2013 Science Festival is Manifestation of Curiosity - Scientists explore ‘Life in the Extreme’
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – From the darkest oceans to deep space, into the frigid ice caps and across blistering deserts, the 2013 Flagstaff Festival of Science will explore Life in the Extreme, Sept. 20 – 29, 2013. Leading the free 10-day adventure is planetary explorer and Mars rover boss Professor Steve Squyres.
With the most up-to-the-minute images and information from the nail-biting Mars rover missions and their extraordinary findings, this planetary geologist will set the pace as the Festival’s Shoemaker Keynote Presenter at 7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 20 in Northern Arizona University’s Ardrey Auditorium.
Like a New York City taxi driver, Steve Squyres’ and his team have maneuvered Spirit and Opportunity rovers through treacherous conditions. From millions of miles away and for thousands of sols (Martian days), scientists and engineers have helped the Mars Exploration Rovers dodge paralyzing sand traps, weather unearthly cold and persevere through fierce red planet dust storms in search of ancient environments that may have harbored Life in the Extreme. Spirit and Opportunity led the way for their much larger and far more capable cousin, Curiosity that landed and began exploring Mars last summer.
Ironically, curiosity is the reason Squyres became a planetary scientist and the latest rover, Curiosity, brings him to the forefront of space exploration today. “I’ve always wondered about how things work. That’s really what science is all about. The Mars rovers are helping us learn more about the origins of life!”
The Goldwin Smith Professor of Astronomy at Cornell University, Squyres first realized his career was written in the stars when he was an undergraduate student there. "I went into the place where they kept the pictures that the Viking orbiter was sending back from Mars at that time, and I started flipping through those pictures. I came out of that room four hours later knowing exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of time.”
Besides the robotic exploration of planetary surfaces, Squyres’ research includes the history of water on Mars; the possible existence and habitability of an ocean on one of Jupiter’s moons, Europa; the composition of icy satellites; and the tectonics of Venus.
Meantime, as Mars rovers continue to scoop up, sift and analyze Martian soil, the 2013 Flagstaff Festival of Science is preparing for an other worldly season with field trips, star parties, interactive exhibits, Science in the Park, science magic shows and presentations. In addition, the U.S. Geological Survey will be inviting festival participants to travel along its 50-year journey of astrogeology.
“Flagstaff has long held a critical role in our country’s successful space exploration program,” said USGS planetary geologist Dr. Kenneth Herkenhoff.
“Our scientists map the moon, Mars and other objects in our solar system and helped the Apollo astronauts train for their historic missions on the kind of volcanic terrain they could expect on their moon walks,” said USGS emeritus scientist Dr. Larry Soderblom.
“You can’t get a cup of coffee in Flagstaff without bumping into a scientist,” said National Public Radio ScienceFriday Host Ira Flato. The Festival will be featuring those world-class scientists, organizations and discoveries as lab doors and telescopes are opened for thousands during this free annual event.
Support from businesses, organizations and individuals makes the award-winning Flagstaff Festival of Science possible as the nation’s longest running science festival. Supernova Friends of the Festival include the City of Flagstaff BBB tax revenues, Flagstaff Cultural Partners, Northern Arizona University, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, the Flagstaff Community Foundation, W. L. Gore & Associates, Science Foundation Arizona and the Stardust Foundation.