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Since traveling to Mars is a tad out of reach, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science is bringing the red planet closer to earthlings.
Beginning Saturday, Nov. 19, the “Roving With Perseverance” traveling exhibit will be open to the public. Full-sized replicas of both NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter will be on display.
Museum research curator Larry Crumpler, who also serves on the mission team for the rover, helped orchestrate the addition of the temporary exhibit.
“I figured being at a museum and a member of the actual science team, of all places, we should have it,” he said. “Not just anybody can get an exhibit like this, you have to have a purpose.”
The New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science is the only museum in the region and one of just a few institutes in the country to host the replicas.
“It’s just going to be a great thing to take people through it and show what we’re doing on Mars,” Crumpler said.
The real Perseverance roams Mars in search of ancient microbial life and collects data on the red planet’s geology and climate. The mission’s goal is to one day open the possibilities for human exploration on Mars.
Crumpler will be joined by scientists and engineers from the University of New Mexico, Los Alamos National Laboratory and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory during the exhibit’s opening weekend. The experts will be available to answer questions between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Crumpler said there will be video panels showing the actual vehicles in action, including images from the rover’s view during self-driving activities.
In addition, mission personnel will hold a short presentation in the planetarium each day at 1 p.m.
“We do a lot of space sciences and participate in the ongoing missions,” Crumpler said about the museum. “We’re trying to reach the maximum number of sciences and introduce the public and kids to more things than just ancient life and fossils.”
Saturday’s event at the museum gets a little sweeter as well. Visitors can partake of chocolate samples as part of “Sweet Saturdays,” an installment of the current “Chocolate: The Exhibition” traveling exhibit that has been housed at the museum since the summer.
“Roving with Perseverance” will be on display at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science through June 5, 2023.