National Air and Space Museum Celebrates “Mars Day!” July 21

Press Release

Monday, July 17, 2017 - 8:30am

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Alison Mitchell, 202-633-2376,
Amy Stamm, 202-633-2392,

Public Inquiries


The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum will present “Mars Day!,” its annual tribute to the Red Planet Friday, July 21, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the museum on the National Mall. Organized by the museum’s Center for Earth and Planetary Studies, the event enables visitors to interact with its team of staff scientists and experts from NASA.

This year, a Mars rover concept vehicle from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will be on view. Using NASA-engineered science and specs, this rover was created as a traveling exhibit to inspire and educate the next generation of space explorers. Visitors will learn about the materials used to build it and custom features employed that could accommodate the terrain on Mars. Supplemental materials, including kiosks that explain plant life exploration and the Martian habitat, a virtual reality experience and an expert talk about the rover, will provide information about the quest to travel to the Red Planet.

Other “Mars Day!” displays and activities will give opportunities for visitors to:

  • Listen to Mars Science Laboratory team member John Grant discuss Curiosity, the latest rover to operate on Mars
  • Learn about Curiosity’s landing site, Gale Crater, and the rocks and minerals found there with planetary geologist Jon Cawley
  • Hear NASA astronaut Jon McBride discuss his experiences as an astronaut and why the Mars rover concept vehicle is important
  • See images of recent Martian avalanches, dust devils, sand dunes and impacts, and learn how the surface of Mars is still changing today with planetary scientist Maria Banks
  • Discuss the history of water on Mars with planetary scientist Ross Irwin
  • Talk with Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, about NASA’s missions of exploration
  • Learn about the Viking mission to Mars with historian Matthew Shindell and planetary scientist Ross Irwin
  • Test their skills in a hands-on activity with small robots as they maneuver a robotic rover or collect samples with a robotic arm
  • Learn how to see beneath the surface of Mars with planetary scientist Jennifer Whitten
  • See high-resolution views from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter with planetary scientist Sharon Wilson Purdy
  • Meet Mike Seibert, lead flight director and rover driver for the Opportunity mission
  • Listen to Mars Story Time for kids
  • View the surface of Mars in 3-D with red/blue glasses
  • Find out about radar mapping of Mars on the European Mars Express mission with planetary scientist Tom Watters
  • Experience the Journey to Space 3D IMAX film (ticket prices apply) and “Fly to Mars” Planetarium show

For more information and a detailed schedule of activities, visit

“Mars Day!” is held annually at the museum’s building in Washington to commemorate the July 1976 landing of Viking 1, the first spacecraft to operate on Mars. A test version of Viking 1 is displayed in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall.

The National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is located in Chantilly, Va., near Washington Dulles International Airport. The museum building on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is located at Sixth Street and Independence Avenue S.W. Both facilities are open daily from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free, but there is a $15 fee for parking before 4 p.m. at the Udvar-Hazy Center.

Note: Summer hours for the National Mall building are 10 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. and in effect until Sept. 9 unless otherwise noted. Check the museum’s website for the most up-to-date times.

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  • Rover concept veihcle

    Using NASA-engineered science and specs, this rover was created as a traveling exhibit to inspire and educate the next generation of space explorers.

  • Mars Day!

    Mars Day! is an annual National Air and Space Museum event that celebrates the Red Planet with a variety of educational and fun family activities. Visitors learn about current and future missions and have the opportunity to talk to scientists from the museum's Center for Earth and Planetary Science that are active in Mars research.