'City Thinks' focus on 'Final Frontier'
By Amanda Jermyn

In January of 2004 NASA’s twin robots, the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity, landed on the surface of Mars. The mission’s primary goal was to examine a wide range of rocks and soils that hold clues to past water activity on the planet. The mission was expected to last 90 days, with each rover driving up to 44 yards a day, for a total of three-quarters of a mile. Those goals have been far exceeded, with both rovers continuing their explorations into 2010. Spirit stopped communicating with earth in March of this year, but Opportunity continues to provide extraordinary data on its thus far 14 mile odyssey exploring Mars.
This October, area residents will have the unique opportunity to hear Dr. Steven Squyres, Lead Scientist on the Mars Rover Expedition, speak about his experiences. Dr. Squyres is the Goldwin Smith Professor of Astronomy at Cornell University where, in earlier years, he studied under the late Carl Sagan. He has participated in many of NASA’s planetary exploration missions, including Voyager, Magellan and Cassini. His talk is the culmination of 2010’s The City Thinks, a series of educational and cultural programs provided by the Springfield Public Forum in collaboration with the Springfield City Library, sponsored by the American International College Honors program and Unity First.
This year, The City Thinks has as its theme: “The Final Frontier: Space, Science and Technology.” Outer space has long been characterized as The Final Frontier: the place which still holds new discoveries to be made, new mysteries to be unraveled. City Thinks offers programs involving many scientific fields, ranging from geology and physics to robotics, astronomy and chemistry. These include a presentation on “Mars, the Red Planet” by astronomy educator Richard Sanderson of the Springfield STARS Club at 7.30pm on October 1st at the Springfield Science Museum and a Family Fun Day on October 16th at the Springfield Museums, including space, robotics and science programming. The City Library will also have space-related programming on October 16th.
On October 5th at 7pm, at American International College, City Thinks will present a public lecture and discussion with physics Professor Ron Mallett whose book, “Time Traveler,” examines the process of scientific discovery and development. Mallett, one of America’s first black PhD’s in theoretical physics, is a professor at the University of Connecticut, with publications on black holes and cosmology. Other City Thinks programming includes movie screenings, book discussions and student activities such as a student video contest on the future of scientific discovery in space. Winners of the video contest will receive a PeoplesBank Scholarship to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center Camp in Huntsville, AL.
Dr. Steven Squyres will talk on the Mars Rover expedition at Springfield Symphony Hall on Sunday, October 24th at 2pm, providing the “inside scoop” on Mars exploration in his multi-media, family-friendly presentation. This lecture will be preceded by a small group discussion with Dr. Squyres for students and educators, as well as demonstrations with student robotics teams. For more information on The City Thinks programming contact Public Forum Director Patricia Canavan at canavan_patricia@yahoo.com or visit the Public Forum’s website at www.springfieldpublicforum.org.