Marsfest 2016 Program Schedule

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Time Information
7:30 pm
  • Location: Auditorium
  • Event: An Alien Environment: Are We on Another Planet? (Speaker: Carrie Hearn/NPS)
    Come and hear about Death Valley’s extremes from a fantasy and science perspective! Why would scenes from Star Wars be filmed in Death Valley? And, why exactly, is NASA/JPL/SETI so fascinated with this beautiful, yet strange environment?  Listen and see a Ranger’s perspective of an alien environment.
  • Presenter: Ranger Carrie Hearn

Friday, April 8, 2016

Time Information
10:00 am - 12:00 pm
  • Location: Furnace Creek Visitor Center Auditorium
  • Event: Introductory Talks
  • Subject: Learn about the event and pick up a schedule
  • Presenter: National Park Service Event Staff
4:00 pm - 4:30 pm
  • Location: Furnace Creek Visitor Center Auditorium
  • Event: Welcome Speeches
  • Subject: Kicking off the first night of the event
  • Presenter: Park Superintendent Mike Reynolds and SETI President Bill Diamond
5:15 pm - 5:45 pm
  • Location: Furnace Creek Visitor Center Auditorium
  • Event: Highlight Speech
  • Subject: A Cosmic Perspective: Searching for Aliens, Finding Ourselves
    Are we alone? Humans have been asking this question throughout history.  We want to know where we came from, how we fit into the cosmos, and where we are going.  We want to know whether there is life beyond the Earth and whether any of it is intelligent.  Since the middle of the twentieth century we have had tools that permit us to embark on a scientific exploration to try to answer this old question.  We no longer have to ask the priests and philosophers what we should believe about extraterrestrial life; we can explore and discover what’s actually out there.

    Our tools are getting ever better.  We have discovered extremophiles in the most unexpected places on this planet and we have discovered that there really are far more planets than stars out there.  We haven’t yet found life beyond Earth yet, but there is a vast amount of potentially-habitable real estate to explore. The 21st century will be the century in which we will find some answers. As we look up and look out, we are forced to see ourselves from a cosmic perspective; a perspective that shows us as all the same, all Earthlings.  This perspective is fundamental to finding a way to sustain life on Earth for the long future.

  • Presenter: Dr. Jill Tarter
5:45 pm - 7:00 pm
  • Location: Furnace Creek Visitor Center Auditorium
  • Event: Planetary Radio
  • Subject: The Wonder of the Cosmos
    I’ll moderate a conversation with Jill Tarter and Tyler Nordgren about their work, with echoes of their presentations earlier in the day.  But we’ll also talk about the sense of wonder and amazement that helps drive their work, and why want to share it with others.
  • Presenter: Mat Kaplan with Dr. Tyler
    Nordgren and Dr. Jill Tarter
7:45 - 9:15pm
  • Location: Behind Furnace Creek Visitor Center
  • Event: Night Sky Program
  • Star Tours and Insight from scientists
  • Rangers; Jill Tarter, and Brian Day

