About the Mobile Astronomy Resource System (MARS Truck)

side of the Mars Truck
The MARS Truck after being refurbished
The MARS Truck, operated by LaSPACE at LSU, is a light commercial box truck containing computer controlled telescopes, a digital portable planetarium, and other equipment and materials to provide an astronomy / space science learning experience to people of all ages. The main objective of the MARS Truck is to provide a space science learning experience to audiences with limited or no access to fixed site science centers. 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 already been utilized in four outreach events, a Family Science Night at Scotlandville Middle Magnet School, the Louisiana Earth Day festival in downtown Baton Rouge, Park Forest’s Middle School’s Spooktacular STEM Night, and NASA Family Day for people employed at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.

LaSPACE aims to support at least three MARS Truck outreach events annually, 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, Bethany Broekhoven.

MARS Truck Resources

  • Sky Viewing:

    Two 10" Meade computer controlled telescopes

    Dr. Guzik uses one telescope
    Dr. Guzik, LaSPACE Director, testing out one of our 10" Meade 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.

  • LSU student demonstrates...
    An SPS student explains a physics demonstration to the public

    Physics Demonstrations:

    Mobile Scientific Concept Exhibits

    • 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!

  • Educational Films:

    A 42" flat screen TV monitor and Blu-Ray player

    • 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, and Walt Disney's Tomorrow Land.
  • 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 projetor to display museum-quality planetarium shows, celestial images, and star maps. Inflatable Planetarium accomodates approximately 30 viewers at a time and standard viewing times run from 20 to 40 minutes. The Planetariumhas a large footprint, requires several hours for set up and break down, and is not suitable for general outdoor use. As a result the planetarium is not included in all MARS Truck events.

  • COMING SOON!: NASA Education Aerospace Training (NEAT) Kits

    • We are in the process of developing our NASA Education Aerospace Training or NEAT kits. These NEAT kits will contain everything needed for hands-on activities targeted to varying grade level ranges (K - 4th, 5th - 8th, and 9th - 12th). Each NEAT Kit will encompass an overall theme with two to four sub-themes and each sub-theme has an activity for each of the three different grade level ranges.

To submit an online request to have the MARS Truck at your event, click here.

*The MARS Truck carries a generator to every event and is able to fully function with no additional power source
*All photos are property of The Louisiana Space Grant Consortium*