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View Full Version : Me and Mars Results - Tonight!



Irishman
2004-Mar-16, 08:28 PM
Guess what? I just found out that Dr. Steve Squyres and Dr. Agustin Chicarro (Project Scientist for Mars Express) are in Houston tonight, giving a talk on Early Mars Results - and I have tickets!

So, I'm trying to think of what questions I might want to ask. I'm assuming I will avoid anything about Hoagland, blue rocks, or Mr. Bunny. What should I ask?

parejkoj
2004-Mar-16, 08:43 PM
So, I'm trying to think of what questions I might want to ask. I'm assuming I will avoid anything about Hoagland, blue rocks, or Mr. Bunny. What should I ask?

What are the frippin' blueberries made of?!?! They've RATed some, and Mo:sbauered others, and I want to know what is in them!

How's that for starters? :) I wish I could be there. Sounds like lots of fun!

R.A.F.
2004-Mar-16, 08:48 PM
What should I ask?

If I had the opportunity (no pun intended) to ask Dr. Squyres a question...it would be..."What has surprised you the most about conditions at the 2 landing sites?"

aurora
2004-Mar-16, 11:52 PM
I'd like to know what the best guess is on Gusev Crater's history.

Did the water that flowed in never make it to where Spirit is? (evaporated or soaked in before it got there)?

Manchurian Taikonaut
2004-Mar-17, 12:16 AM
Do you people think Gusev Crater could be a possible site for a future manned mission to mars?

and ask what is the "golf-ball" features about?

:D

Espritch
2004-Mar-17, 12:26 AM
Maybe you could ask him what the deal was with the whiteness in some of the pictures of the rover tracks. I'm still kind of curious about that.

Irishman
2004-Mar-17, 03:30 PM
Summary of what I remember.

Dr. Agustin Chicarro is the Project Scientist for the Mars Express programs from the European Space Agency (ESA). He gave an overview of the objectives and hardware for the Mars Express mission currently orbiting Mars. It is a fairly complex orbiter looking in a variety of ways for water. These include visual scans, radar maps, microwave radio imaging to depths in the Martian soil of several kilometers. It has studies of the surface, atmosphere, and solar wind effects on atmosphere loss. Then there's the Beagle lander, which did not make contact. He states it is probably a 10 meter crater right now. ;-) The Beagle was a great package with a variety of tools for looking at rock samples. He hopes in the future the science package can be duplicated.

The Mars Express mission calls for orbiting for 2 Martian years, which is almost 4 Earth years, to map the seasons two times. The orbit is highly elliptical, with the low point moving around the Martian surface. The payloads are planned to match the signal transfer rate and power available based on whether it is mapping in sunlight or dark side.

Then it was Dr. Steve Squyres's turn to talk about the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. He is a superb speaker and gave a very exciting, very fun talk. He is dynamic, and strolled around the front of the stage with his wireless microphone while pointing at the slides on screen. He included bits of humor, including the animation of the rover spinning the RAT into a rock and the rover doing the spinning.

He described the mission from launch, and that because they had been working so hard to get the rovers delivered for launch, they didn't learn how to drive them until the 7 months of travel (using the engineering unit/trainers). He talked about the landing sequence, and how the rovers deploy, showing a great animation of the sequence. The petals deploy, then the rover has to deploy its solar arrays, deploy the mast for the cameras, deploy the radio antenna, then it has to jack itself up to extend the legs, and finally prop itself to spin the front to legs over to deploy those wheels.

He gave an overview of the rover design, with the cameras and spectrometer up top, and the arm with instruments on the end. He mentioned how the arm coincidentally has the exact lengths of his own arm from joint to joint.

Then he showed the pictures, many of which have been shown. He started with Gusev crater. They went there because they think it might have been a lake bed at one time, from the surface features from above. He showed the tracks and moving around and looking at rocks, like the Adirondack. He said that is probably a bluish rock with dust on it - yes, that one is bluish. They used the RAT on it and determined it is basalt - lava rock. They're looking for hematite, because hematite is often formed by water.

Next came Opportunity. He has a graphic showing the landing profile for Opportunity, and how it falls, bounces in a nice curving path to score a hole in one on the crater at Meridiani Planum, a site selected for possible hematite from orbiter images. He says he doesn't play golf, but now might take it up - ha ha. The landing site is called Eagle, named after the Apollo 11 lander, but also because an Eagle is a good shot in golf.

The first images showed the amazing outcrop that looks so huge, and is actually about a foot or so across from top to bottom. He talked about the various poking around and investigating. He mentioned the airbag bounce marks and showed pictures where you can make out seam lines. The surface was rough and pebbly, but the bounce marks were smooth, so they wondered if the rocks were crushed or just pushed into the surface - tests showed the latter.

