Earlier this month, SpaceX launched the Falcon Heavy into orbit. Twenty-seven Merlin engines blasted the huge rocket into orbit, enough thrust to propel a fully loaded 737 jetliner into space and perhaps humankind back to the Moon and on to Mars by the middle of the century.

Two ciWeek 9 speakers know a lot about traveling to Mars and will share their knowledge and insights during their upcoming presentations at DMACC’s West Des Moines Campus next month.

Rob Manning is NASA’s chief engineer for the Mars Pathfinder, Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity Rovers. He has been designing, testing and managing robotic spacecraft for more than 35 years.

Rod Pyle is a History Channel filmmaker and has also written 13 books on space history, exploration and development, including “Destination Mars.”

While no one has stepped foot on Mars, Rob Manning, through his rovers, has visited the planet many times and is as familiar with the Red Planet as anyone on earth. His robotic spacecraft, Mars Pathfinder, launched in 1997 and Curiosity, launched in 2011, have spent years sampling, testing and exploring the Red Planet that’s nearly 34 million miles from earth.

“Traveling to Mars represents the very leading edge of the technology we have available today, much like the moon landings of the 1960s and ’70s,” said Dr. Anthony Paustian, provost of the West Des Moines Campus and founder of ciWeek 9. “These speakers (Pyle and Manning) will offer a fascinating look at this space adventure and talk about the challenges and new opportunities this voyage will offer all of humankind.”

Manning and Pyle will give a presentation at DMACC’s West Des Moines campus on Thursday, March 8, at 1 p.m. as part of Celebrate! Innovation Week 9 (ciWeek 9) March 5–8. All presentations are free and open to the public.

The Mars speakers join a ciWeek 9 line-up that includes Archaeologist and TV host Josh Gates, Director and Star Trek actor Jonathan Frakes, and famed rock and roll drummer Kenny Aronoff, among many others.