NASA’s Rover Curiosity to Land On Mars in Early August: Invite Your Community to Get Involved at Your Library!

On August 5/6 the biggest, heaviest, most advanced robot ever sent to another planet will land on Mars! The Mars Rover, “Curiosity,” with its onboard Mars Science Laboratory, will spend two years on our near neighbor, helping us to determine if Mars has—or ever had—places suitable for life.

Invite your patrons to follow Curiosity’s journey, beginning with the biggest challenge in robotic planetary exploration—landing on Mars! Historically, counting all missions by all countries, there has been about a 50 percent success rate at Mars—and the odds of successfully landing on Mars are only about one in three. Curiosity will enter the Martian atmosphere at 13,200 mph, and, a mere seven minutes later, it will be resting on the surface of Mars. Curiosity will use a new type of new landing system—a skycrane—to get to the surface.

Depending on where your library is, Curiosity will land either late in the evening on August 5, or early in the morning on August 6. Consider inviting your local astronomy club (you will not be able to see the landing with a telescope, but you may be able to see Mars!) and hosting a pajama landing party for your community. Or host programs after the event to invite your patrons to learn more about the Red Planet and our exploration and new discoveries. Several resources and programming ideas follow.


Host Hands-on Mars Programs

  • Explore Mars! Inside and Out
    Designed for children ages 8–13 and their families, Explore Mars! Inside and Out investigates how the features we observe on Mars formed, what’s happening inside Mars, and how the Red Planet has changed over time. and have changed over time. Resources include hands-on activities; background to support informal educators facilitating programs; and additional resources, including PowerPoint presentations from Mars scientists and recommended books and websites for further exploration by the children and their families.

  • Imagine Mars
    The Imagine Mars Project is a national arts, sciences, and technology education initiative that leads children or students to work together with scientists, engineers, artists, and civic leaders to design and share a futuristic Mars community for 100 people. Children or students explore their home community and decide what cultural, scientific and artistic elements are important to a community’s success. They discover the extreme martian environment and imagine what life might be like on the red planet. Finally, they create a project that artistically reflects their knowledge of Mars, understanding of community, and hopes for the future. Students share their finished project by posting it in the online gallery.

  • NOVA’s Finding Life Beyond Earth
    NOVA’s Finding Life Beyond Earth education collection includes an activity guide with seven hands-on activities and accompanying video excerpts from NOVA’s “Finding Life Beyond Earth” program. The activities and videos explore questions at the heart of the search for extraterrestrial life, such as “What is life?” and “Where do we find habitable conditions?” The resources enable educators to engage audiences and encourage a better understanding of the existence of life in our solar system.

Mars in Your Library—Programming Ideas

There are many ways you can celebrate the landing of Curiosity and the Mars Science Laboratory in your program.

  • Include Mars in your summer reading program—get a list of recommended books.

  • Have a Summer Science Bash. Invite families to explore Mars using some of the hands-on activities and resources presented above. Consider hosting the event on the weekend or an evening.

  • Create at Mars Summer Camp. Have a week of hands-on activities for tweens using the resources above. 

  • Get your community involved in a Mars exhibit. Use the Imagine Mars resources to invite your community to create their ideal community on Mars.

  • Invite your local Mars science or engineering expert to talk with your community. Consider a lecture for adults, or a more informal “question and answer” period with younger audiences. Contact your local university, college, or community college, or get in touch with your Solar System Ambassadors.

  • Host a Mars viewing event. Invite your local astronomical club or society to bring telescopes and co-host the event with you. You can find local clubs through Sky and Telescope or similar organizations . Be sure to ask your local club what objects will be visible in the sky as you plan your event.

  • Throw a Landing Party! Host an event for the landing of Curiosity and the Mars Science Laboratory. Project the landing events on a big screen, and incorporate some of the activities in the resources above into your landing party. Throw a pajama-and-popcorn party and invite the community!

Some Information About the Landing

  • When is the Curiosity Rover landing?
    Depending on your time zone, landing is either late on the evening of August 5 (10:31 p.m. Pacific, 11:31 p.m. Mountain) or early in the morning on August 6 (12:31 a.m. Central, 1:31 a.m. Eastern).

  • Where is the Curiosity Rover Landing?
    Near base of Mount Sharp inside Gale Crater (4.6 degrees south latitude, 137.4 degrees east longitude).

  • How far away is Mars from Earth on the day of landing?
    Earth-Mars distance on landing day: 154 million miles (248 million kilometers).

  • How long will it take to communicate with Curiosity?
    One-way radio transit time from Mars to Earth, on landing day is 13.8 minutes.

  • What is the total distance Curiosity has traveled to get to Mars?  
    About 352 million miles (567 million kilometers).

  • How long is Curiosity’s primary mission?
    One Martian year (98 weeks, or about two Earth years).

  • What are the expected temperatures at landing site during the primary mission?
    Minus 130 F to 32 F (minus 90 C to zero C).