Mars Up Close at National Geographic Museum Tuesday, August 5

Elon Musk thinks big. The man who brought us PayPal and Tesla Motors is now focusing his efforts on SpaceX, a private company that’s taking a leading role in ferrying humans and cargo into space. Musk begins his foreword to National Geographic’s “Mars Up Close: Inside the Curiosity Mission” with this arresting statement: “In the next few decades, I plan to travel to Mars and make it my home.” Of course, sending humans to Mars poses an extraordinary set of challenges—the long distances, the need to carry massive amounts of materials into space, and the off-the-charts radiation levels—so in “Mars Up Close,” it’s no surprise that a more modest project known as Curiosity takes center stage. The one-ton, SUV-sized vehicle that parachuted safely onto the red planet in 2012 has sent a wealth of data and images back to Earth. On Aug. 5, National Geographic launches both a book on the mission by science writer Mark Kaufman and an exhibit that will include a full-scale model of Curiosity and its smaller Mars-visiting predecessors, Spirit/Opportunity and Sojourner. An actual visit might be 50 years and thousands of dollars away, but for now, this exhibit is a worthy substitute. The exhibition is on view daily, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., to Nov. 4 at National Geographic Museum, 1145 17th St. NW. Free. (202) 857-7700. nationalgeographic.com/museum.

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