Monday, August 30, 2010

On our Summer Vacation, we went to Mars.

Lian The Explorer in 2008
It's no secret that Mars is a siren song for my son. He soaks up knowledge about the red planet like a sponge. I love that there is so much information available for him to search. When I was his age The Martian Chronicles had taken over the American imagination and artist interpretations were the only way to view the surface of the planet. He has seen actual photos of the surface and is excited to learn that minerals have been found, that when found on Earth, point to water and even prehistoric life. We have enjoyed following the Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. Twitter and Facebook can be great resources for this. We are right there when Oppy comes across another great find and we welled up with tears when Spirit had to be turned off, for her protection, while scientists and engineers on Earth think of a way to free her from the sand pit in which she is mired. We followed right along as Phoenix sent back wonderful data to unravel even more secrets.

In or around 2030, there are plans for a manned flight to Mars. You can bet my Munchkin, who will be just about the right age then, wants to be on that mission. He may have to wait 20 years to step foot on the surface of Mars but that doesn't mean he can't visit now. 

In this economy, going on a family vacation often requires a major financial sacrifice. That would be why staycations are so popular. these days.  Virtual Connections, the blog from my son's school, posted a great article on how to use the Information Superhighway to give new meaning to the term "Staycation". One day, last week, my family visited Mars. It was fascinating. Even though we couldn't actually feel the red dust blowing on our faces it didn't stop us from imagining that we could. 

Did you know that Google Earth offers maps of Mars and the Moon? We were surprised as well. When we found out we couldn't wait to explore them. We spent hours calling up names that have become so familiar to us in the last few years. Gusev, Victoria, Meridiani, Olympus Mons. If you are familiar with the tools GE offers, they aren't missing on Mars. The Mars travel guide offers information about areas on the planet and there are plenty of photos to check out.

We finished the trip off with a swing by the moon on the way home. It was exciting to see astronaut foot prints and the original landing site.  It's there, complete with a mock up lander. How touristy can you get?

There are also under sea maps available on Google Earth. That will be fun to explore. We can't wait.

All screenshots are taken from Google Earth

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