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Marsbugs: The Electronic Astrobiology Newsletter
Volume 12, Number 22, 29 June 2005
Editor/Publisher: David J. Thomas, Ph.D., Science Division, Lyon College,
Batesville, Arkansas 72503-2317, USA.
Marsbugs is published on a weekly to monthly basis as warranted by the number of articles and announcements. Copyright of this compilation exists with the editor,
but individual authors retain the copyright of specific articles. Opinions expressed in this newsletter are those of the authors, and are not necessarily endorsed by the
editor or by Lyon College. E-mail subscriptions are free, and may be obtained by contacting the editor. Information concerning the scope of this newsletter,
subscription formats and availability of back-issues is available at The editor does not condone "spamming" of subscribers.
Readers would appreciate it if others would not send unsolicited e-mail using the Marsbugs mailing lists. Persons who have information that may be of interest to
subscribers of Marsbugs should send that information to the editor.
Articles and News
Page 1
By Skip Derra
Page 10
By Paul Todd
Page 2
From United Press International and SpaceDaily
Page 10
Mars Society release
Page 2
NASA release 05-158
Page 11
NASA/JPL/ASU release
By Henry Bortman
Page 12
NASA release 05-168
Page 3
Page 4
By Douglas Vakoch
Page 4
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics release
Page 12
NASA/JPL releases
By Patrick L. Barry
Page 15
Multiple agencies' releases
Page 18
ESA release 34-2005
Page 19
Page 19
NASA/JPL/ASU release
Page 20
NASA expendable launch vehicle status report E05-04
Mission Reports
Page 5
Page 7
By Bernard Foing
Page 7
NASA Earth Observatory release
Page 8
By Robert Sanders
Page 9
By David Catling
By Skip Derra
Arizona State University release
20 June 2005
A team of researchers, including a photosynthesis expert from ASU, has
found evidence of photosynthesis taking place deep within the Pacific Ocean.
The team found a bacterium that is the first photosynthetic organism that
doesn't live off sunlight but from the dim light coming from hydrothermal
vents nearly 2,400 meters (7,875 feet) deep in the ocean. The discovery of the
green sulfur bacteria living near hydrothermal vents off the coast of Mexico
has significant implications for the resiliency of life on Earth—and possibly
on other planets, says Robert Blankenship, a member of the research team and
professor and chair of ASU's chemistry and biochemistry department.
"Life finds a way," Blankenship says of the plucky bacteria that were found in
a vent field called 9 North off the coast of Mexico. The bacteria apparently
live in the razor-thin interface between the extremely hot water (350 degrees
Celsius, or 662 degrees Fahrenheit) coming from a flange vent and the very
cold water (2 degrees Celsius, or about 36 degrees Fahrenheit) surrounding it.
The research team is led by J. Thomas Beatty of the University of British
Columbia, located in Vancouver, British Columbia. They published their
discovery in an article titled "An obligately photosynthetic bacterial anaerobe
from a deep sea hydrothermal vent," in the June 20 issue of the Proceedings of
the National Academy of Sciences. In addition to Blankenship and Beatty,
team members are Jörg Overmann and Ann Manske, University of Munich,
Germany; Michael Lince, ASU; Andrew Lang, University of British
Columbia and University of Alaska, Fairbanks; Cindy Van Dover, College of
William & Mary, Williamsburg, VA; Tracey Martinson, University of Alaska,
Fairbanks; and F. Gerald Plumley, University of Alaska, Fairbanks and the
Bermuda Biological Station for Research, St. George's, Bermuda.
The team collected water samples around the hydrothermal vents of 9 North
and surrounding areas. From the samples near the vents, they cultivated a
microbe that grew in response to illumination near the thermal vents.
By using DNA analysis, the team classified the microbe as a member of the
green sulfur bacteria family, which use light and sulfur to obtain energy. The
fact that the organism is obligate means it solely relies on photosynthesis to
Marsbugs: The Electronic Astrobiology Newsletter, Volume 12, Number 22, 29 June 2005
"This is startling in the sense that you do not expect to find photosynthesis in a
region of the world that is so completely dark," Blankenship says.
Sunlight can penetrate 100 meters to 200 meters (about 330 feet to 660 feet)
into the ocean, slowly dimming as the depth increases. Because these
organisms live nearly 2,400 meters below the surface—almost 1.5 miles
down—the team believes they must be getting light from the hydrothermal
vent near where they were found.
"These organisms are the champions of low-light photosynthesis,"
Blankenship says. "These guys have the most elaborate and sophisticated
antenna system, which we have studied for a long time in organisms that are
relatives of the one discovered near the vents."
Blankenship says the antenna system of the bacteria uses a chlorosome
complex, which basically acts like a microscopic satellite dish, to efficiently
collect any light it can and transfer it to the organism's reaction center. The
reaction center is where the photosynthesis takes place. Blankenship says this
discovery is important on two different levels. One is what it means to life on
Earth; the other is what it means about where to look for life forms on other
NASA release 05-158
22 June 2005
A detailed image from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope offers the strongest
evidence yet that an unruly and unseen planet may be gravitationally tugging
on a dusty ring around the nearby star Fomalhaut (HD 216956). The most
detailed visible light image ever taken of a narrow, dusty ring unequivocally
shows the center is a whopping 1.4 billion miles away from the star; a
distance nearly halfway across our solar system. The most plausible
explanation is an unseen planet, moving in an elliptical orbit, is reshaping the
ring with its gravitational pull. The geometrically striking ring, tilted toward
Earth, would not have such a great offset if it were only being influenced by
Fomalhaut's gravity.
An offset of the ring center from the star has been inferred from previous
lower resolution submillimeter wavelength telescope observations; and by
applying theoretical modeling and physical assumptions. Hubble's sharp
images directly reveal the ring's offset from Fomalhaut. The observations
provide strong evidence at least one unseen planetary mass object is orbiting
the star. If the orbiting object were larger than a planet, such as a brown
dwarf star, Hubble would have detected it.
