BOSTON–The mission was like shooting a basketball from Los Angeles to New York and having it land in the hoop without hitting the rim, except this basketball took hundreds of scientists and engineers years to create, cost approximately $820 million, and was sent millions of miles to explore another planet. The Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission, launched by NASA in 2003, defied incredible odds and sent two roving robots called Spirit and Opportunity to the surface of Mars. Landing first on January 3, 2004, Spirit was followed 21 days later by Opportunity. Together these rovers mark five years of service as they continue to send back valuable information about Earth’s neighboring planet. The mission, chronicled in the giantscreen film Roving Mars, has made important discoveries about wet and violent environments on ancient Mars prompting the question: could life have existed on Mars?

Roving Mars, opening in the Mugar Omni Theater at the Museum of Science on January 16, follows Steve Squyres, lead scientist on the MER mission, and captures a historic moment in space exploration for humankind. The images, beamed millions of miles back to Earth from the Mars rovers, will be projected on the Museum’s immersive, wraparound screen for the first time, providing a new, spectacular view of the Red Planet. An explorer at heart, Squyres worked with his team around the clock creating the rovers, testing landing scenarios and equipment, and preparing for one of the most successful missions to Mars ever launched. The film brings viewers through the meticulous process of creating these rovers and their landing systems, to the tension-filled NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory on landing day.

Upon landing on opposite sides of Mars in 2004, Spirit and Opportunity immediately went to work collecting valuable geological data. By analyzing various rocks and other materials on Mars, scientists determined that at one point, three to four billion years ago, water had indeed existed on the Red Planet. This conclusion was an important step toward answering the ongoing question of whether life could exist on another planet.

Far outlasting their life expectancy of 90 days, Spirit and Opportunity continue to travel the surface of Mars, sending valuable data and spectacular images back to Earth five years later. Considering that at the time of their launch two out of every three Mars landing craft missions failed, these rovers represent a pinnacle of innovation, technology, and exploration. Roving Mars, which won the 2008 National Academy of Sciences award for best science film, was directed by George Butler (also known for his films Shackleton’s Antarctic Adventure and Pumping Iron). Produced by Academy Award-nominee Frank Marshall and featuring the music of legendary composer Phillip Glass, Roving Mars is narrated by Academy Award-winner Paul Newman. Roving Mars is distributed by Walt Disney Pictures and sponsored by Lockheed Martin.

Roving Mars will show from January 16 through July 16. Mugar Omni Theater presentations are sponsored locally by Premier Partner The MathWorks. Admission to the Mugar Omni Theater is $9 for adults, $8 for seniors (60 ) and $7 for children (3-11). Evening Omni Discounts are available daily, after 6 p.m.: $6.50 for adults, $5.50 for seniors, and $4.50 for children. For more information or to purchase tickets in advance, the public can call 617/723-2500, (TTY) 617/589-0417, or visit mos.org

Free Film Fridays
Fridays, January 9, 16, 23 –All Mugar Omni Theater Shows
Free Fridays in January, The MathWorks and the Museum of Science invite New Englanders to escape from the cold and view a free film on the Museum’s IMAX Dome screen. Get cozy in the Mugar Omni Theater and take off

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