NASA’S mission to land two rovers on the surface of the red planet will be the subject of a free public lecture at Foothill College on Wednesday, Oct. 8, at 7 p.m. PDT. The talk is entitled “The Mars Exploration Rover Mission: Following the Water.”

Mars Exploration Rover (MER) team scientist Dr. David Des Marais of NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., will describe how NASA will land two rovers at different locations on Mars’ surface in January. Both rovers have instruments on board that will let them act as ‘robot geologists,’ searching the planet for evidence of past water.

“NASA Ames is pleased to co-sponsor the popular Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, now beginning its fifth successful year,” said NASA Ames Research Center Director G. Scott Hubbard. “This series is one important element of our efforts to inspire the next generation of space explorers.”

Des Marais is a renowned expert in the fields of geochemistry and astrobiology. He has studied the carbon chemistry of lunar samples, meteorites and ancient rocks and fossils. He also examines modern descendants of ancient microbial ecosystems, studies the martian crust and devises strategies for finding an ancient martian biosphere. Des Marais is a Fellow of the Geochemical Society and the European Association of Geochemistry and a recipient of NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal.

The Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series is co-sponsored by NASA Ames, Foothill College’s Division of Physical Science, Mathematics and Engineering, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and the SETI Institute.

The lecture series is held at Foothill College’s Smithwick Theater in Los Altos Hills. From Interstate 280, exit at El Monte Road and travel west to the campus. Visitors must purchase a one-day campus-parking permit for $2. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Young people are welcome. More information is available by calling the series hotline at 650/949-7888.

For more information about the MER mission, visit:

NOTE TO EDITORS AND NEWS DIRECTORS: Members of the news media and public are invited to attend the first talk in this year’s 2003-2004 Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, to be held on Wednesday, Oct. 8, at 7 p.m. PDT at Foothill College’s Smithwick Theater, Los Altos Hills, Calif. More information is available by calling the series hotline at 650/949-7888.