The Exploring the Planets Gallery in the National Air and Space Museum’s National Mall Building recently underwent a major update to the section devoted to scientific exploration of Mars. This new exhibit features the results of the Mars Exploration Rovers, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Express, and other recent spacecraft that have revolutionized our ideas about the surface, atmosphere, ice deposits, and ancient water on the Red Planet.
Visitors will find fantastically detailed images of the surface taken from orbit by the HiRISE camera, a full-scale model of a Mars Exploration Rover, instruments used by the Viking spacecraft to make the first searches for life, views inside the polar caps provided by radar sensors, a watch that runs on “Martian time,” and a chunk of rock that landed in Antarctica after being blasted from the surface of Mars by an impact. The new exhibit puts all this information together to reveal Mars as a complex and still-puzzling world that holds valuable clues to the development of our own planet and those around other stars.
We welcome comments on the new exhibit. Please note that installation of a few items, such as the Mars rover model, have been delayed due to the weather-related problems at the Museum’s storage facility.
Bruce Campbell is a geologist in the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the National Air and Space Museum