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Time Information
8:30 - 9:15 am
  • Location: Mesquite Sand Dunes
  • Event: Field Trip
  • Subject: The Curiosity Rover in the Bagnols Dunes, Mars: Are the Mesquite Dunes a Good Mars Analog?
    We’ll head out to Mesquite Dunes and discuss the Bagnold Dunes on Mars, where the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover has been carrying our investigations since November, 2015.   We’ll talk about the source of sand at Mesquite and on Mars, and how and why the composition of Martian sand is unique.  We’ll discuss the interactions of wind and topography to form permanent sand traps, and look at the similarities and differences between Mesquite and Bagnold.  We’ll also talk a bit about why dunes are so common on Earth, Mars, Titan, and even the surface of comets.  And finally we’ll look into the old surfaces that the dunes are sitting on, and what that can tell us about the history of our sites. Testing of the 1976 Viking Landers at Mars Hill: Alluvial Fans and Ventifacts
    We’ll look at the planned Viking landing sites, show how the alluvial fans on the east side of Badwater Basin share origins.  Then we’ll look at the rocks on top of Mars Hill, explain the size distribution of the rocks, and why it was so important to understand that when planning Viking and subsequent missions, and finally examine the ventifacts on the surface of the fan as an analog for physical weathering in places, like Death Valley and Mars, where liquid water is very scarce, but wind and sand are plentiful.
  • Presenter: Dr. Aaron Zent
9:00 am -1:00 pm
  • Location: Furnace Creek Visitor Center Lawn and Patio
  • Event: EXPO
  • Subject: Day Expo - Booths with hands on activities and information
  • Rangers, NASA, SETI, and many more!
9:30 - 10:15 am
  • Location: Furnace Creek Visitor Center — Auditorium
  • Event: Presentation
  • Subject: Exploring Other Worlds with New Online Tools from NASA
  • Presenter: Brian Day
10:00 - 10:45 am
  • Location: Badwater
  • Event: Field Trip
  • Subject:The Life and Times of Badwater Microbes
    Many areas of Death Valley have groundwater springs that rise at the edges of the salt pan. The resulting salts are called evaporites and these evaporites are inhabited by a variety of different microbial communities. Within these evaporites, the communities find protection from harsh light and fluctuating water levels and, in turn, affect the mineralogy of the salts they inhabit. These endoevaporitic microbial communities are analogues for possible life forms in the evaporites of Mars, and are being studied in order to define what needs life has in an evaporitic environment. We will be touring a number of pools at Badwater. These pools are within hundreds of meters of each other, yet they have differing chemical compositions. We will see different types of microbial communities in these pools and the minerals they produce. If you have a magnifying glass, you may wish to bring it.
  • Presenter: Dr. Susanne Douglas
10:30 - 11:10 am
  • Location: Furnace Creek Visitor Center — Auditorium
  • Event: Presentation
  • Subject: Molecular Fossil Preservation in the Driest Place on Earth & Lessons for Mars
    Mary Beth will talk about her work in the driest region in the Atacama Desert researching how organic molecules from life are preserved over millions of years and the implications for looking for evidence of life on Mars.
  • Presenter: Mary Beth Wilhelm
10:45 - 11:30 am
  • Location: Badwater: Weather Station
  • Event: Field Trip
  • Subject: Mars Climate: Death Valley as an Analog Site
    The current paradigm of the climate of Mars 3.5-4.1 billion years ago is that it may have been warm and wet, with an active hydrological cycle of rainfall and runoff. Such conditions are favorable for the origin of life. But was it really warm and wet? Instead, I will argue that a more likely scenario is that early Mars was cold and wet and that rainfall was sparse - just as it is in Death Valley. While this makes it more difficult for life to get started on early Mars, it does not rule it out.

    Climate change research by NASA Ames has occurred at Badwater Basin for a decade. This extreme environment, along with other research locations, helps provide scientific evidence of climate change and temperature extremes. During this trip, we will visit the NASA Ames weather stations at Badwater and see how a rain gauge can help us measuring rainstorms. The discussion will cover what the implications and applications of this research are for environmental, astrobiological, and comparative planetary studies.