He says the blueberries are hematite. They put the spectrometer on the blueberry bowl (a depression with a collection of the blueberries in it), and the readings showed hematite. He feels they are concretions, based on the shape, and on features like the double and triple berries merging together, and the material being hematite.

He also talked about the other surrounding rocks, and the jarosite, and the spikes on the spectrometer for sulfur. The high sulfur content speaks of water. And also the presence and concentrations of bromine, which are typical of formations from evaporites - rocks formed from evaporating water. Plus there are the depressions that look like blanks for crystals, which are consistent with gypsum, a sulfur type crystal that can form and wear a hole in rocks and then dissolve away later.

They took questions and answers, and nobody asked anything stupid. One person did ask about the spirals, and Squyres said they are at the low end of the resolution so they are hard to make out well, but they have seen several, and only on spots they have RATed, so he thinks they are an artifact of the RAT. They are looking at some experiments to confirm the hypothesis.

He was also asked about how the soil early on looked possibly wet or muddy, and he mentioned that we have to be careful about appearances from things affected by the landers. For instance, the airbags use a burning process to generate the gas, which puts out a number of products including a couple of liters of water. Thus the need to be careful about looking at things close to the landers.

He mentioned also fibrous looking things in some images that they have shown look identical to samples from the airbags.

I'm sure there are things I'm forgetting. Afterwards in person I mentioned to Dr. Chicarro how pleased people are with ESA and its participation in Mars exploration. I also mentioned to Dr. Squyres Phil's taking on Hoagland and confronting the nuttier side of things.

parejkoj, the blueberries are hematite. The spectrometer run on the blueberry bowl showed the spikes for the surrounding terrain and the basalt, and then it showed spikes for hematite. That had to be the blueberries.

R.A.F., I tried to ask him your question, and I think he said it was the structures in the outcrop and the hematite. Maybe it was the jarusite, and the sulfates. Hard to remember now, I was inundated with info.

I didn't see the other questions before I left.

aurora, he addressed Gusev's history as saying they think it was a lakebed, at one time a lake, from the image showing what lookes like a dry riverbed running into it. He did not explain what happened to the water, and I don't think he can yet. That's why the rovers have to go roving and look in a lot of places.

Manchurian Taikonaut, someone asked about manned missions and he said "the sooner the better" as far as he's concerned. Even though his job is building the robotic missions, he would love to get a person there. I think his preferred suggested site is Meridiani Planum - Opportunity's landing site. Nobody mentioned the golf-ball features.

Espritch, didn't hear about the whiteness in some tracks. Someone did ask why the tracks from Spirit look black, and he said he thinks there is an underlying surface that is being stirred up that is a bit different than the exposed surface dust. The black is appearance only, and the color is just darker than the exposed surfaces. My guess on the white is reflectivity from compressing the dirt in those areas.

Irishman
2004-Mar-17, 03:38 PM
I forgot to mention this. I spoke with him afterwards while people were milling about and trying to leave. I limited my comments because I didn't want to dominate him from anyone else, but got a couple remarks. One being pointing out the BA's article on Hoagland and efforts here. Of course he hasn't had the opportunity to hear about this stuff, since he's actually doing work.

I think in retrospect the one question I wish I had asked was if he was aware of the comments about the "fossil", and his take on it.

R.A.F.
2004-Mar-17, 03:44 PM
Excellent report Irishman!!!

Swift
2004-Mar-17, 04:02 PM
He says the blueberries are hematite. They put the spectrometer on the blueberry bowl (a depression with a collection of the blueberries in it), and the readings showed hematite. He feels they are concretions, based on the shape, and on features like the double and triple berries merging together, and the material being hematite.

He also talked about the other surrounding rocks, and the jarosite, and the spikes on the spectrometer for sulfur. The high sulfur content speaks of water. And also the presence and concentrations of bromine, which are typical of formations from evaporites - rocks formed from evaporating water. Plus there are the depressions that look like blanks for crystals, which are consistent with gypsum, a sulfur type crystal that can form and wear a hole in rocks and then dissolve away later.

=D> Thanks Irishman, and good job on your day! That was the best chemistry description I've seen. Very interesting that the blueberries are hematite. First I'd heard about the bromine too.

parejkoj
2004-Mar-17, 04:27 PM
Wonderful meeting report. =D> That answered plenty of my questions. Now I just want to get on the next ship to Mars! :)

Manchurian Taikonaut
2004-Mar-17, 04:40 PM
:D
yes, fantastic report =D> this info has got me thinking again, a future manned mission?!! and great to hear about these blueberrie!