When Spirit, the first of two new NASA Mars Exploration Rovers, hits the Red Planet's atmosphere and hurtles toward the surface, local scientists and citizens will be able to witness the historic moment. Beginning tonight at 8:30 p.m., the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, 2001 Colorado Boulevard, will host Mars Live! in the Ricketson Auditorium, featuring live feed from NASA-TV and ongoing expert commentary. For kids who seem to walk around with their heads constantly in the stars, it's definitely an event worth staying up late for. "I'll be there to provide the reality check," says Dr. Steve Lee, curator of planetary science at the DMNS. "As things unfold, I'll be giving what amounts to the 'color commentary.'" And what he'll be explaining amounts to a cosmic roll of the dice: "You can do everything possible, but it still boils down to the luck factor," says Lee. "It's almost amazing that any of these things work at all. There are seventy pyrotechnics that all have to go off in the final six minutes. We call them the 'six minutes of terror.'" Anything can go wrong, from equipment malfunctions to an untimely gust of wind. "If it's successful, we'll know right then. If it isn't, we may not know for weeks."
Lee's hoping for a triumphant ending. "These are the most sophisticated spacecraft we've ever sent to another planet," he says. "And I'm the eternal optimist. I really think both these guys are going to work."
Spirit ostensibly lands in Gusev Crater at 9:35 p.m. Denver time. Admission to Mars Alive! is $5; for more information, call 303-322-7009. -- Susan Froyd
The Horsey Set
Susan Guy turns her talents to children's books
Wyoming painter Susan Guy does horses. Beautifully. Her Western- and equine-themed work will be featured this January at the National Western Stock Show's annual Coors Western Art Show & Sale for the third year in a row, but it's another component of her repertoire -- one geared toward the young'uns -- that will find a local audience today. Guy is celebrating the September release of B is for Buckaroo, her second lushly illustrated alphabet book for Sleeping Bear Press, at Spirits in the Wind Gallery, 1211 Washington Avenue in Golden. Guy's first book, C is for Cowboy, a Wyoming-centric volume that she contributed to the publisher's state-by-state series, is already in its second printing and, she boasts, "is the best-selling book in Wyoming in 100 years."
Mosey on up to Spirits in the Wind, where Guy will be signing copies of her books from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. For details, call 303-279-1192 or visit spiritsinthewindgallery.com. -- Susan Froyd