"This shows that photosynthesis is something that is not limited only to the
very surface of our planet," he says. "It lets you consider other places where
you might find photosynthesis on Earth, as well as on other planets."
For example, Europa, a planet-sized satellite of Jupiter, long has been thought
to have some of the necessary attributes to harbor life. But it is far too distant
from the Sun for traditional forms of photosynthesis. It is believed that under
the ice-covered surface of Europa are liquid oceans—and at the bottom of
those oceans it is speculated there might be very hot thermal vents. Those
vents could harbor the potential for spawning photosynthetic organisms.
"This find shows us that there is this ability of organisms to survive and live in
areas that we wouldn't have imagined possible, and that life is much stronger
than what we realized," Blankenship says. "This is just one example of life in
extreme environments."
Journal reference:
J. Thomas Beatty et al., 2005. An obligately photosynthetic bacterial
anaerobe from a deep-sea hydrothermal vent. Proceedings of the National
Skip Derra
ASU Marketing & Strategic Communications
Phone: 480-965-4823
Read the original news release at
An additional article on this subject is available at:
From United Press International and SpaceDaily
20 June 2005
Russian space officials said Monday they are preparing two unmanned
missions to Mars before 2015. Georgy Polischuk, director general and
designer general of the Lavochkin production and science association, was
quoted by the Interfax-AVN news agency as saying the first mission is
scheduled for October 2009. A research craft will orbit Mars, and then a rover
will be dropped on the surface of Phobos—one of the tiny twin martian
moons, to collect soil samples to return to Earth. The second mission is
intended to land on Mars to conduct various experiments, he added.
"Our new images confirm those earlier hypotheses that proposed a planet was
perturbing the ring," said astronomer Paul Kalas of the University of
California at Berkeley. The ring is similar to our solar system's Kuiper Belt, a
vast reservoir of icy material left over from the formation of our solar system
The ring's inner edge is sharper than its outer edge, a telltale sign that an
object is gravitationally sweeping out material like a plow clearing away
snow. Another classic signature of a planet's influence is the ring's relatively
narrow width, about 2.3 billion miles. Without an object to gravitationally
keep the ring material intact, the particles would spread out much wider.
The suspected planet may be orbiting far away from Fomalhaut, inside the
dust ring's inner edge, between 4.7 billion and 6.5 billion miles from the star.
The ring is approximately 12 billion miles from Fomalhaut, much farther than
our outermost planet Pluto is from the sun. These observations do not directly
detect the planet, so astronomers cannot measure its mass. They will use
computer simulations of the ring's dynamics to estimate its mass.
Read the full article at
Fomalhaut, a 200-million-year-old star, is a mere infant compared to our own
4.5-billion-year-old sun. It is 25 light-years from the sun in the constellation
Piscis Austrinus (the Southern Fish). The Fomalhaut ring is 10-times as old as
debris disks previously seen around the stars AU Microscopii and Beta
Pictoris, where planets may still be forming. If our solar system is any
Marsbugs: The Electronic Astrobiology Newsletter, Volume 12, Number 22, 29 June 2005
example, planets should have formed around Fomalhaut within tens of
millions of years after the birth of the star.
Dolores Beasley
NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC
Phone: 202-358-1753
Susan Hendrix
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD
Phone: 301-286-7745
Donna Weaver
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD
Phone: 410-338-4493
Additional articles on this subject are available at:
By Henry Bortman
From Astrobiology Magazine
22 June 2005
"The size of Fomalhaut's dust ring suggests not all planetary systems form and
evolve in the same way—planetary architectures can be quite different from
star to star," Kalas said. "While Fomalhaut's ring is analogous to the Kuiper
Belt, its diameter is four times greater."
Kalas and his collaborators used Hubble over a five-month period in 2004 to
map the ring's structure. They used the Advanced Camera for Surveys' (ACS)
coronagraph to block out light from the bright star, so they could see details in
the faint ring. One side of the faint ring has yet to be imaged, because it
extended beyond the ACS field of view. Astronomers plan to map the entire
ring later this summer.
Geoff Marcy, professor of astronomy at the University of California,
Berkeley, and director of the Center for integrative Planetary Science, leads a
team of planet-hunters credited with the discovery of more than 100 planets
that orbit nearby stars. At a recent symposium on extrasolar planets, Marcy
spoke with Astrobiology Magazine Managing Editor Henry Bortman about
recent discoveries and the likelihood of finding other solar systems like our
Astrobiology Magazine (AM): You've found Jupiter- or Neptune-mass
planets orbiting about 6.5 percent of the 1300 stars you've been monitoring in
your radial-velocity survey. Almost all of these planets are closer to their host
stars than Jupiter is to our own Sun. I know you need to see a planet's
complete orbit to figure out its mass and its distance from its star. By now,
though, I would imagine you have some strong hints about how many of the
remaining stars have Jupiters or Saturns farther out from their stars. What
kinds of indications are you getting about the prevalence of giant planets?
Geoff Marcy (GM): Something like 5 percent of the remaining stars show a
velocity variation, which has to be due to a companion. But even if we see a
linear or near-linear velocity increase, followed by a decrease, you still don't
know what the orbital period is, because it could go for decades before it
comes back up again. You might have caught it near the top, and now you're
catching it going over the top, but it could go down for 3 decades or more.
So, sadly, we can't really constrain the orbital period or the mass of a planet,
or even know whether it is a planet, based on an incomplete orbit.
Most of them probably are planets. They're probably a Jupiter mass, or a little
bit more, out at 5 AUs or 10 AUs or 15 AUs, where the orbital period is 10 or
20 or 30 years. So, as we all would have guessed as children, there probably
is a population of Jupiters sitting out there at Jupiter and Saturn-like distances,
but we just haven't watched them long enough to confirm that.
