Martian New Year's Party In Pennsylvania Will Inspire Young 'Neil Armstrongs' To Fly To Mars In 2030s

Shelley Hazen

Get out your noisemakers, pointy hats, and someone to smooch when the clock strikes midnight. It's the Martian New Year, and the appropriately named Mars, Pennsylvania, is holding a big party to celebrate.

It's a party that only comes around every couple years. The Martian New Year happens the same time as the Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. That equinox is coming around this month, NASA reported.

Mars' celebrations fall on June 18 to 20 -- in two years, it'll be held on May 5. This small Pennsylvania town 20 miles north of Pittsburgh, and home to about 1,700 earthlings, is the perfect spot for such a celebration -- it even has a flying saucer sculpture in the middle of town. The festival was born when the local historical society tried to figure out how to promote their town, which has an advantageous name.

There's some light-hearted fare planned for the festival, including a science fiction contest, live entertainment, children's activities, and a parade, the Pittsburgh Sun-Times reported.

Everything begins with a Blast-Off Dinner. There will be an astronaut space rock opera, a performance by a men's chorus, and a talk given by a noteworthy sci-fi writer.

But the Martian New Year festival is also meant to inspire interest in science and technology among young people, with the hopes that that knowledge can be put to use sending humans to Mars in the 2030s, the Associated Press reported.

And that's probably why NASA will be there. The agency will sponsor exhibits, outreach activities, and provide a couple speakers, as well.

"It's a great opportunity to celebrate the innovation of small-town America," NASA public affairs officer David Steitz told the Times. "The future [astronauts] Neil Armstrongs and the future Eileen Collinses of America are out there. If we can get them excited, even through a rural weekend festival in Western Pennsylvania about exploration, that's awesome."

Over three days, exhibits celebrating science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics will be on display. Mars expert Jim Green will deliver a keynote speech (he was a technical adviser for the film, The Martian.) He'll talk about NASA's plans to journey to Mars.

Which means someday, we may be able to celebrate the Martian New Year on the Red Planet itself.

If there's a place called Mercury somewhere in the U.S., people there could a party far more often -- a year on that planet is only 87 Earth days. And if you want to celebrate the new year on Pluto, you'll be waiting a heck of a long time -- it's a whopping 90,553 Earth days.

[Photo Courtesy of Twitter]