Join us for MarsFest, February 23 - 25, 2018

The fifth Annual MarsFest in Death Valley: Linking Extremes of Earth and Space

We are excited to announce the Fifth annual MarsFest in Death Valley National Park, on February 23rd, 24th, and 25th, 2018!

Registration is FREE! - NOW

There are very few places in the world where the extreme environments of our planet can offer a look into what may be possible in our Solar System and beyond.

Death Valley National Park hosts several planetary analog research sites within its rugged and otherworldly terrain and plays an important role in contributing to the scientific community preparing for the robotic and the human exploration of Mars. We are truly excited to share this little known, but extremely important, use of our public land.

Death Valley 2016Icebreaker Lander to seek life hiding beneath the frozen surface of Mars. The demonstration was held at the Park Ranger HQ  (Photo Credit: SETI Institute)

The SETI Institute, Death Valley Natural History Association, NASA Ames Research Center, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory), NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI), and Death Valley National Park Service are proud to collaborate this year to again to craft a new MarsFest event! 

The goal of MarsFest is to offer the public the opportunity to learn more about our planet and the Solar System, and how that knowledge helps us plan for the robotic and human exploration beyond Earth and associated missions in space such as MSL and the upcoming Mars 2020 Missions.

Visitors of all ages are invited to MarsFest 2018. The festival will be opened by a keynote speaker Luther Beegle (JPL) at the Park’s Furnace Creek Visitor Center. Furthermore, MarsFest will feature scientist-led field trips to analog sites such as Badwater Basin, Ubehebe Volcanic Field, and Mesquite Sand Dunes Flat. 

Rosalba Bonaccorsi celebrating after MarsFest. Badwater salt flat field site as seen from Dantes's view,  (Photo Credit: Conor Schaefer) 

Saturday and Sunday, the Park will host an Exposition including family-friendly and hands-on activities - such as mini-rover and NASA payload demonstrations - led by scientists from several research organizations and universities. A night sky event will be held on Saturday night.

Awesome postdocs & young scientists staffing EXPO booths of NASA Ames & SETI Institute. (Credit: David Blacker, DVNHA)

The first five MarsFest weekends, held in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2017 as well as the MarsFest Symposium, in 2016, were extraordinarily successful thanks to the dedication of Park personnel, the SETI Institute, and NASA Centers, with key support from the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Education and Public Outreach Team. The events were also so well received by participating scientists, park staff, and the general public that they have set the stage for MarsFest 2018.

In addition to NASA, support for the festival comes from several senior and junior scientists, students, education and outreach professionals, astronomy club members, and planetary science enthusiasts (e.g., The Mars Society and The Planetary Society), who volunteer to share their time, resources, and knowledge with visitors.

Saturday Keynote speaker Chris McKay (Photo Credit: David Blacker, DVNHA)

In 2017, the MarsFest drew in over 2,000+ visitors during the first 2 days. More than 50 volunteers from the Bay Area and Southern California were involved to operate booths and lead public events.

Last year Death Valley Natural History Association Director David Blacker, together with Park’s Superintendent Mike Reynolds, opened the event on Friday night. NASA Astrobiology Institute Director Penelope Boston delivered a Keynote talk about the astrobiological relevance of cave environments on Earth and Mars. NASA Ames engineer David Willson gave demonstrations of the Mars Icebreaker payload mock-up over the entire weekend. On Saturday afternoon, Margaret Race (SETI Institute), Penelope Boston (NAI) and Rosalba Bonaccorsi (SETI Institute) contributed to a panel on the protection of National Parks, analog sites, and other celestial bodies during robotic and human exploration. In the evening NASA Ames' Planetary Scientist Christopher McKay unveiled NASA's 2050 Vision to the public. Over 150 visitors attended the event.

Evening Panel with Penny Boston (NAI), Margaret Race & Rosalba Bonaccorsi (SETI Institute) sharing with the public their core values about Planetary Protection and protecting life on all planets. (Photo Credit: David Blacker, DVNHA)

2017 Marsfest was sponsored by:

- The NASA Astrobiology Institute

- Farabee's Jeep Rental supported our field trips during the event

Photo credit: Carol Stocker


MarsFest 2018 Organizing Committee:

David Blacker, Death Valley Natural History Association

Rosalba Bonaccorsi, SETI Institute Carl Sagan Center/NASA Ames Research Center

Andrea Jones, Planetary Science Institute/ NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

MarsFest 2017 Photos Gallery:

Photos credit: Conor, David Blacker, and Morgan Cable