Serving The Meteorite Community Since 2002

MarsFest 2017

 – Hosted by NASA & SETI Institute at the Furness Creek – Death Valley National Park, Visitors Center


Recently I was given an invite to be a presenter/volunteer at the SETI Institute’s “MarsFest 2017” program, and to man a public outreach booth displaying my Mojave Desert meteorites. There was a last minute opening when Dr. Peter Jenniskins (NASA-SETI) was unable to attend. At first there was very little in the way of promotion for this event online (other than prior years information pages), but eventually a Program Schedule was placed on the SETI Institute website.

Since “a picture is worth a thousand words”, I will save space here and direct the reader to here, the Program Schedule. [1]

While conducting public outreach and answering in-person questions about meteorites, I have to admit that I took great pleasure in asking people (especially kids) if they would like to hold a rock from Mars, and then watch their reaction. Without fail, the very first question would always be, “How do you know that it is from Mars?” Suffice to say, I found myself taking a great deal about Martian atmospheric gases and Viking Landers. And if you are not sure of the correct answer, now would be a good time to Google How do we know Martian meteorites are pieces from Mars?, and to revisit that IMCA website about “Martian meteorites“. [2]

No amount of words can convey the various reactions that I obsesrved from the visitors attending the MarsFest, as they viewed the displays and got to handle actual meteorites. It was a good thing that wife and I took so many images, because indeed, “a picture is worth a thousand words”.

And with that same thought in mind, here are our pictures from this event:

************************** Gallery of Images ***************************

We entered the National Park from the southeast by way of Shoshone and Death Valley Junction.

We had a spot reserved for us at the Texas Springs Campground and our Park fees were gratis.

The MarsFest has been held at the Furness Creek Visitor Center and supported by the NPS rangers for the past several years.

This was the high temperature on Friday, but on Saturday & Sunday it was 15 degrees higher.

An image of some of the “MarsFest 2017” exhibits.


Organizers for MarsFest: David Blacker (D.V. Nat. Hist. Assoc.), Rosalba Bonaccorsi (SETI – NASA Ames), keynote speaker Penny Boston (NASA Astrobiology Inst.), two presenters from Mars Society San Francisco, and Mike Reynolds (NPS).

The keynote speaker for Saturday was the renowned NASA Ames Research Center (ARC) scientist, Dr. Christopher McKay.

Dr. McKay stressed the importance of protecting Earth and its nearby environment.

An image of some of the “MarsFest 2017” exhibits.

An image of Monika Waiblinger viewing the Sun through a red filter.

Volunteers from NASA-ARC assisting David Blacker (D.V. Nat. Hist. Assoc.) at one of the “MarsFest 2017” exhibits.

University graduates (working for NASA-ARC) volunteer for public outreach at one of the “MarsFest 2017” exhibits.

Public outreach volunteers from NASA-ARC exhibiting the “minION” real-time DNA/RNA sequencer.

As opposed to waiting for return samples captured in aerogel, samples have their genome sequenced in realtime with “minION” technology immediately after vaporizing upon impact.

Three mineral specimens containing colonies of bacteria. The “minION” can sequence their genome in the field.

Monika Waiblinger describing how she found Sutter’s Mill #12 while a volunteer member of the “Search Team”.

A public outreach volunteer from the Mars Society (San Francisco) with test rovers used at the MDRS, Hanksville Utah desert.

An image of one of the “MarsFest 2017” exhibits. NPS Ranger Mathew Lamar asks visitors to examine pairs of photos and guess which one was taken on Mars and which one is the Death Valley analog.

NASA Education & Public Outreach (EPO) experts, Lora Bleacher (NASA-GSFC) and Andrea Jones (PSI/NASA-GSFC). While working at ASU, Lora was the classifier for the Sacramento Wash meteorites.

Michael Malaska and coworker from the SETI Institute demonstrating the ASD Inc. FieldSpec 4 at one of the “MarsFest 2017” exhibits.

Kids are encouraged to be very “hands-on” at many of the “MarsFest 2017” exhibits.

Curious youngster is shown the spectrum of the three “colored lights” that was mixed in the test unit at one of the SETI Institute “MarsFest 2017” exhibits.

