A robot's 'life on Mars' the topic of free lecture

This artist concept depicts Curiosity, NASA’s next Mars rover, which is scheduled to launch this fall. NASA engineer Wayne Zimmerman will preview its mission and discuss previous Mars rovers at a free lecture at Lake Erie Nature & Science Center on August 25.

Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech

It’s been nearly 50 years since we got our first close-up look at our next-door neighbor, the planet Mars, courtesy of NASA’s Mariner 4 spacecraft.

Thanks to numerous Mars orbiters and landers, a wealth of glorious images of the Red Planet have made the 35-million-plus-mile journey back to Earth, eagerly awaited by scientists and laypeople alike who yearn for more than a birds-eye view of a truly alien world.

Lake Erie Nature & Science Center will explore NASA's robotic missions during “A Mars Odyssey,” a free lecture on Thursday, August 25 at 7 p.m.

Attendees will be treated to an overview of the robotic Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity as well as a recap of the Phoenix Mars Lander mission and a preview of Curiosity, NASA’s next Martian Rover, launching later this year.

This FREE lecture is presented by Wayne Zimmerman, Chief Engineer for the Instruments and Science Data Systems Division at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology. Mr. Zimmerman is one of a handful of research engineers who fathered the development of the current advanced robotic systems like rovers and robotic arms that now roam and sample distant planets like Mars. 

Within the past 15 years, robots have played a tremendous role in our further exploration of Mars. Martian Rovers have provided tantalizing glimpses of the rocky red surface and attempted to answer the elusive question, “Is there life on Mars?”

Even though we haven’t come close to finding a definitive answer to that question, NASA’s various missions have proved that Mars is more like our own home planet, Earth, than anywhere else in the solar system. Recent exploration has attempted to prove that, like our homeworld, there is liquid water on Mars. Even though there is plenty of ice on the frozen Red Planet, it wasn’t until this year that NASA received data to suggest that water actually flows across the Martian surface. These results are the closest scientists have yet to come to finding evidence of liquid water on the planet's surface.

A Q&A session will follow in which Mr. Zimmerman, a former Northeast Ohio resident, will share insights into his 30-year career in robotic engineering.

Lake Erie Nature & Science Center is located at 28728 Wolf Rd. in Bay Village.

For more information, visit www.lensc.org or call 440-871-2900.

Frank Colosimo

Frank A Colosimo is Visitor Experience & Communications Coordinator at Lake Erie Nature & Science Center.

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Volume 3, Issue 17, Posted 3:07 PM, 08.23.2011