Get lost in space: NASA-sponsored corn maze explores Mars rover program

Published: Friday, Sept. 30 2011 4:20 p.m. MDT

Thanksgiving Point opens its Mars rover themed corn maze Friday, Sept. 30, 2011, in Lehi. NASA has teamed up with seven of the nation's top corn mazes to celebrate and honor the U.S. space program this fall.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

LEHI — Fall is a time for corn mazes, and the one at Thanksgiving Point is out of this world — at least the theme is.

This year Cornbelly's Maze and Pumpkin Fest has teamed up with the folks at NASA to create a maze honoring space exploration and NASA's MARS rover project.

Thanksgiving Point is just one of seven agritourism farms across the country that have created space-themed mazes for NASA in a project called Space Farm 7. Maze designs from all seven farms can be seen on the Space Farm 7 website and people can vote for the best one.

Utah's design, "Exploring Space," pays homage to the rover project. "We've been exploring the surface of Mars for over 7 ½ years," said John Callas with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory out of Pasadena, Calif. Callas, the project manager for the MARS rover program, traveled to Lehi for the maze's opening on Friday.

A NASA astronaut to talk at Thanksgiving Point on Saturday, plus a full replica of a rover and an inflatable model of the newest MARS rover, Curiosity, which is scheduled to be launched right after Thanksgiving. Callas said Curiosity is five times the size of the current rovers and will carry more sophisticated equipment to study Mars. If launched on schedule, it will take eight months to reach Mars, or by August 2012.

Callas said the corn mazes are a great way to get kids and their parents curious about NASA's space projects. Two rovers, named Spirit and Opportunity, have been sent to the surface of Mars. While Spirit stopped working last year, after three and a half years of service, Opportunity continues to work and send back data.

"Mars at one time was much more like Earth and could have supported life at that time," Callas said, adding the exploration of Mars could tell us how that planet's climate changed, which may give us a better understanding of climate change here on Earth.

"It's kind of exciting, we're pretty stoked," said Brett Herbst, owner and co-founder of Cornbelly's, which designed and built the maze. People with QR-capable smart phones will find spots in the maze with QR codes, which will given them more information about the solar system.

The maze will be open through Oct. 29, Monday through Thursday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tickets are $8.95 on weekdays and $10.95 on weekends.

Herbst said the NASA displays will be available through the month at the Thanksgiving point museum.

E-mail: gfattah@desnews.com

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