That's what's happening with many of our planets. We first caught them on
the rise, then they hooked over. We kept taking data, and now they've come
back around. Once the orbit closes, that's when we publish a paper. So we've
learned that, with patience, they all become full orbits after a while.
Kalas and collaborators, James Graham of the University of California at
Berkeley and Mark Clampin of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in
Greenbelt, MD, findings appear in tomorrow's issue of the journal Nature.
visit For information about NASA and agency
programs on the Web, visit
Journal reference:
Paul Kalas, James R. Graham and Mark Clampin, 2005. A planetary system
as the origin of structure in Fomalhaut's dust belt. Nature, 435(7045):10671070,
AM: So when all of these orbits have closed, you estimate that you'll end up
with about double the number of giant planets that you have now, that roughly
12 percent of the stars will have giant planets?
GM: Yeah. Right now 6.5 percent of our stars have Jupiters and Saturns.
That's a done deal. But if you just mildly extrapolate to these longer-period
ones, it's probably 12 percent, out to say 20 AUs. So something like 12
percent of all stars have a Jupiter or a Saturn like our own, that is to say,
roughly the same mass, in a solar-system-like orbit. On the other hand, 85
percent of the stars don't have a Jupiter or a Saturn, which I think is interesting
to note. Some of the planetary systems clearly don't have giant planets.
Maybe they don't have any planets. But we can rule out the giant planets.
Marsbugs: The Electronic Astrobiology Newsletter, Volume 12, Number 22, 29 June 2005
AM: What about Neptune-mass planets?
GM: We have just found the first three Neptune-class planets, with minimum
masses of 15, 18, and 21 Earth-masses. They orbit 55 Cancri, HD 190360,
and Gliese 436. For comparison, our Neptune has 17 Earth-masses. Most
remarkably, we also found a planet with a likely mass of only 7 Earth-masses,
orbiting the star Gliese 876. This planet is probably rocky, a "super-Earth"
with a radius only twice that of our Earth. So we have found the first planets
that resemble the terrestrial planets in our Solar Systems, albeit larger.
AM: So you know for certain that some 85 percent of your stars don't have a
Jupiter or a Saturn. But you can't tell yet whether most of them have a
Neptune or only a handful do?
GM: Empirically you're right. Of the 85 percent that show definitively they
don't have a Jupiter or a Saturn, they could have Neptunes, they could have
Earths, and so on. But we have no information. If you wanted my guess, any
star that's reasonably isolated—single stars, or stars that have a distant stellar
companion—almost certainly had a protoplanetary disk around it when it was
young, and those disks almost have to make planets. This is a guess, so put a
red flag about what I'm about to say. Based on theory, the guess would be
that protoplanetary disks did exist around virtually all of the stars that we
currently don't see any planets around at all. Those stars probably have
Neptunes and Earths. If you had to bet, you'd bet there are Earth-size, Venussize, Mars-size, maybe even Neptune-size planets around 80 percent of all the
stars, 90 percent, maybe even virtually all of them. It's hard to avoid it.
If I may just elaborate, because it's a very exciting issue for astrobiology and
the prevalence of Earths in the galaxy: the only way a star can form is by gas
accreting onto the star, and it does so conserving angular momentum, creating
a disk. And then the viscosity of that disk drains the material onto the star.
So almost every star must have had a protoplanetary disk for a few million
years. And therefore, it almost certainly must have made Earths. Why would
some disks make Earths and Jupiters and others not? So, the odds are that our
non-detections, the 85 percent of the stars that haven't yet shown planets still
have lower-mass planets. That would be the bet, without any evidence.
AM: What about orbital eccentricity? The planets in our solar system have
nearly circular orbits. But that doesn't appear to be true of the planets around
other stars. Most of them have eccentric orbits.
GM: To me, that's the most dramatic discovery of all that we've learned about
extrasolar planets. And the anthropocentric surprise is that of the 104
extrasolar planets that my team has discovered, 90 percent of them have
eccentricities, elongations of the orbits, greater than those seen among the
planets in our own solar system. And most of them are much greater: 0.25 is
the average eccentricity. By comparison, Jupiter has an eccentricity of 0.05.
AM: What does a 0.25 eccentricity look like?
GM: If you take the average distance of a planet from its star, the eccentricity
determines how close in it comes and how far out it goes. A 0.25 eccentricity
brings the planet in 25 percent closer than its average, and it swings the planet
out 25 percent farther than its average. Most of the comets have eccentricities
of 0.8 or 0.9. Halley's comet has eccentricity of 0.97. They're way eccentric.
AM: You said you were studying about 1300 stars. Does that include many
M dwarfs?
GM: We have 150 of these low-mass M-dwarf stars on our survey. We've
been watching them for 3 or 4 years. Of the 150, only 2 of them have shown
planets: Gilese 436, which has a Neptune that we recently discovered; and
Gilese 876, which has 3 planets (including the 7 Earth-mass one), with orbital
periods of 30, 60, and 1.9 days. Two out of 150 is a low occurrence rate,
relative to the Sun-like stars. So the early suggestion—and it's more than a
suggestion—is that the low-mass stars, the M dwarfs, have fewer Jupiters and
Saturns in orbits comparable to those that we seen in the solar-type stars.
Because we would have seen them if the M dwarfs had them.
Now you could argue that maybe M dwarfs have plenty of Jupiters and
Saturns, but they orbit so far away that we haven't detected them yet. I
suspect not. Much more likely, and I don't think I'm grasping too far—one or
two theorists have looked into this—is that low-mass stars formed out of lowmass molecular cloud cores, in turn making low-mass protoplanetary disks.
