Walk on Mars Goes to Houston

Updated: Apr 5, 2018

The Walk on Mars map took its first interstate trip to Houston, TX for the 49th annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference!

The annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) in Houston, TX (well, technically, The Woodlands, TX) is one of the largest planetary science conferences in the world, and is a major venue for announcing and discussing the latest advancements in Mars exploration and science. Thanks to the LPSC Organizing Committee, we were able to roll out the map on Wednesday evening and share it with the Mars science community!

Getting the Map to Houston

To our surprise, the LPSC Organizing Committee was more than happy to give us enough space to display the map. But that meant we had to get all 280 lbs of Mars map all the way from Tempe, AZ to The Woodlands, TX! We didn't have enough time to build a shipping crate for the map and the cardboard box it came in was already starting to show some wear, so we decided to load the map into an SUV and drive it to Texas ourselves. A short 18 hour drive later and we arrived in The Woodlands!

Unrolling Mars

As soon as the science talks ended on Wednesday evening, LPSC volunteers began shooing people out of the two largest rooms in the conference center so we could start setting up. While the hotel staff began collapsing the temporary wall between the two rooms and removing hundreds of chairs, we heaved the map out of the car and carefully rolled it into the now-empty ballroom. With a small group of volunteers from ASU and JPL, we managed to unroll the map and flatten it out in less than 15 minutes!

Watching Scientists Play on the Map

So many scientists came to see the map that we lost count, but it was somewhere between 300 and 400 people. As expected, many people came in and went straight to the areas they've studied, so they could get a selfie with their favorite part of Mars. But the scientists got creative while walking around Mars and before long a game of Martian geomorphology twister broke out near Valles Marineris!

The Start of #walkonmars

We were so busy making all the arrangements for displaying the map at LPSC that it never occurred to us that we should advertise a hashtag for people to use when posting pictures of themselves on the map. But luckily, someone started it for us! Search for #walkonmars to view pictures from LPSC and all of our future events!

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The 2001 Mars Odyssey spacecraft and the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) have been acquiring infrared images of Mars for more than 16 years. The best-quality images from the mission have been compiled into a global mosaic at 100 m/pixel resolution and printed on a walkable basketball-court-sized vinyl mat to spread awareness and excitement about Mars exploration!

Homepage Background Image: Full-disk image of Mars with the Tharis volcanoes in the west and Valles Marineris in the east from the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) Mars Color Camera (MCC). Image courtesy of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), the Indian Space Science Data Center (ISSDC) and Emily Lakdawalla.