  • Presenter: Dr. Robert Haberle and Dr. Rosalba Bonaccorsi
11:15 - Noon
  • Location: Furnace Creek Visitor Center — Auditorium
  • Event: Presentation
  • Subject: Behind-the-Scenes-Stories of Building a Science Lab for Mars
    The Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover is a geochemist — she is a geologist, chemist, and physicist all rolled into one. SAM is the science lab on Curiosity that makes it possible for Curiosity to be a geochemist. SAM was built at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. SAM is probably the most complex lab ever built, now on surface on another planet. Its complexity is what makes it so valuable: it is versatile and can detect the different components of the rocks and the atmosphere. A lab like SAM would fill a room on earth, but SAM was miniaturized to the size of a microwave oven. We had fun building SAM — for example, in the process of testing SAM, we discovered SAM could sing. Come listen to how engineers have fun working and building SAM.
  • Presenter: Dr. Florence Tan
11:45 am - 12:30 pm
  • Location: Mars Hill (near Artist’s Drive exit)
  • Event: Field Trip
  • Subject: Testing of the 1976 Viking Landers at Mars Hill: Alluvial Fans and Ventifacts
  • Presenter: Dr.Aaron Zent
12:15 - 12:45 pm
  • Location: Furnace Creek Visitor Center - Auditorium
  • Event: Presentation
  • Subject: QUEST! The science of the SETI Institute and the search for life beyond Earth
  • Presenter: Bill Diamond
1:00 - 1:45 pm
  • Location: Furnace Creek Visitor Center - Auditorium
  • Event: Presentation
  • Subject: Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Habitability of Extremely Dry Environments
    We will revisit the ecological changes observed in the driest regions of the Earth in response to water deficit. We will see how microbial ecosystems change with increasing dryness from widespread soil communities to localized lithic (rock) communities and finally to communities exclusively found in hygroscopic substrates (salts), reflecting the need for organisms to maximize access to water. Based on these trends we will reconstruct the most likely sequence of events leading to a late extinction of land communities on Mars, if life ever evolved on the planet.   
  • Presenter: Dr. Alfonso Davila
1:50 - 2:25 pm
  • Location: Furnace Creek Visitor Center - Auditorium
  • Event: Presentation
  • Subject: Safeguarding Special Places on Earth & Beyond
    Centuries ago, explorers and adventurers didn't think twice about desecrating a sacred or historical site-- and artifacts of all types were routinely removed as souvenirs or museum pieces. In contrast, today's visitors are reminded about the importance of preserving and protecting special environments, locations and cultural sites. What can we learn from current approaches for safeguarding special places on Earth-- and how do we apply them to locations on other planets?  Compare your ideas with two recent NASA reports-- one on how to preserve and protect human heritage sites on the Moon, and the other on planning human missions to Mars. The suggested guidelines may surprise you.
  • Presenter: Dr.Margaret Race
2:00 - 3:00 pm
  • Location: Furnace Creek Visitor Center
  • Event: Presentation
  • Subject: Hands On Activity for Children
  • Presenter: Andrea Jones, Lora Bleacher, Ranger Carrie Hearn
2:35 - 3:20 pm
  • Location: Furnace Creek Visitor Center — MPR
  • Event: Presentation
  • Subject: SHERLOC on Mars 2020: Building and testing an instrument to go to Mars
    We are currently in development of an instrument named SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments for Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals) , that will be part of the Mars 2020 mission. My talk will focus on the development of that instrument including what SHERLOC measures. Additionally, a large portion of the talk will be focused on how we developed the concept by using it in the field in the regions around Death Valley park.
  • Presenter: Dr. Luther Beegle
3:30 - 5:00 pm
  • Location: Furnace Creek Visitor Center - Auditorium
  • Event: Panel Discussion
  • Subject: “Unimpaired for Future Generations”: Preservation and protection of National Parks and analog sites and other celestial bodies during robotic and human exploration
  • Presenter: Brian Day, Ranger Josh Hoines, Dr. Margaret Race, Dr. Alfonso Davila
6:00 - 6:45 pm
  • Location: Furnace Creek Visitor Center - Auditorium
  • Event: Highlight Speech
  • Subject: Life in Extreme Environments?: Enceladus and Europa
    The other worlds of our Solar System are inhospitable compared to Earth. But perhaps life can be found there even in the extreme environments. Studies of life in extreme environments on Earth provide a useful analog. The primary targets are Enceladus - a moon of Saturn, Mars, and Europa - a moon of Jupiter.
  • Presenter: Dr. Chris Mckay
7:00 - 7:45 pm
  • Location: Furnace Creek Campground Campfire
  • Event: Campfire Presentation
  • Subject: The Timbisha Shoshone’s Connection to Death Valley
  • Presenter: Barbara Durham
7:45 pm
  • Location: Furnace Creek Driving Range (Golf Course)
  • Event: EXPO
  • Subject: Night Sky Expo - Stargazing with astronomical societies and Rangers, telescope viewing, and scientist Q&A
  • Rangers, astronomical societies, NASA, SETI

