|Title:||Bringing Mars Home: The MarsQuest Online Project|
|Authors:||James Harold, Paul Dusenbery|
|Publication:||MW2004: Museums and the Web 2004|
In October, 2000, the Space Science Institute of Boulder, Colorado, launched MarsQuest: a 5000 square foot traveling exhibit on Mars and Mars science. Two years later NSF and NASA gave their support to an associated Web project called MarsQuest Online, a partnership between TERC, the Space Science Institute, and JPL. The goal of the MarsQuest Online project was to create a Web site that extended both the reach and scope of the traveling exhibit. The program was premised on the idea that the effort expended on the museum exhibit - the exhibit framework, interactive concepts, educational goals, etc. - could be leveraged into a highly interactive on-line experience. While still in development, the site (http://www.marsquestonline.org) has already been quite successful on a variety of fronts. It provides a wide variety of activities, from 3D flyovers to drivable rovers, reflecting the learning goals of the original exhibit. We've also found that selected interactives, repackaged into a stand-alone kiosk piece, can be popular in small venues (for instance, the local planetarium during the recent Mars opposition). This paper will discuss the evolution of the project, our successes (and challenges) in attempting to leverage from a physical exhibition, and the ongoing evaluation program. The evaluation, which includes interviews, database driven usage tracking, and log analysis, will test not only the usability of the site, but also its effectiveness in meeting our educational goals as compared to the original MarsQuest exhibit.