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Butler County Earthlings Celebrate Red Planet's New Year

  It’s not every year you get to celebrate the completion of Mars’ revolution around the sun. In fact, it’s just under two.

According to NASA, one "year" on Mars lasts approximately 687 Earth days.

Butler County’s Mars borough is celebrating the milestone with a free, two-day, NASA-sanctioned party packed with science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics activities on Friday and Saturday. An alien costume contest will commence at 6 p.m. Friday with cash prizes for the top five winners in each age group.

Jim Green, the agency's director of planetary science at their Washington D.C. headquarters, will deliver a keynote talk Friday evening and again on Saturday concerning NASA’s journey to Mars. They invite locals to drop by exhibits, booths and outreach activities. 

“(It’s) sort of an interesting array of NASA showing their journey to Mars program right now, which is their major focus -- having humans eventually go to Mars somewhere around the 2030s,” said Gregg Hartung, Mars mayor.

NASA sent an astronaut to celebrate the borough's centennial in 1973, but this celebration is the first true partnership between the space agency and Pittsburgh-area locals.

Exhibits include a launch system display about the Orion space capsule and the rocket that sends astronauts into space. The Jet Propulsion Lab explains how rovers and other vehicles get and navigate Mars. Toy-sized rovers will be available for kids to play with, too.

Hartung said the event was conceived to encourage youth and their families to support the sciences and STEAM education.

“Science, technology, engineering, the arts and math are really included because NASA sees those as being critical for the next generation of people going to Mars to be able to be capable of helping continue the process,” Hartung said.

Along with NASA,  the University of Pittsburgh's Mobile Science Lab will be on-site with hands on activities for children and their families  focusing on science as a whole. Robotics experts with Carnegie Mellon University are scheduled to show their latest rover developed for potential Mars exploration.

Hartung also noted one important fact.

Contrary to popular belief, Mars borough was not named for the red planet, but after Judge Samuel Marshall, who at the time of its christening in 1877 was influential in bringing a post office to the community. 

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