On Thursday, Sept. 8, at 4:05 p.m. Tucson time, an Atlas V rocket perched on a launch pad in Cape Canaveral, Florida, will ignite its fiery engines and blast off with the spacecraft of the UA-led OSIRIS-REx mission tucked inside its nose cone.
The Tucson community is invited to watch the launch of the first U.S. mission to bring back a sample from an asteroid on a big screen set up on the UA Mall. In addition, several businesses on and around campus are hosting special events and promotions celebrating our latest feat at making space Wildcat Country. Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild has proclaimed September as Space Exploration Month, and appropriately themed events are happening all over Tucson.
Here are some of the highlights. For a complete listing of events and specials in the days leading up to the launch and afterward, check out the UA's OSIRIS-REx site, which includes the OSIRIS-Rex Events Calendar.
Live Launch Event on the UA Mall
On the day of the launch, a 9-by-16-foot, truck-mounted LED screen, set up on the UA Mall east of Old Main, will broadcast the launch live from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral.
Festivities start at 2 p.m. In the time leading up to liftoff, a pre-program with slides and video will be featured. KAMP Student Radio will provide music and entertainment. Neal Armstrong, UA associate vice president for research, will welcome the audience and make opening remarks. Tents hosting outreach activities such as presentations about the mission, asteroid-themed giveaways, prize stations and photo areas will be provided by the UA's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, Flandrau Science Center & Planetarium and the UA Student Geology Club. Free ice cream, food and refreshments will be provided. In case of adverse weather, the program — including live launch coverage — will be broadcast in the Gallagher Theater in the Student Union Memorial Center. Sponsorship of the launch festival is provided in part by Cox Communications, with media sponsorship provided by the Arizona Daily Wildcat.
"OSIRIS-REx: Countdown to Launch," an original documentary about the mission produced by Arizona Public Media, will air at 6:30 on the night of the launch, with NASA footage from the launch included. Starting at 4 p.m. on launch day, AZPM also will feed NASA TV live to its UA Channel, available via cable only on Cox Channel 116 and Comcast Channel 76.
Main Gate Celebration
After the launch party on campus, guests are welcome to stroll down University Boulevard to Main Gate Square for more festivities. Among the participating merchants featuring OSIRIS-REx- and space-themed specials are Auld Dubliner Irish Pub, Frog and Firkin, Gentle Ben's, Red's Smokehouse and Taproom, and Sinbad's Restaurant.
Festivities in Downtown
Maynards Market & Kitchen, 400 N. Toole Ave., is offering a prix fixe "Space Dinner" menu at 7:45 p.m. Wednesday in its private dining room, benefiting Time in Cosmology. After dinner, there will be stargazing on the patio with the UA Student Astronomy Club. Time in Cosmology has rounded up prizes for a raffle. Mention the Space Dinner when making reservations online, over the phone or in person.
Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress St., has announced a "spacecraft launch and journey to a giant asteroid before your eyes and above your head," set for 7 p.m. Thursday. Starting at 6, there will be live music and interactive science-related activities for children and adults, as well as space art on display. For those who want a glimpse into real space, the Student Astronomy Club will offer stargazing from 9 to 10 p.m.
More launch day festivities and specials can be found at Borderlands Brewing Company, 119 E. Toole Ave., and Sky Bar, 536 N. 4th Ave. From now through Sept. 30, telescopes will be open on the Sky Bar patio every night, with astronomers on hand to point out interesting objects in the sky.