So it really isn't much of a surprise, in retrospect, that low-mass stars would
be associated with lower-mass planets, Neptune-mass or lower. One
theoretical paper has suggested that the mass of the planets would be roughly
proportional to the mass of the host star. So M dwarfs, being a third of a solar
mass, might only make Saturns and below.
AM: You said that your guess is that planets are likely to form around most
stars. Let me ask you to speculate further. How likely do you think habitable
planets are?
GM: That's harder, and of course, I'm asked that a lot. You know, the
problem is that the properties of a planet that render it habitable are still under
fairly serious debate. There was the book, Rare Earth, that raised a number
issues, and there are other issues about habitability that are still being learned.
How stable does the rotation axis have to be? The orbit probably has to be
circular enough that liquid water would persist for a long time. So what
fraction of earthlike planets would be in circular enough orbits that liquid
water could persist for billions of years? There's the question of a carbon
cycle that allows greenhouse effects to remain stable, and so on.
These are issues that are just not well understood. So I don't think anybody
knows. If I were to articulate our lack of knowledge, if earthlike planets form
near 1 AU, 50 percent of them retain their liquid water, making oceans and
lakes, and they're habitable by the definitions that we suggest. It could also be
that it's one in a million. I think it's fair to argue the other end of the
spectrum: that retention of liquid water, stably, not freezing or vaporizing, for
a few billion years, to let Darwinian evolution do its thing and create creatures
that can write cello concertos—that kind of stability could be a rarity.
I don't think anybody can speak intelligently about the fraction of rocky
planets at 1 AU that might retain liquid water. In fact, there's even a firstorder question, which is, "How many rocky planets even have the amount of
liquid water that we have on the Earth?" Too much and you have a water
world. Too little and it gets absorbed into the silicates, hydrated rocks, and
you don't have any liquid water on the surface. We have a rather special
amount of liquid water on the Earth. It gives us oceans that have enough
thermal inertia to remain liquid and maintain stable temperature. So I think
we're not in a good position right now to make an educated guess about
whether habitable worlds are around 50 percent of all the stars, or 1 in a
million. It could be either way, as far as I can tell.
Read the original article at
By Douglas Vakoch
23 June 2005
With the latest discovery of a "Super-Earth" around a dim, red star 15 light
years from Earth, SETI scientists have been pondering the implications for
their search for intelligence on other worlds. "This planet answers an ancient
question," said Geoffrey Marcy, professor of astronomy at the University of
California, Berkeley, and leader of the team that discovered the planet, which
is seven to eight times the mass of Earth. "Over 2,000 years ago, the Greek
philosophers Aristotle and Epicurus argued about whether there were other
Earth-like planets. Now, for the first time, we have evidence for a rocky
planet around a normal star."
Team member Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution of Washington
emphasized the similarity between this most recently detected planet, located
around an M star called Gliese 876, and our own world. "This is the smallest
extrasolar planet yet detected and the first of a new class of rocky terrestrial
planets," he explained. "It's like Earth's bigger cousin."
Read the full article at
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics release
24 June 2005
Interstellar travelers might want to detour around the star system TW Hydrae
to avoid a messy planetary construction site. Astronomer David Wilner of the
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and his colleagues have
discovered that the gaseous protoplanetary disk surrounding TW Hydrae holds
vast swaths of pebbles extending outward for at least 1 billion miles. These
Marsbugs: The Electronic Astrobiology Newsletter, Volume 12, Number 22, 29 June 2005
rocky chunks should continue to grow in size as they collide and stick
together until they eventually form planets.
"We're seeing planet building happening right before our eyes," said Wilner.
"The foundation has been laid and now the building materials are coming
together to make a new solar system."
Located about 180 light-years away in the constellation Hydra the Water
Snake, TW Hydrae consists of a 10 million-year-old star about four-fifths as
massive as the Sun. The protoplanetary disk surrounding TW Hydrae
contains about one-tenth as much material as the Sun—more than enough to
form one or more Jupiter-sized worlds.
"TW Hydrae is unique," said Wilner. "It's nearby, and it's just the right age to
be forming planets. We'll be studying it for decades to come."
Headquartered in Cambridge, MA, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for
Astrophysics (CfA) is a joint collaboration between the Smithsonian
Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory. CfA
scientists, organized into six research divisions, study the origin, evolution
and ultimate fate of the universe.
Journal reference:
D. J. Wilner, P. D'Alessio, N. Calvet, M. J. Claussen and L. Hartmann, 2005.
Toward planetesimals in the disk around TW Hydrae: 3.5 centimeter dust
David Aguilar, Director of Public Affairs
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Phone: 617-495-7462
Fax: 617-495-7468
Christine Pulliam
Public Affairs Specialist
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Phone: 617-495-7463
Fax: 617-495-7016
Read the original news release at
The star system TW Hydrae, shown here in an artist's conception,
possesses a protoplanetary disk holding vast numbers of pebble-sized
rocky chunks. Those pebbles eventually should grow to become fullsized planets. Image credit: Bill Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF).
Wilner used the National Science Foundation's Very Large Array to measure
radio emissions from TW Hydrae. He detected radiation from a cold,
extended dust disk suffused with centimeter-sized pebbles. Such pebbles are a
prerequisite for planet formation, created as dust collects together into larger
and larger clumps. Over millions of years, those clumps grow into planets.
"We're seeing an important step on the path from interstellar dust particles to
planets," said Mark Claussen (NRAO), a co-author on the paper announcing
the discovery. "No one has seen this before."
Additional articles on this subject are available at:
By Patrick L. Barry
From NASA Science News
24 June 2005
Opposite charges attract. Like charges repel. It's the first lesson of
electromagnetism and, someday, it could save the lives of astronauts.
A dusty disk like that in TW Hydrae tends to emit radio waves with
wavelengths similar to the size of the particles in the disk. Other effects can
mask this, however. In TW Hydrae, the astronomers explained, both the
relatively close distance of the system and the stage of the young star's
evolution are just right to allow the relationship of particle size and
wavelength to prevail. The scientists observed the young star's disk with the
VLA at several centimeter-range wavelengths.
