The Jet Propulsion Laboratory's newest missions to Mars -- the Mars Pathfinder and Mars Global Surveyor missions -are featured in a special display at the Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona.
The JPL exhibit, which continues through Oct. 2, highlights NASA's new emphasis on returning to Mars, the subject of a decade-long program of planetary exploration. NASA's return to the red planet gets under way in November 1996 with launch of the Mars Pathfinder and Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft.
This weekend, Sept. 24-25, is billed as a "Mars Weekend" with special presentations and demonstrations of a rover robot like one that will be sent to the red planet in two years in the Mars Pathfinder mission.
Donna Shirley, program manager of the Laboratory's Office of Mars Exploration and head of the rover project, will present an overview of the Mars Pathfinder and Mars Global Surveyor missions at noon and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 25.
One side of the triangular JPL exhibit boasts a large Viking photograph of the landing site chosen for the new Pathfinder lander. A monitor in the center of the exhibit is showing a multimedia presentation entitled, "Mars Exploration Adventure: A Quick Tour of the Red Planet," and other mission videos on a continuing basis.
Tenth-scale models of some JPL spacecraft that have already explored Mars -- such as the 1971 Mariner 9 spacecraft and 1976 Viking orbiters and landers -- are also on display to give audiences a retrospective of the Lab's heritage in planetary exploration and its plans for the 21st century.
The Laboratory is also sponsoring a star-gazing program every evening with JPL and Mt. Wilson volunteers under a program called Telescopes in Education. The program allows science instructors and students to remotely operate a high quality 24-inch telescope at Mount Wilson Observatory from the classroom.
Gilbert Clark of JPL, who founded and directs the program, has been showing children and amateur astronomers how to operate the computer workstation at the fairgrounds. Using the terminal, the telescope at Mt. Wilson can be pointed at any star, nebula, cluster or galaxy in the night sky and viewed on the computer screen.
The Los Angeles County Fair is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. during the week through Oct. 2 at the Fairplex, 1101 W. McKinley Ave., Pomona, Calif.
The JPL weekend exhibit will be open from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24, and from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 25. Telescope viewing of the night sky takes place each evening from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.
For further information, contact the JPL Public Services Office at (818) 354-0112.
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