A new Mars exhibit at the Carnegie Science Center examines the Red Planet

A new Mars exhibit at the Carnegie Science Center examines the Red Planet

PITTSBURGH — The late astronomer Carl Sagan once observed that “99 percent of our time on Earth we have been wanderers, and the next place to visit is Mars.”

It is probably inevitable that one day man will try to reach the red planet which rises in the skies more than 80 million kilometers away. It will be a huge undertaking, and that’s almost certainly an understatement – ​​it will take nine months to get there, and nine months to get back. For this investment of time, a crew would probably want to stay longer than a day or two. Establishing a permanent colony would be a colossal undertaking.

Today, traveling to Mars and settling there is still science fiction. But “Mars: The Next Giant Leap,” a new permanent exhibit at the Carnegie Science Center, asks visitors to think about what life on Mars would be like and how it allows us to think in new ways about how we live on Mars. Earth.

Jason Brown, director of the Science Center, said visitors “will be challenged to ask questions about what makes a community thrive, how our lives are shaped by our environments, and how exploring Mars will impact the life on Earth”. “Mars: The Next Giant Leap” was installed at the Science Center in a space that had been filled by “roboworld,” a robot exhibit that opened in 2009 and closed for the summer. At a cost of $4.4 million and occupying 7,400 square feet, “Mars: The Next Giant Leap” is one of the most ambitious undertakings the Science Center has undertaken.

Rich Fitzgerald, Allegheny County Executive, said at the expo’s opening last week, “Pittsburgh has always been a science community. We have always been at the forefront. »

At the heart of “Mars: The Next Giant Leap” is the question of how to build a civilization from scratch. And that’s what it would take if man managed to reach Mars and settle there. The planet may have been able to sustain life millions of years ago, but humans wouldn’t last long on Mars if they just fell out of spaceships and started wandering around. Mars’ atmosphere contains only a tiny amount of oxygen, there is no water on its surface, the average daytime temperature is a brutally cold 81 degrees below zero, and red dust swirls in the air, often during violent storms.

Gravity is one-third that of Earth, sunsets are blue and sunrises are pink, sound travels slower, and the smell of sulfur fills the air. And no, Amazon does not deliver there.

Thus, being a member of a pioneer colony on Mars would not be for the faint of heart. The number of people inside would be tiny, so everyone would have to get along, faults and all. You could never venture outside, so you would need virtual reality to change the scenery with virtual reality technology to avoid going crazy. But, the overriding concern would be the need to produce water, grow food, educate children, take care of health and medical needs, and establish governance and ground rules for living.

The exhibit features a “Martian Garden” that explores the ways food could be grown on Mars. It also examines how climates produce the conditions that cause life to be born or die. Visitors will also be able to control a Mars rover and learn how Pittsburgh companies are helping with space research. Settlers on Mars could not access fossil fuels, so they would have to find ways to generate power. The exhibition puts forward the idea that thinking about how to inhabit a world as hostile as Mars can make us think about sustainable ways of living on Earth – and prolonging the life of this planet.

“The next generation won’t even think of going to Mars,” Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey predicted at the opening of the exhibit. “Pittsburgh will be the next city to help us get to Mars.”

More information on “Mars: The Next Giant Leap” is available at carnegiesciencecenter.org/exhibits/mars.

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