NASA's Vision for Space Exploration calls for a return to the Moon as
preparation for even longer journeys to Mars and beyond. But there's a
potential showstopper: radiation. Space beyond low-Earth orbit is awash with
intense radiation from the Sun and from deep galactic sources such as
supernovas. Astronauts en route to the Moon and Mars are going to be
exposed to this radiation, increasing their risk of getting cancer and other
maladies. Finding a good shield is important.
"The strong emission at wavelengths of a few centimeters is convincing
evidence that particles of about the same size are present," Claussen said.
The most common way to deal with radiation is simply to physically block it,
as the thick concrete around a nuclear reactor does. But making spaceships
from concrete is not an option. (Interestingly, it might be possible to build a
moonbase from a concrete mixture of moondust and water, if water can be
found on the Moon, but that's another story.) NASA scientists are
investigating many radiation-blocking materials such as aluminum, advanced
plastics and liquid hydrogen. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Not only does TW Hydrae show evidence of ongoing planet formation, it also
shows signs that at least one giant planet may have formed already. Wilner's
colleague, Nuria Calvet (CfA), has created a computer simulation of the disk
around TW Hydrae using previously published infrared observations. She
showed that a gap extends from the star out to a distance of about 400 million
miles—similar to the distance to the asteroid belt in our solar system. The gap
likely formed when a giant planet sucked up all the nearby material, leaving a
hole in the middle of the disk. This research was published in the June 20,
2005, issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Those are all physical solutions. There is another possibility, one with no
physical substance but plenty of shielding power: a force field.
Most of the dangerous radiation in space consists of electrically charged
particles: high-speed electrons and protons from the Sun, and massive,
Marsbugs: The Electronic Astrobiology Newsletter, Volume 12, Number 22, 29 June 2005
positively charged atomic nuclei from distant supernovas. Like charges repel.
So why not protect astronauts by surrounding them with a powerful electric
field that has the same charge as the incoming radiation, thus deflecting the
radiation away?
sit statically on the spheres), not much power would be needed to maintain the
The spheres would be made of a thin, strong fabric (such as Vectran, which
was used for the landing balloons that cushioned the impact for the Mars
Exploration Rovers) and coated with a very thin layer of a conductor such as
gold. The fabric spheres could be folded up for transport and then inflated by
simply loading them with an electric charge; the like charges of the electrons
in the gold layer repel each other and force the sphere to expand outward.
Supernovae create dangerous radiation. Image credit: FORS Team,
8.2-meter VLT, ESO.
Many experts are skeptical that electric fields can be made to protect
astronauts. But Charles Buhler and John Lane, both scientists with ASRC
Aerospace Corporation at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, believe it can be
done. They've received support from the NASA Institute for Advanced
Concepts, whose job is to fund studies of far-out ideas, to investigate the
possibility of electric shields for lunar bases.
"Using electric fields to repel radiation was one of the first ideas back in the
1950s, when scientists started to look at the problem of protecting astronauts
from radiation," Buhler says. "They quickly dropped the idea, though,
because it seemed like the high voltages needed and the awkward designs that
they thought would be necessary (for example, putting the astronauts inside
two concentric metal spheres) would make such an electric shield
How the voltage would vary above a lunar base for the sphere
configuration shown above. You can learn more about this and other
configurations in the report, "Analysis of a Lunar Base Electrostatic
Radiation Shield Concept."
Placing the spheres far overhead would reduce the danger of astronauts
touching them. By carefully choosing the arrangement of the spheres,
scientists can maximize their effectiveness at repelling radiation while
minimizing their impact on astronauts and equipment at the ground. In some
designs, in fact, the net electric field at ground level is zero, thus alleviating
any potential health risks from these strong electric fields.
Buhler and Lane are still searching for the best arrangement: Part of the
challenge is that radiation comes as both positively and negatively charged
particles. The spheres must be arranged so that the electric field is, say,
negative far above the base (to repel negative particles) and positive closer to
the ground (to repel the positive particles). "We've already simulated three
geometries that might work," says Buhler.
Artist’s concept of an electrostatic radiation shield, consisting of
positively charged inner spheres and negatively charged outer
spheres. The screen net is connected to ground. Image courtesy of
ASRC Aerospace.
Buhler and Lane's approach is different. In their concept, a lunar base would
have a half dozen or so inflatable, conductive spheres about 5 meters across
mounted above the base. The spheres would then be charged up to a very
high static-electrical potential: 100 megavolts or more. This voltage is very
large but because there would be very little current flowing (the charge would
Portable designs might even be mounted onto "moon buggy" lunar rovers to
offer protection for astronauts as they explore the surface, Buhler imagines.
It sounds wonderful, but there are many scientific and engineering problems
yet to be solved. For example, skeptics note that an electrostatic shield on the
Moon is susceptible to being short circuited by floating moondust, which is
itself charged by solar ultraviolet radiation. Solar wind blowing across the
shield can cause problems, too. Electrons and protons in the wind could
become trapped by the maze of forces that make up the shield, leading to
Marsbugs: The Electronic Astrobiology Newsletter, Volume 12, Number 22, 29 June 2005
strong and unintended electrical currents right above the heads of the
The research is still preliminary, Buhler stresses. Moondust, solar wind and
other problems are still being investigated. It may be that a different kind of
shield would work better, for instance, a superconducting magnetic field.
These wild ideas have yet to sort themselves out. But, who knows, perhaps
one day astronauts on the Moon and Mars will work safely, protected by a
simple principle of electromagnetism even a child can understand.
