Planetarium Offers Free Big-Screen Viewing of Jan. 24 Mars Landing

Released on 01/16/2004, at 12:00 AM
Office of University Communications
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Lincoln, Neb., January 16th, 2004 —

WHEN: Saturday, Jan. 24, approximately 11:05 p.m. (Morrill Hall doors open at 10 p.m.)
WHERE: Ralph Mueller Planetarium, University of Nebraska State Museum (Morrill Hall), 14th & U Streets

Lincoln, Neb., Jan. 16, 2004 -- Opportunity, the second of the Mars Exploration Rovers, is scheduled to land on Mars at approximately 11:05 p.m. (CST) Jan. 24 and Ralph Mueller Planetarium at the University of Nebraska State Museum will be open for a free viewing of a live television feed.

The planetarium will project NASA's televised feed of landing activities from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., as a 39-foot image (measured diagonally) on the planetarium dome.

In addition to the coverage from NASA, planetarium coordinator Jack Dunn will offer a live update lecture on the results so far from Spirit, the first rover to land on Mars this year. Mueller Planetarium is one of some 70 museums and planetariums in the U.S. who are part of the Mars Visualization Alliance, a group organized by JPL to reach the public with news and information on the Mars Exploration Rover missions. As a member of the alliance, Mueller has exclusive early use of raw data from the Rovers as it is downloaded to JPL. Mueller Planetarium is the only member of the alliance in Nebraska or Iowa. The closest other members are in Wichita, Kan., and Denver.

"Several locations in the alliance held similar events for the landing of Spirit, and their success in attracting interested space enthusiasts and Mars watchers inspired us to try it as well," Dunn said. "Since we get new information and images every day from MER, we have been updating our own Mars planetarium shows every weekend."

Seating is limited to 80 in the planetarium itself and another 50 in the planetarium lobby, where monitors will carry the signal. Tickets will be required and will be available free at the front desk of Morrill Hall, 14th and U streets, beginning at 10 p.m. Dunn said it is anticipated that JPL will hold a press conference within about 30 minutes after the landing. The public evening will end after this conference, which Dunn estimated will finish at approximately midnight.

For further information, contact Dunn by telephone at (402) 472-2641 or by e-mail, or visit the planetarium's Web site.

CONTACT: Abby Thomsen, Coordinator, Mueller Planetarium, (402) 472-2641