By Krishna Rajagopalan
The first ever Planetfest hosted by The Planetary Society was held on August 4 and 5 at the Pasadena Convention Center. The Planetfest was one of over 40 events held to inform and educate the public about the necessity of space travel. Planetfest allowed visitors of all ages an opportunity to learn about what current space travel has to offer as well as what the future of space travel looks like for the younger generations. From lectures to demonstrations, visitors got an up-close look at the benefits of traveling outside of our galaxy. Speakers at the event included Bill Nye (‘the Science Guy’), Scott Maxwell the Mars Rover driver, Artemis Westenberg the director and co-founder of Explore Mars, and JPL director Charles Elachi. The topics of the presentations throughout the weekend included Why the Sudden Activity in Space, So You Want to Work in Space, Driving a Mars Rover, and New Visions for Humans in Space.
Apart from the panelists’ presentations, one could step inside the cockpit of the XCOR Lynx and have their photo taken by a professional photographer. Other activities included a full size model of the Curiosity rover for visitors to view, a space-themed art show with over 50 piece of artwork on display, hands on science activities for children of all ages, and a room full of presentations and displays about the future of pace from the sponsors of Planetfest.
In addition the Clark Magnet High School’s First Robotics Team had their very own robot on hand so viewers could understand what goes in to building a robot. The robot is designed to pick up mini basketballs at the bottom of the playing field and shoot them of the top into a basketball hoop. Every year the First Robotics Competition challenges students from area high schools to design a robot to then enter into a regional competition. According to a member of the First Robotics Team, students have exactly 6 weeks to design, build and test the robot before it is entered into the competition.
Planetfest attracted thousands of visitors on both days and was completely sold out for Sunday as of Saturday afternoon. “People come to Planetfest for all sorts of reasons from kids’ activities to speakers for the more science-minded people,” said Danielle Hannah, Volunteer Coordinator for The Planetary Society. As of Sunday, visitors had the option of buying tickets to view the landing of the Curiosity rover in the overflow event located at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. Children of all ages could be seen taking part in the arts and crafts activities as well as hearing what some of the worlds’ leading speakers in planetary science has to say about the Curiosity rover’s mission to Mars. Adults could be seen hearing the speakers, exploring the various spacecraft displayed, and skimming through books on space travel that were written by leading experts in the field.
The Planetfest truly opened up the eyes of thousands of visitors to the possibilities of space travel. Bill Nye the Science Guy encouraged visitors to be open-minded to the ideas of exploring another galaxy. “We are at a crossroads in planetary society, we want to encourage governments around the world to get involved in planetary science,” said Nye. One must hope that the federal budget will allow for space travel on a regular basis and as a result allow for events such as Planetfest to occur. “Budget cuts will make holding more events related to space science difficult, said Hannah.”
The event was such a hit that many of the visitors could be found signing up for membership to the Planetary Society throughout the day after learning about what space travel has to offer. The membership includes a subscription to the Planetary Report, a commemorative t-shirt, and special opportunities and invitations to take part in community activities and citizen science projects. If you would like to learn more about how to get involved in planetary science including signing up for membership with the Planetary Society please visit www.planetary.org.
-Photo by Krishna Rajagopalan