Wednesday | November 22, 2017
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Hawaii artist goes to Mars, again

Big Island artist Jon Lomberg, working with a team of NASA space scientists, announces the launch of a new message artifact destined for the surface of Mars: A sundial whose four edges each contain a panel of text and image, written by Jim Bell and the NASA sundial team and accompanied by graphics designed by Lomberg.

This will be the fifth artifact Lomberg designed to be sent to Mars, and, if landed safely on Aug. 5, the fourth to arrive intact on the Red Planet. Lomberg has sent more artwork into space than any other person on Earth.

“I’m practically a Martian!,” Lomberg said.

A public viewing of the Aug. 5 landing and other activities will be held at Lomberg’s Galaxy Garden within the Paleaku Peace Gardens Sanctuary in Honaunau. Cost is $15.

At 4 p.m., the garden opens and at 5 p.m. Lomberg will lead a tour of the 100-foot diamater living sculpture of the Milky Way galaxy. At 6 p.m., Lomberg will discuss the Mars landing followed by a live broadcast of the landing, which is expected to occur about 7:30 p.m.

NASA’s latest and most ambitious scientific mission to Mars is the Mars Science Lander called Curiosity. Like its predecessors on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity, this new sundial doubles as the camera color calibration target for the Mastcam camera system that is the rover’s primary instrument for imaging the surface of Mars.

Curiosity’s calibration target provides a valuable educational activity for students, who can use the image of the sundial transmitted from Mars to Earth to learn about the ways that such simple but elegant instruments can be used to determine the time, date, season and latitude on a planetary surface.

The original idea for the educational project came from Bill Nye The Science Guy, now the executive director of The Planetary Society. MER imaging scientist, James Bell led the team, which included Lomberg to design the sundial and its message. Bell is President of The Planetary Society.

The global spirit of space exploration is symbolized by the decoration on the face of the sundial—the names of Mars in 16 languages, including ancient Sumerian, Mayan, Inuktitut and Hawaiian.

The message on the edges of Curiosity’s new sundial is not meant for Martians or other extraterrestrials. Rather, it is meant for humans who will be on Mars, many decades or perhaps even hundreds of years from now. Someday, today’s Mars missions will be the stuff of history, and some explorer, prospector or geologist will find our long-lost robots.

The illustrations of the message try to evoke our species’ long fascination with the Red Planet. They use classical imagery of the god Ares, as well as astronomers’ drawings of Mars, the Viking lander and other Mars-bound spacecraft. The footprints, in the sands of Mars and the sands of time, symbolize humanity’s wandering spirit that has led us to Mars.

Bell and Lomberg were both on the team that designed the similar sundials on the Spirit and Opportunity rovers. That sundial carried a different date and motto, and a different message along the edges using children’s art and Lomberg’s drawings.

Lomberg was design director for NASA’s Voyager Golden Record and a long-time collaborator of Carl Sagan. He won an Emmy Award for his work as chief artist of the TV series COSMOS and designed the opening animation for the film CONTACT.

Along with the two sundials on the MER rovers, and the Visions of Mars DVD aboard NASA’s Phoenix mission, this is the fifth message artifact of his design that Lomberg will have launched toward Mars. The first was on Russia’s failed Mars 96 mission. Three have made it there, perhaps destined to be received by some future human society on Mars. The fifth is now on its way.

For more information, call 328-8084.