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Time Information
9:00 am - Noon
  • Location: Furnace Creek Visitor Center Lawn and Patio
  • Event: EXPO
  • Subject: Day Expo - Booths with hands on activities and information *Only select booths will be open
  • Presenter: Rangers, NASA, SETI, and more!
9:30 - 10:15 am
  • Location: Furnace Creek Visitor Center — Auditorium
  • Event: Presentation
  • Subject: Sniffing the Air and Tasting the Rocks at Gale Crater on Mars
    The Curiosity Rover on Mars is the most scientifically sophisticated rover sent to Mars.  There are 17 cameras and 11 different scientific instruments on board Curiosity, and one of these instruments is the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite.  SAM is a miniaturized, very complex chemistry lab that can determine the chemical composition of the air and the rocks.  During the 3 years SAM has been operating on Mars, it has made some exciting discoveries.  In this presentation, you’ll hear about some of the discoveries and learn how SAM is able to make these measurements.
  • Presenter: Dr. Heidi Manning
9:30 - 10:30 am
  • Location: Ubehebe Crater
  • Event: Field Trip
  • Subject: Making Ubehebe work for Mars: a Journey into the Crater
    During this guided walk we will descend into the Ubehebe Crater to check out some of its Gale Crater-like features. We will explore the young clay-rich pond deposits (sandstone and claystone) similar to those being investigated by Curiosity at Gale Crater, discuss their origin, and then explore the ancient sediment of the crater wall.
    In partnership with Death Valley National Park Resource Management, we have been monitoring the crater floor, which is a valuable natural laboratory. Here, we can test observation-based hypotheses on the origin and distribution of sediments and minerals also seen or expected on Mars. This research benefits the planetary sciences and also provides a better understanding of the geology of the Park.
  • Presenter: Dr. Rosabla Bonaccorsi, Dr. Robert Haberle
10:30 - 11:15 am
  • Location: Furnace Creek Visitor Center - Auditorium
  • Event: Presentation
  • Subject: Discussion of Moon formation theories and tour of features on the Moon through LROC imagery
    Discussion of Moon formation theories as well as taking a tour of near and far side features on the Moon through LROC imagery.
  • Presenter: Ernest Cisneros
10:35 - 11:20 am
  • Location: Ubehebe Crater
  • Event: Field Trip
  • News and Views About the Ubehebe Volcanic Field
    During this guided walk to the Little Hebe Crater, we will have an overview of the Ubehebe Volcanic Field, a place of breath-taking beauty also sacred to the Timbisha Shoshone tribe.

    The Ubehebe Volcanic Field includes a dozen craters formed by steam explosions during the last few thousand years. The craters can serve as analogs for upcoming astrobiology-driven missions at several Martian sites, including the Gale Crate, where Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity rover landed in August 2012. The terrain of the Ubehebe Volcanic Field presents a variety of geologic environments, from volcanic ashes to coarse-grained river stones, and clay-bearing lake deposits (sandstone and claystone) similar to those being investigated by Curiosity at Gale Crater. With precipitation patterns in Death Valley perhaps similar to a “warmer and wetter” early Mars, and a similar variety of minerals and sediment present, the Ubehebe Volcanic Field offers an ideal test site for formulating hypotheses about the potential of minerals, rocks, and sediment to support microbial life in dry, hot deserts on Earth, and possibly, on Mars.

  • Presenters: Dr. Rosabla Bonaccorsi, Dr. Robert Haberle
11:00 am - Noon
  • Location: Furnace Creek Visitor Center
  • Event: Kid’s Program
  • Subject: Hands-on Children’s Activity
  • Andrea Jones and Lora Bleacher

* For more Information: Please check Additional Information at the right column.