Death Valley National Park encompasses some of the most extreme environments on the planet. For decades, planetary scientists have come here for research and instrument testing.
The first ever Death Valley National Park planetary analog festival, titled the Mars and the Mojave Festival – Exploring Extremes on Earth and Beyond was held March 9-11, 2012 and featured scientist and National Park Service interpreter-guided field trips to analog sites, evening keynote speakers and panels, star-gazing, and an al fresco expo including mini-rover demonstrations and a 1/10th-scale model of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover.
Representatives and investigators from Ames Research Center and other NASA centers, and universities conducting work in the field presented results from their projects to the public.
The event was co-sponsored by NASA Ames Research Center, the Death Valley National Park, the SAM Team (Sample Analysis at Mars) at NASA Goddard, and the SETI Institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.)
One of the goals of the Festival was to raise public awareness about planetary analog and astrobiology research taking place on Earth, as well their relevance to planetary missions, including the Mars Science Laboratory. The$2.6 billion Curiosity rover was successfully launched November 26, 2011 and made its dramatic arrival on Martian terrain Aug. 5, 2012 to help determine if the red planet has ever supported, or can currently sustain, any life, as we know it, or sometime during its past.
Death Valley National Park boasts several planetary analog research sites within its boundaries and park staff were excited to share with visitors this little known, but extremely important, use of our public lands.
In 2013 the Mars and the Mojave Festival was renamed MarsFest and was again held in Death Valley National Park on March 1 to March 3, 2013.