Planet B

On August 5 the Curiosity rover, NASA's latest science lab on wheels, is scheduled to land on the surface of Mars. Featuring an extendable robotic arm and ChemCam, a laser instrument used to vaporize rock and soil samples, it's fair to say that Curiosity is an impressive piece of machinery. Unfortunately for us layfolk, we can't just walk on down to the Apple Store and try out our own sleekly designed iRover 4GS (so much faster than our old one!). But, thanks to the folks over at the Exploratorium, we can experience the next best thing -- a full-scale replica of Curiosity. The replica is just one part of the museum's Return to Mars program, which starts Aug 1. The exhibit boasts six weeks of special programming, featuring Red Planet pros and all around smart hosts Paul Doherty, Ron Hipschman, and Robyn Higdon. Plus, behind-the-scenes interviews with scientists and engineers, and webcasts about rover technology and extremophiles (organisms that live in extreme settings like Antarctica). Once it lands, the museum's large monitors will showcase daily pictures from Mars, which is all we can hope for until Curiosity joins Instagram. Get on that, NASA; it's not rocket science.
Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m. Starts: Aug. 1. Continues through Sept. 16, 2012

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