In the months leading up to the landing of the Mars Curiosity Rover last August, news often carried a certain earthling angle: "Death Valley used as stand-in for Martian landscape," read a Christian Science Monitor headline; "NASA scientist William Dietrich compares patterns created by river fans found in California's Death Valley to similar fans found on Mars," explained a PBS Newshour blog post; "The Dumont Dunes near Death Valley are a popular playground for off-road vehicle fans," noted our very own Chris Clarke when he visited Scarecrow, Curiosity's twin.
So it only makes sense that NASA and the National Park Service are partnering to produce the second MarsFest this weekend. Scheduled for Friday through Sunday and centered around Furnace Creek, the free event is an expo with kid activities and a series of lectures and field trips with scientists from NASA centers and research facilities. (To get a sense of what the festival looks and feels like, check out Jack Freer's photos from last year, when the event was called Mars and the Mojave).
Lecture topics include human missions to Mars and environmental protection for, not just Earth, but the whole solar system while field trips will take festival goers to analog sites -- that's the term NASA uses to describe places on Earth they believe mimic conditions on other planets -- like Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America, and the aptly-named Mars Hill.