a machine that works perfectly is always a goal, and [to see it] working on Mars is that extra little tidbit that puts it over the top. It's the icing on the cake," said Kobie Boykins, a mechanical engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and youthful member of the M-Team.

Marsapalooza gives scientists and engineers such as Kobie a chance to show the world that, both literally -- the average temperature on Mars is -81 degrees Fahrenheit! -- and figuratively, nothing is "cooler" than contributing to one of the greatest space explorations of all time.

MARSAPALOOZA was conceived and coordinated by PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE, and made possible by major funding from the National Science Foundation, NSF. Additional support comes from NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (NASA/California Institute of Technology) and the NASA JPL Mars Public Engagement Office.