An image of the ASD Inc. FieldSpec 4 High Resolution Spectroradiometer in action.

Spectra of the rock on the monitor for the FieldSpec 4 show an enrichment of specific rare earth elements (Dysprosium).

NASA’s plans for Mars in the year 2020.

Mars Society displays technological improvements withnext generation of tires for martian rovers at one of the “MarsFest 2017” exhibits.

More “hands-on” for kids at one of the “MarsFest 2017” exhibits. These are not toys, but actual engineering models.

Child runs her hand over the roughened exterior of a test-tire that has traveled 150km in the field at a test-site. (Displayed at one of the “MarsFest 2017” exhibits.)

The “Icebreaker Mission” display; one of the “MarsFest 2017” exhibits.

The “Icebreaker Mission” display; one of the “MarsFest 2017” exhibits.

The “Icebreaker Mission” display; one of the “MarsFest 2017” exhibits.

The “Icebreaker Mission” display; one of the “MarsFest 2017” exhibits.

NPS Ranger Michael Holmes describing the Mars-analogous rocks and terrain in the Death Valley at one of the “MarsFest 2017” exhibits.

Another image of the Mars Society display, one of the “MarsFest 2017” exhibits.

Moni making a new friend, a visitor to Death Valley from Florida in front of our Los Angeles Mars-rock display; one of the “MarsFest 2017” exhibits.

Myself answering questions about meteorites during our public outreach.

The author explaining to a family visiting from Bulgaria “how we know that the Los Angeles meteorite came from Mars”.


Programs for Children: Kids Corner with Rosalba Bonaccorsi (SETI Institute / NASA Ames Reserch Center).

Rosalba showing the kids how to crush a sample in a mortar & pestle and then to size-sort the specimen with the use of screens.

This particular Dinolite handheld microscope, courtesy of Jessica Snyder (of MIT), was used with the Children’s Programs.

It was also used by me to show close-up details of my meteorites. See here for example images of my “Los Angeles” Mars-rock meteorite.

This Dinolite handheld microscope is so intuitive even a child can use it.

And here is what the child sees. These are the mineral grains that were ground with the mortar and pestle.

Here I am explaining to Rosalba how we know that the Mars-rock she is holding actually came from Mars. Here is a Dinolite handheld microscope image of the bubbles that contained the Martian atmosphere within this Los Angeles meteorite.

An image of some of the “MarsFest 2017” exhibits. This was a 2-day event over the March 10-11-12th weekend

This image was taken as we were departing the MarsFest. On that day the temperature peaked at 107°F.

A view of a famous vista within Death Valley National Park known as “Zabriskie Point”.

Moni feels as if she has been teleported to the surface of Mars.

A very martian-looking landscape.

An analog landscape.

MarsFest 2017 was a success because that weekend there were hundreds of visitors to Death Valley that came through the Visitors Center and stopped by our exhibits. I am told that if you want to avoid the crowds, you should plan to visit DVNP in early November.

We are looking forward to attending next year’s “MarsFest 2018”!


[1] MarsFest 2017 Program Schedule

Additional Information:

>> MarsFest 2017

>> Download PDF of the Schedule

>> Download PDF of Map showing locations of each Event & Field Trip

[2] Dr. Tony Irving of the University of Washington (webpage), “Martian meteorites“., in
the IMCA website (updated 2017)
Which answers the question, “How do we know Martian meteorites are pieces from Mars?”

External links:

MarsFest 2017

The fifth Annual MarsFest in Death Valley: Linking Extremes of Earth and Space

(This website has links to a Photo Gallery for MarsFest 2016

MarsFest 2017 Organizing Committee:

David Blacker, Death Valley Natural History Association

Rosalba Bonaccorsi, SETI Institute Carl Sagan Center/NASA Ames Research Center

Lora Bleacher, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Andrea Jones, Planetary Science Institute/ NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

My previous Bob’s Findings can be found *HERE*

If you would like more information, then “Click” HERE.


bolidechaser at yahoo-dot-com


Meteorite Times Magazine Sponsors
Meteorite News
Meteorite Resources