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Happy New Year, Mars! NASA Toasts Martian Calendar Milestone

NASA is celebrating the New Year on Mars on June 19, 2015. One Mars year is 687 days long, nearly twice the time of an Earth year, due to Mars' longer orbit around the sun.
NASA is celebrating the New Year on Mars on June 19, 2015. One Mars year is 687 days long, nearly twice the time of an Earth year, due to Mars' longer orbit around the sun. (Image credit: NASA)

It's New Year's Day on the Red Planet today and NASA is celebrating in style with an epic three-day party in Mars itself … Mars, Pennsylvania, that is.

NASA scientists and Mars experts have descended on the town of Mars to celebrate the Martian New Year today (June 18) with a press briefing at a flying saucer spaceship monument in Mars, Pennsylvania, kicks off a weekend of Mars-themed activities by NASA to inspire kids to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics – all fields that the space agency says it will need in its push to the Red Planet. [Mars Myths & Misconception: A Quiz]

Among the invited speakers is Jim Green, NASA's director of planetary science. Green not only oversees many aspects of Red Planet exploration, but also was a technical consultant on the upcoming movie "The Martian," which lands in theaters in November.

NASA will celebrate the Martian New Year with an event at this flying saucer spaceship monument in Mars, Pennsylvania on June 19, 2015, which marks the official start of a new Martian year. (Image credit: Jon Dawson )

Mars celebrates its New Year about once every two Earth years because the Red Planet takes twice as long to orbit the sun as our world. Astronomers count the Martian New Year from the time that the planet's northern hemisphere spring equinox starts on Mars. This year, the Martian New Year starts June 19.

Other NASA activities at the event include a "blast-off" dinner, a talk about music of the Red Planet, and a performance by a Mars Jump Rope Team. There will also be a miniature rocket launch on Saturday (June 20), subject to weather.

In recent months, NASA has been publicly aligning many of its activities to what it says will be the ultimate goal: landing a human on Mars in a few decades. For now, NASA's human exploration is confined to low Earth orbit, but it has an Orion spacecraft under development to bring people further into the solar system. Exclusive T-shirt. Available to Populate Mars. Buy Now (Image credit: Store)

Mars is currently being studied by a fleet of spacecraft built by NASA and the space agencies of Europe and India. On the surface, NASA's Opportunity and Curiosity rovers continue to drive across the Martian terrain, while several orbiters monitor changes in the planet from above. The most recent addition was India's Mars Orbiter Mission, which arrived at the Red Planet on Sept. 24, 2014, two days after NASA's own Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission orbiter.

You can see more details about the Martian New Year celebrations at

Editor's note: This story was corrected to reflect that NASA's Mars briefing today will not be webcast on NASA TV.

Follow Elizabeth Howell @howellspace, or @Spacedotcom. We're also on Facebook and Google+. Original article on

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Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell is a contributing writer for who is one of the few Canadian journalists to report regularly on space exploration. She is the author or co-author of several books on space exploration. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. from the University of North Dakota in Space Studies, and an M.Sc. from the same department. She also holds a bachelor of journalism degree from Carleton University in Canada, where she began her space-writing career in 2004. Besides writing, Elizabeth teaches communications at the university and community college level, and for government training schools. To see her latest projects, follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @howellspace.