Read the original article at
By Bernard Foing
From Astrobiology Magazine
27 June 2005
Bernard Foing, Chief Scientist at the European Space Agency, is also Project
Scientist for SMART-1, a spacecraft now orbiting the Moon. SMART-1 is
currently mapping the lunar surface topography and mineralogy, and
scientists hope this information will lead to new insights about the Moon's
evolution. In this essay, Bernard Foing ponders what steps will need to be
taken to establish future human bases on the Moon. The Moon has one-sixth
of Earth's gravity and no atmosphere, but the difficulties of living there could
be eased by something as beautiful and delicate as a flower.
I believe what is important, for the return of humans to the Moon, is to learn
how to develop life on the Moon. It's a different environment, exposed to
high levels of radiation, so we have to be careful. We could bring some
bacterial colonies to the Moon to see how they would adapt or mutate.
We have developed a concept of a small life science prototype to learn how
such life would adapt. We named our miniature life support demonstrator the
First Extraterrestrial Man Made Ecosystem, or FEMME. That doesn't mean
we want to send only women to the Moon, but we want a few! Hopefully
we'll have the first woman on the Moon, it's about time.
Another step is to bring some plant life communities to the Moon. And what
is more beautiful in terms of life communities than a flower? A flower is not
a single system. A flower is a host to a series of organisms. So it is just like a
microorganism biosphere that you could bring to another planet. And also,
symbolically, pictorially, a flower has a strong meaning.
We are collaborating with botanical groups in Ukraine and the Netherlands,
looking at very resistant plant forms. We have to start with a plant that can
survive the trip. Because I live in Holland, and I cross the tulip fields on my
way to work, I thought tulips could be a nice example. You can freeze a bulb.
You can sterilize it. You can transfer it to the Moon and then, with sufficient
water, some heat, and an artificial CO2 atmosphere, you could see the flower
I have some colleagues developing very miniature cameras. So I want to see,
day after day, this flower grow. We could set up the camera to show Earth in
the background, showing in three dimensions how we are bringing life from
Earth to another planet.
We are thinking about other kinds of flowers or plants that could be brought to
the Moon as a sophisticated life science experiment. For instance, we are
looking at various ornamental plants, to help provide psychological comfort to
the astronauts. Seeing these plants grow could make them happy, because
they would see life developing in the lunar desert.
The Moon is a great laboratory to learn how to expand Earth life to another
planet. That is because the Moon is a part of the Earth. 4.5 billion years ago,
an asteroid collision with Earth caused expelled material to form the Moon.
We don't believe there is any indigenous life on the Moon. We have to
eventually revisit that, because if there are some polar ice deposits, there may
be organic contaminants coming from comets. Short episodes during
subsequent impacts might warm and process this ice and organic mixture. But
besides that, most of the Moon is barren and dry, so it's a good place to try to
turn a desert into an oasis.
Left: A moon base could be used to expand life from Earth. Image
credit: NASA. Center: The Lunar Clementine mission shows the
South Pole of the Moon. The permanently shadowed region center
showed earlier evidence of meteor cratering and ice never exposed to
direct sunlight. Image credit: NASA/DOD Clementine. Right: The
view of Earth from the Moon was psychological comfort for Apollo
astronauts. Image credit: NASA.
Of course, we cannot globally terraform the Moon all at once. We would
need to start with an artificial biosphere. It would be a little bit like Las
Vegas; when you go into the hotel, you have an artificial domain. You cannot
stand it outside, it is too hot.
The Moon has no atmosphere, but the soil is rich in minerals. There's about
45 percent of oxygen in the soil, for instance. So we have to learn how to
extract resources that we can use later for sustaining these areas. And there
are also some resources that can be used for producing energy back on Earth.
We are also involved in activities to grow plants in a greenhouse—to grow
salad and other foods for the diet—so astronauts could start living off the land.
To do this, we need to learn how to recycle some of the water and nutrients.
The European Space Agency's MELISSA project (Micro-Ecological Life
Support System Alternative) uses different compartments to recycle wastes
from animals, and from this we can grow algae.
Another very interesting plant to grow on the Moon is called Arabidopsis,
from the mustard family. It is very resistant, prolific with a short 6-week
cycle, and can be cultivated in restricted space. Its genome has been mostly
sequenced, with a large number of mutant lines and genomic resources.
Growing on the Moon mustard, algae, and salad would be the start of lunar
gastronomy (maybe adding lunar garlic for French and Italian cooks!).
So the first step to bring life to the Moon would be to grow bacterial colonies,
with precursor experiments such as FEMME, followed by more advanced life
science experiments on the upcoming lunar landers. We believe this could be
done sometime between 2010 and 2015. What we learn from that can teach
us about the problems of growing plants, and developing greenhouses on the
Moon. After that, we could consider the next steps to take for animal life and
then human. This is how we are going to develop sustainable systems for
future human bases on the Moon.
Read the original article at
NASA Earth Observatory release
28 June 2005
The disturbance that islands cause in the flow of water currents in the ocean
creates turbulence that mixes surface waters with deeper ocean layers. This
mixing increases the amount of nutrients available in the warm surface waters
where microscopic ocean plant life grows. Iron-rich sediments running off the
islands also enhance plant productivity, particularly when the islands are steep
and do not have shallow lagoons where the sediment can settle. This colorful
image shows the concentration of chlorophyll in the waters around the
Marquises Islands (or "Marquesas," as they are commonly known in English)
in French Polynesia, a collection of islands in the western Pacific Ocean about
ten degrees south of the equator. Surface waters with less chlorophyll are
Marsbugs: The Electronic Astrobiology Newsletter, Volume 12, Number 22, 29 June 2005
colored in blue, while progressively higher amounts of plant chlorophyll are
yellow. Clouds are white, and the islands are dark gray.
"We feel that measuring homochirality—a prevalence of one type of
handedness over another—would be absolute proof of life," said Mathies,
professor of chemistry at UC Berkeley and Skelley's research advisor. "We've
shown on Earth, in the most Mars-like environment available, that this
instrument is a thousand times better at detecting biomarkers than any
instrument put on Mars before."
