By Jessica Tuggle
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY - Children have held the market on curiosity for generations, but a NASA rover on Mars is looking to take that spot.
On Aug. 6 at 10:30 a.m., the Indian River County Main Library and the Treasure Coast Astronomical Society will present "Curious about Curiosity: A Celebration of Mars Exploration." The event will take place at the Richardson Center on Indian River State College's Mueller campus in Vero Beach.
Throughout the summer, the children's department of the library has offered the Florida Library Youth Program to area elementary-age students, which includes a science-focused curriculum on Mars and space exploration.
The day will be particularly auspicious because it is the morning NASA's Curiosity rover is scheduled to land on the surface of Mars after an eight month journey from Earth, said Patti Fuchs, children's librarian and event coordinator.
"The point is to get the next generation excited about space travel and space exploration, particularly inter-planetary travel," Ms. Fuchs said.
The entire community is welcome to come to the free event at the Richardson Center, she said.
The Treasure Coast Astronomical Society will be providing two types of solar telescopes for participants to use during the event, as well as sharing a presentation about space exploration, Ms. Fuchs said.
Lee Tinker, outreach coordinator for the society, said his organization often educates the public on space topics.
He said their members are all volunteers and amateur astronomists, ranging from college students to retirees.
The solarscopes will allow people to view the sun, sunspots and other solar activity without causing any harm to the human eye because it blocks out the harmful sections of the electromagnetic spectrum, Mr. Tinker said.
The Curiosity is the largest rover ever sent to the surface of Mars, about comparable to the size of a compact car, Ms. Fuchs said.
For 23 months, it will explore the surface of Mars gathering samples drilled from rocks or scooped from the ground and analyzing data from the specimens, a NASA fact sheet said.
The overall mission is to learn if Mars has ever had, or still has, environmental conditions favorable for habitation by microbial life.
The Curiosity, like other Martian rovers, will search for evidence of water on the planet's surface, Ms. Fuchs said.
When the rover lands on Mars, it will have to go from moving at speeds of about 13,000 miles per hour to zero miles per hour in 7 minutes.
The NASA website has multimedia outlining how the process should work once the rover is in the Martian atmosphere.
"It's unreal," Ms. Fuchs said.
During the event, children participating will share what they have learned and attendees will be invited to work on space-themed crafts, she said.
Should NASA have video feeds of the rover, those clips would also be shared with event participants, Ms. Fuchs said.
For more information about library programs and events, visit www.irclibrary.org.