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Friday, April 1, 2011

Interactive Gallery Opens Saturday at Cosmosphere

Saturday, April 9, the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center is opening a new permanent interactive gallery titled “Investigate Space: Our Universe." It will feature information about unmanned exploration of our Solar System and the Universe and have opportunities for visitors to engage interactively. For example, visitors will be able to drive a virtual Mars rover and fly through space to objects throughout the universe.

To celebrate the opening, Todd Barber of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California, will offer two different presentations, both free to the public.

At 1 p.m. he will talk about his work on the Cassini-Saturn and Mars missions. At 3 p.m. he will talk about JPL's continued work in unmanned exploration of our Solar System and Universe.

In conjunction with his visit, a full-scale model of the newest Mars rover, Curiosity, is on display at the Cosmosphere through April 29. It is on loan from JPL and will travel to North Carolina and Washington D.C. after it leaves the Cosmosphere. Curiosity was named by a 12-year-old Lenexa student, Clara Ma.

In addition, a model of the Mars rover Sojourner will be part of the new gallery. Another interesting addition will be a 233-pound meteorite on loan from Steve Arnold, who found it on the television show, "Meteorite Men."

No admission ticket is required to see Curiosity or hear Todd Barber. The new gallery is included with your regular admission ticket.

Mars Rover Curiosity Model at Cosmosphere through April 29

A full scale model of the Mars Rover, Curiosity, is on display at the Cosmosphere through April 29. It is on loan from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratories (JPL). Curiosity is scheduled for launch late this year. It will take nine months for it to reach Mars in August of 2012.

Curiosity is a mobile laboratory designed to investigate whether conditions have been favorable for life, and to examine clues in the rocks about possible past life. Curiosity will roam Mars for nearly two years, with a greater range than any previous Mars rover. During that time it will analyze dozens of samples drilled from rocks or scooped from the ground.

Curiosity was named by a sixth-grade Lenexa, Kan., student, Clara Ma. As her prize the 12-year-old won a trip to California where she was invited to sign her name directly onto the rover during its assembly at JPL. She won the honor of naming it by submitting the winning essay.

Much larger than the other three rovers, Curiosity is about nine feet long and weighs 2,000 pounds. Spirit and Opportunity landed in 2004. They were preceded by Sojourner, which landed in 1997.

Curiosity will use 10 science instruments to examine rocks, soil and atmosphere. A laser will vaporize rock from a distance, and another instrument will search for organic compounds. It has mast-mounted cameras to study from a distance, arm-mounted tools to study targets within reach, and deck-mounted instruments to analyze rock and soil samples.

The full-scale Curiosity model is on display in the Cosmosphere lobby. No admission ticket is required to see it.