About the Mobile Astronomy Resource System (MARS Truck)
The MARS Truck, operated by LaSPACE at LSU, is a light commercial box truck containing computer controlled telescopes, a portable planetarium, science activity kits/demos, and other equipment and materials to provide astronomy and physics learning experiences to people of all ages.
The main objective of the MARS Truck is to provide astronomy and physics learning experiences to audiences with limited or no access to fixed site science centers or museums. A MARS truck program typically includes telescope sky viewing, a digital planetarium show, and science activities and demonstrations, staffed by LSU faculty, LaSPACE staff, and LSU students. The MARS vehicle can travel to sites such as parks, festival grounds, industry sites, and schools around the state to support public exposure to informal science education.
Under the direction of Dr. T. Gregory Guzik, LaSPACE Director, and Dr. Brenda Nixon, LaSPACE Institutional Coordinator for the Gordon A. Cain Center, the MARS Truck returned to road-readiness in early 2015 and has been participating in outreach events around the state since, such as multiple Earth Day events, International Astronomy Days, STEAM nights at local schools, a Tunica-Billoxi tribe culture camp, and more. The MARS Truck also traveled to Carbondale, Il for the eclipse of 2017 and participated in 3 days of outreach and teaching for the thousands of people that attended the festivities at Southern Illinois University.
LaSPACE aims to support at least three MARS Truck outreach events per academic semester, including those proposed by our partners, the LSU Chapter of the Society of Physics Students (SPS) and the Cain Center, or those requested by schools and organizations across the state. MARS Truck capabilities will continue to evolve, as more specific needs are identified in the community and as the working relationship between LaSPACE, the Cain Center, and LSU SPS develops. All MARS Truck events are managed by the LaSPACE Education Curator, Anthony Ficklin.
MARS Truck Resources:
Two 10″ Meade computer controlled telescopes:
- Each telescope is equipped for daytime solar viewing or nighttime star gazing. Using star tracking software, we can even follow our favorite celestial objects and never lose sight of them.
- The LSU Physics & Astronomy Department has a stock of interactive exhibits that we can bring on site to demonstrate numerous scientific concepts including Static Electricity via the Van de Graaff generator, a spinning chair with props to display Angular Momentum and Rotational Inertia, an apparatus to show Faraday’s Law of Induction, and more!
- A 42″ flat screen TV monitor and Blu-Ray player with videos of recent scientific balloon launches by Louisiana undergraduates, as well as well-known educational videos such as episodes of How the Earth was Made, The Universe, Life, Walt Disney’s Tomorrow Land, etc.
Inflatable Digital Planetarium:
- Open dome inflatable theater, enables simple and portable visualization
environments that require no airlock or rigid structures. a 6.5 meter domed screen and Newtonian One mirror projection system with 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution LCD projector to display museum-quality planetarium shows, celestial images, and star maps. Inflatable Planetarium accommodates approximately 30 viewers at a time and standard viewing times run from 20 to 40 minutes.
NISE Activity Kits:
- We assembled several activities developed by the National Informal Science Education network (NISE) that focus on a variety of Earth and space topics that are great for most age groups. Some example activities are Orbiting Objects, Big
Sun Small Moon, and Pocket Solar System. These are great for classroom style events and offer a hands-on educational experience for any audience. For a complete overview of the activities and topics, the full documentation can be found here.