The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

88° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “This year, the UA went Mars-crazy”

    Peter Smith, senior research scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and principal investigator for the Phoenix Mars Mission, shows off a scale-model of the Mars Lander to Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano in the Phoenix Mars Mission Science Operation Center Feb. 13.
    Peter Smith, senior research scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and principal investigator for the Phoenix Mars Mission, shows off a scale-model of the Mars Lander to Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano in the Phoenix Mars Mission Science Operation Center Feb. 13.

    Unless you’ve been asleep this past year, you know the UA is leading a mission to Mars.

    Even if you were not a science junkie, it’d be hard to miss the tidal wave of Mars-themed events and changes all over the university this year.

    Tributes in the Student Union Memorial Center included the dedication of the Alumni Study Lounge to the Mars Lander, featuring large-scale images of Mars from the UA’s HiRISE camera.

    It was also hard to miss the LCD countdown clock affixed to the wall on the west side of the Student Union Memorial Center, near the fountain by the UofA Bookstore. It has been ticking down the days and minutes until the landing since Oct. 19.

    Phoenix Mars Mission logos have donned everything from the cover of the UA’s staff directory to T-shirts and merchandise sold in the UofA Bookstore.

    The UA also paid some artistic homage to the landing, including the “”Exploring New Frontiers”” theme for Homecoming, the recent “”Mars and Other Stories”” art and dance tribute, and the Pride of Arizona marching band’s space-themed show during halftime of the Sept. 15 home football game.

    “”Oh, the alien drum line! That is the best thing I ever saw from the U of A marching band,”” said Peter Smith, principal investigator of the Phoenix Mars Mission and a senior research scientist at the UA’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.

    Smith said he and his peers worked with the art and dance departments, among others, to proliferate a Mars theme this year.

    “”We’re doing all kinds of neat things,”” he said. “”It is a university-wide endeavor.””

    Though there is much optimism and excitement surrounding the projected May 25 landing, there are also feelings of concern.

    “”I have definite feelings of excitement and caution,”” UA President Robert Shelton wrote about the landing in an e-mail. “”Recently, NASA has been successful in three of the last four missions, so that is a positive trend. Nevertheless, this is an extremely difficult task. So, I’m excited, but a bit on edge as well.””

    Smith said he believes the mission will do great things as far as attracting new students and highly skilled professors to the UA.

    “”This mission gives the UA an opportunity to publicize its academic programs to the nation and the world,”” Shelton said. “”The international press will be in Tucson and we intend to give them a full range of the UA and its very best academic programs.””

    The UA will be hosting one last Mars-themed hurrah with a public event on the UA Mall where people can watch the landing live May 25 starting at 3 p.m.

    More to Discover
    Activate Search