The instrument has been chosen to fly aboard the European Space Agency's
ExoMars mission, now scheduled to launch in 2011. The MOA will be
integrated with the Mars Organic Detector, which is being assembled by
scientists directed by Frank Grunthaner at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)
in Pasadena together with Jeff Bada's group at UC San Diego's Scripps
Institution of Oceanography.
Skelley, a graduate student who has been working on amino acid detection
with Mathies for five years and on the portable MOA analyzer for the past two
years, is hoping to remain with the project as it goes through miniaturization
and improvements at JPL over the next seven years in preparation for its longrange mission. In fact, she and Mathies hope she's the one looking at MOA
data when it's finally radioed back from the Red Planet.
The largest of the three islands arranged in a triangle in image center is Nuku
Hiva. To its east is Ua Huka, while to the south is Ua Pou. The highest
chlorophyll levels in the region are south of this triangle of islands, while
another strong plume is visible stretching northward from Hiva Oa, farther
east. Although these islands appear as just a speck on a map of the entire
Pacific Ocean, they have a large influence on plant, and, in turn, animal life in
the region. NASA image by Norman Kuring, MODIS Ocean Color Team.
"When I first started this project, I had seen photos of the martian surface and
possible signs of water, but the existence of liquid water was speculative, and
people thought I was crazy to be working on an experiment to detect life on
Mars," Skelley said. "I feel vindicated now, thanks to the work of NASA and
others that shows there used to be running liquid water on the surface of
Read the original news release at
By Robert Sanders
University of California, Berkeley release
28 June 2005
The dry, dusty, treeless expanse of Chile's Atacama Desert is the most lifeless
spot on the face of the Earth, and that's why Alison Skelley and Richard
Mathies joined a team of NASA scientists there earlier this month. The
University of California, Berkeley, scientists knew that if the Mars Organic
Analyzer (MOA) they'd built could detect life in that crusty, arid land, then it
would have a good chance some day of detecting life on the planet Mars.
Left: UC Berkeley graduate student Alison Skelley sampling at the
Rock Garden site in the Atacama Desert. Photo by Richard
Mathies, UC Berkeley. Right: The capillary electrophoresis
instrument of the Mars Organic Analyzer (right) and the subcritical
water extractor, both of which together form the Mars Astrobiology
Probe being assembled by UC Berkeley, JPL and Scripps. Photo
by Alison Skelley, UC Berkeley.
"The connection between water and life has been made very strongly, and we
think there is a good chance there is or was some life form on Mars," Mathies
said. "Thanks to Alison's work, we're now in the right position at the right
time to do the right experiment to find life on Mars."
Mathies said that his experiment is the only one proposed for ExoMars or the
United States' own Mars mission—NASA's roving, robotic Mars Science
Laboratory mission—that could unambiguously find signs of life. The
experiment uses state-of-the-art capillary electrophoresis arrays, novel microvalve systems and portable instrument designs pioneered in Mathies' lab to
look for homochirality in amino acids. These microarrays with microfluidic
channels are 100 to 1,000 times more sensitive for amino acid detection than
the original life detection instrument flown on the Viking Landers in the
Located at an isolated crossroads in Chile's Atacama Desert, the
Yunguy field station is an ideal spot to test instruments destined for
Mars. Photo by Alison Skelley, UC Berkeley.
In a place that hadn't seen a blade of grass or a bug for ages, and contending
with dust and temperature extremes that left her either freezing or sweating,
Skelley ran 340 tests that proved the instrument could unambiguously detect
amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. More importantly, she and
Mathies were able to detect the preference of Earth's amino acids for lefthandedness over right-handedness. This "homochirality" is a hallmark of life
that Mathies thinks is a critical test that must be done on Mars.
The Atacama Desert was selected by NASA scientists as one of the key spots
to test instruments destined for Mars, primarily because of its oxidizing, acidic
soil, which is similar to the rusty red oxidized iron surface of Mars. Skelley
and colleagues Pascale Ehrenfreund, professor of astrochemistry at Leiden
University in The Netherlands, and JPL scientist Frank Grunthaner visited the
desert last year, but were not able to test the complete, integrated analyzer.
This year, Skelley, Mathies and other team members carried the complete
analyzers in three large cases to Chile by plane—in itself a test of the
ruggedness of the equipment—and trucked them to the barren Yunguy field
station, essentially a ramshackle building at a deserted crossroads. With a
noisy Honda generator providing power, they set up their experiments and,
with six other colleagues, tested the integrated subcritical water extractor
Marsbugs: The Electronic Astrobiology Newsletter, Volume 12, Number 22, 29 June 2005
together with the MOA on samples from popular test sites such as the "Rock
Garden" and the "Soil Pit."
One thing they learned is that with low environmental levels of organic
compounds, as is likely to be the case on Mars, the microfluidic channels in
the capillary disks don't get clogged as readily as they do when used to test
samples in Berkeley with its high bioorganic levels. That means they'll need
fewer channels on the instrument that travels to Mars, and the scanner used to
read out the data needn't be as elaborate. This translates into a cheaper and
easier way to build instruments, but more importantly, an instrument that is
smaller and uses less power.
With the success of this crucial field test, Skelley and Mathies are eager to get
to work on a prototype of their instrument that would fit in the allowed space
within the ExoMars spacecraft. "I'm much more optimistic that we could
detect life on Mars, if it's there," Mathies said.
