The Loop Newspaper - Tehachapi's Online Community News & Entertainment Guide

By Mark Fisher

MarsFest 2018

Lost in the Stars


Mark Fisher

I'm planning to visit Mars the weekend of Feb. 23 to 25. Well, at least a reasonable facsimile. You see MarsFest 2018 is going to be taking place in Death Valley that weekend. I guess that Death Valley has a bit of similarity to Mars, though conditions are still very different. Death Valley, even in winter, is quite warm in comparison to Mars. The atmosphere's all wrong and there's all that life everywhere. But the terrain is fairly similar – rocky, sandy, hilly, and dry. So, Death Valley can stand in for Mars for some things. For a few years now, Death Valley has hosted a MarsFest where scientists and park staff can share with the public some information about both places.

Most of the activities are on Saturday, Feb. 24 with most of the activity happening around the Furnace Creek Visitor's Center. There will be an expo, some activities for children and a few field trips. One is taking place at Mars Hill which is a little bit away from Furnace Creek, and looks a lot like Mars. At this location they will be discussing how similar Mars and Death Valley really are.

A second field trip is to Badwater where they will discuss the microbes that call Badwater home. Given the level of saltiness those bacteria have to contend with, they certainly fit the profile of an extremophile; life that thrives in very harsh conditions. If we ever do find any life on Mars it will certainly have to be some kind of extremophile, too.

The Visitor Center will also have some evening night sky viewing just in case you didn't get your fill of astronomy at all the other events during the day. On Sunday, for those needing even more, there will be two field trips up to the Ubehebe Crater.

It will be some time before any of us will have a chance to take a quick trip over to Mars for a vacation, but all of us can head over for the next best thing, Death Valley.

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