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‘Summer of Mars’ kicks off at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

The “Summer of Mars” officially began this week at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

The summer-long campaign – designed to showcase the visitor complex’s myriad experiences and activities that focus on the future of space exploration and Mars missions – will provide guests with a front row seat to NASA’s journey to Mars. The program began with an event featuring Scott Kelly, the first NASA astronaut to complete a year-long space mission aboard the International Space Station.

The event also served as an introduction to the Mars rover concept vehicle – a 6,000-pound, nearly 11-foot tall vehicle that will be on display at the visitor complex through the end of June before going on a tour of the East Coast. It is currently scheduled to make stops in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., New York City and Jersey City, was commissioned as a traveling exhibit to inspire the public about space exploration and interplanetary travel.

The Mars rover vehicle will allow Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex to reach a new level of engagement with guests by bringing the future of space exploration to life. Visitors will be able to see the vehicle, learn about the materials used to build it, the custom features employed to accommodate the terrain and more, providing a greater context for the journey to Mars.

Built by Cape Canaveral-based Parker Brothers Concepts, with input from NASA-engineer science and specifications, the Mars rover seats four passengers and was built to handle the climate, conditions and environment on the Red Planet as they are currently understood. It is a dual-purpose vehicle that can be used as either a small scout vehicle or a full research laboratory and features carbon fiber accents, solar panels and 50-inch wheels that are specifically designed to let the fine sands of Mars slip through. It is powered by a 700-volt battery and is meant to travel over dunes, rocks, craters and hills at 2-4 mph. The Mars rover was created to be as realistic as possible for educational purposes, but won’t be making the trip to Mars.

The focus on Mars as the next space destination is incorporated as a theme throughout Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Activities with a Mars focus include the Journey To Mars: Explorers Wanted live theater and interactive experience; the Journey to Space 3D film in the IMAX® Theater; a special edition of Science on a Sphere – Red and Blue – about the Red Planet, a custom 3D Eyes on the Red Planet presentation highlighting the last two decades of our robotic exploration on Mars; and Cosmic Quest, an interactive game that includes missions to Mars like building a Mars habitat.

The culmination of the Summer of Mars campaign will be the opening of the new Astronaut Training Experience (ATX) center. Scheduled to open in fall 2017, it will offer an experience unlike anywhere else, and, along with the companion program Mars Base 1, will bring guests as close to training, living and working on the Red Planet as possible without leaving Earth.

In the ATX center, groups and individuals will experience astronaut using virtual reality and simulators. Guests can virtually land on Mars, walk on its surface, and drive on the rough terrain and experience microgravity, or they can spend the day working on Mars as a rookie astronaut on Mars Base 1. Guests will be transported to the Red Planet, dock with Mars Base 1 and work in the Plant Lab, operate robotics and solve engineering challenges – just like the astronauts who will one day travel to Mars.

As the next generation of space explorers, all fifth graders nationwide are invited to visit free with a full-admission-paying adult through December 31, 2017.

Learn more about Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s Summer of Mars.