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Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, May 18, 2000

To Mars!

Bishop Museum
Bishop Museum's new "To Mars!" exhibit will
have interactive displays.

Tapping into
mystery of Mars

By Burl Burlingame


MORE than a century ago, H.G. Wells scared the bejeez out of everyone with the first great science-fiction novel, "The War of the Worlds," in which Martians decide Earth is prime real estate.

Today, the lure of Mars and Martians is as potent as ever. From movies to novels to Websites to serious NASA mission planners, mankind is getting ready for the next space adventure, exploring Mars. This week, NASA announced the next mission to Mars, in 2003, will either be an orbiter mission or they'll land another rover, a large one this time.

The Bishop Museum's new show "To Mars!" taps into both the Mars of the imagination and the Mars of science. It opens today but the real premiere is all day Saturday, with demonstrations, the debut of a new planetarium show, Martian dances courtesy Hanahau'oli School, panel discussions with scientists and storytellers, performances by Jeff Gere, Jack Boyle and Steve Rosenthal, model-rocket launches, and a "Mars Lander" simulation contest in which protected -- or unprotected! -- eggs are dropped from a firetruck ladder.

Bishop Museum
Children from Hanahau'oli School test the Lego
Robotix hands-on display at the "To Mars!" exhibit
at Bishop Museum.

The theme of Mars exploration fits neatly into the Bishop Museum's goal of popularizing lifelong learning, particularly of the natural sciences. "Themes of future explorations are always going to be with us," said museum education specialist Kay Fullerton.

"To Mars" also has the input of local educators, and Fullerton particularly credits Hugh and Melissa Mosher of Hanahau'oli School, and particularly third-grader Dee Mosher. "That kid ... is a future engineer!" marveled Fullerton.

The exhibits are more hands-on than in the past, a result of kid influences. There will be more volunteers to help kids learn as well. (Interested in helping out? Call the Bishop Museum volunteer coordinator at 848-4180.)

Included are scales that give your weight on other planets -- you'll be pleased by Mars, horrified by Jupiter -- even though "we're actually talking mass, not weight," said science education specialist Laurel Miller. "We'll also have paint cans that supposedly contain the same amount of paint, but the Martian one will be lighter."

There's a 3-D map showing the relative sizes of the Hawaiian Islands and Mars' Olympus Mons volcano, the largest-known volcano in the solar system.

"Both Hawaii and Olympus Mons are shield volcanoes, but the Martian volcano is so much bigger because there are no plate tectonics on Mars like there are on Earth," said Fullerton. "It can keep growing in one spot."

"There's also a section on looking for life on Mars," said Miller. "The first step is figuring HOW to look in the first place! The answer to that is to look for signs of water, and there is evidence of water erosion everywhere on Mars."

There are a fair number of materials developed by NASA, including its "Windows on Mars" documentary, which compares the cultural and scientific views of the Red Planet. "Artists and scientists are more alike than people think," said Miller.

A key component of the exhibit is a set of build-it-yourself robots that have six axis of control. The system of snap-together parts, called Robotix, was developed by the Carnagie Science Center in conjunction with NASA's Mars-mission scenarios.

There are three basic questions addressed by the exhibit:

Bullet How do we explore Mars?
Bullet What is Mars like?
Bullet What do we imagine a future colony on Mars to be like?


Think about it a while. And you're not alone. Devising a Martian colony is an initiative right out of the White House science office, a joint effort with NASA and the National Endowment for the Arts.

"The idea is to think outside of the box," said Fullerton. "One of my favorite quotes I heard about this venture is that, in a Martian colony, the necessary must be beautiful and the beautiful must be necessary."

In the meantime, think about this. NASA searched all over the Earth for soil that matched the soil of Mars, in texture, color, PH, moisture, everything that makes Mars Mars. And they found it in Hawaii, on the Big Island's Saddle Road.

"To Mars" runs through Dec. 3.

On View

Bullet What: "To Mars!" exhibition
Bullet Where: Bishop Museum
Bullet When: On view today through Dec. 3. The formal opening takes place 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
Bullet Cost: Non-resident admission is $14.95; $11.95 admission for non-resident children ages 4 to 14. Hawaii-resident, military and seniors admission is $7.95; $6.95 admission for resident children 4 to 14. Museum members admitted free.
Bullet Call: 847-3511

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