"Who here is from Mars?" was one of the first questions asked by Donald Thomas, director of the Willard Hackerman Academy of Mathematics and Science at Towson University, to the nearly 150 folks young and old who were at Harford Day School for Tuesday night's Science Cafe gathering.
Thomas, a former NASA astronaut who flew on several space shuttle missions, spoke about the Curiosity rover exploring the red planet and those missions before it, explaining the many tools scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California use to gather data about Mars.
He used a host of slides, including several 3-D photos, during his presentation.
Thomas also fielded a variety of questions from the audience about the Mars missions and the 44 days he himself spent in space on the space shuttles.
One audience member asked when Thomas realized he wanted to be an astronaut.
"When I was 5 years old," he replied and told his story of the path he took to eventually make it into space at the age of 39, despite being rejected three times by NASA when he applied for the job as an astronaut.
Thomas stressed the importance of not giving up on dreams to the many young people in the crowd.
At the end of the night, Thomas invited folks to come up and touch a piece of Mars, a tiny meteorite that he had brought along.