Read the original news release at
By David Catling
From Astrobiology Magazine
29 June 2005
Mission to Mars (2000). Directed by Brian De Palma. Starring Gary Sinise,
Tim Robbins, Don Cheadle, Jerry O'Connell, Connie Nielsen. When the first
manned mission to Mars meets with a catastrophic and mysterious disaster, a
rescue mission is launched to investigate the tragedy and bring back any
Mars Attacks! (1996). Directed by Tim Burton. Starring Jack Nicholson,
Glenn Close, Natalie Portman, Pierce Brosnan, Annette Bening, Danny
Devito, Rod Steiger, Tom Jones. Martians rocket across space and invade
Earth. Humanity is corralled and subjugated in horrible conditions. Atrocious
acts of brutal violence are witnessed. Slavering bug-eyed monsters are
sighted pillaging the countryside. But have no fear! Eventually, the people of
Earth defeat the Martians. Finally, the movie ends with Tom Jones jigging
about to "It's not Unusual" and the Mars Attacks are clearly over, even though
you wish they would start up again at this point.
Total Recall (1990). Directed by Paul Verhoeven. Starring Arnold
Schwarzeneggar, Sharon Stone. Douglas Quaid (Schwarzeneggar) is haunted
by the same dream every night about a journey to Mars. He hopes to find out
more about this dream and buys a vacation at Rekall Inc. where they sell
implanted memories. Unfortunately, something goes wrong with the memory
implantation and he remembers being a secret agent fighting against an evil
Mars administrator, Coohagen. So the story begins, and what follows is a
rollercoaster ride until the end of the movie, when atmospheric gases and
water are liberated from sub-surface rocks of Mars.
The latest movie incarnation of H. G. Wells's The War of the Worlds hits
theaters today. Steven Spielberg's version of this classic tale is sure to scare
(or at least entertain) millions of people as they watch aliens try to invade
Alternatively the plot goes something like this: Arnold Schwarzenegger plays
a man with big muscles; there are special effects and gratuitous violence; the
Early movies relied on our nearest neighbors—Mars and Venus—to supply a
steady stream of aliens that, one way or another, sought to conquer our world.
But scientific findings in the later half of the twentieth century showed that
these nearby planets had little prospects for advanced life forms. Thus, in
more recent movies like Alien and Independence Day, the aliens have had to
come from further afield to be seen as credible threats by moviegoers. While
Mars may not be the dangerous source of villains it once was, it is still a
source of inspiration for many modern films.
Total Recall is based on a short story by sci-fi cyberpunk author Philip K.
Dick entitled, "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale," only twenty pages
long, and set entirely in two small rooms in New York City. The story is
complex and alien—a painful, detailed examination of a man recovering
suppressed memories, and the reactions of those involved in his "therapy."
Dick himself was in therapy at the time of writing the story. Philip K. Dick's
novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, inspired the film Blade Runner
This overview looks at how Mars and Martians have been represented
throughout the history of the cinema. For a comprehensive list of Marsrelated movies, see the Mars Movie Guide (
Lobster Man from Mars (1989). Directed by Stanley Sheff. Starring Tony
Curtis, Deborah Foreman, Patrick Macnee, Anthony Hickox. A comedy in
which a young film student tries to sell his weird movie to a desperate film
producer who is looking for a tax write-off. The producer screens the film,
Lobster Man From Mars. A "film within-a-film" send-up follows: Mars
suffers from the loss of its atmosphere, and the Martians send the evil Lobster
Man to Earth to steal its air. A mad scientist, a girl, and an army colonel foil
the alien plot. The producer buys the movie, but it makes a huge profit and he
is sent to jail. The film student then takes his place as the studio hot shot.
John Carter of Mars. In Production for a 2006 release. Plot summary by the
Internet Movie Database: "Civil War vet John Carter is transplanted to Mars,
where he discovers a lush, wildly diverse planet whose main inhabitants are
12-foot tall green barbarians. Finding himself a prisoner of these creatures, he
escapes, only to encounter Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium, who is in
desperate need of a savior." Directed by Robert Rodriguez.
War of the Worlds. Release date Wednesday, June 29, 2005. As Earth is
invaded by alien war machines, Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) must fight for his
family's survival. Directed by Steven Spielberg.
Invaders from Mars (1986). Directed by Tobe Hopper. Starring Karen Black,
Hunter Carson, Timothy Bottoms. In this remake of the classic 50s film, a
boy tries to stop an invasion of his town by aliens who take over the the minds
of his parents, his least-liked schoolteacher, and other townspeople. With the
aid of the school nurse the boy enlists the help of the U.S. army.
Older films
T. S. Eliot once described the science fiction genre as a "product of the preadolescent mind." This is an unfair comment for genuine works of literary
quality (e.g., by Wells and Bradbury), but probably wholly deserved for some
of the movies that follow.
Left to right: War of the Worlds, Red Planet and Mars Attacks!
Ghosts of Mars (2001). Directed by John Carpenter. Starring Ice Cube,
Natasha Henstridge, Jason Statham. Set 200 years in the future, a police unit
must transport a dangerous prisoner from a martian mining outpost. But when
the team arrives they find more than they bargained for.
Red Planet (2000). Directed by Anthony Hoffman. Starring Val Kilmer,
Benjamin Bratt, Carrie-Anne Moss, Simon Baker, Tom Sizemore. In the
future, pollution and overpopulation are making the Earth uninhabitable.
Humanity's only hope is to colonize the planet Mars by using algae to produce
oxygen, but when the algae mysteriously disappear, a group of astronauts are
sent to Mars on a mission to learn why.
Planet of Blood (1966). Directed by Curtis Harrington. Starring Dennis
Hopper, John Saxon, Basil Rathbone, Judi Meredith, Florence Marly. An
expedition to Mars finds a crashed alien space ship. They bring back the only
survivor; a green skinned, glowing eyed, bloodsucking, female alien who
preys on the crew members.
Mars Needs Women (1966). Directed by Larry Buchanan. Starring Tommy
Kirk, Yvonne Craig, Byron Lord. The title says it all. Tommy Kirk leads his
fellow Martians on an interplanetary quest for females. Yvonne "Batgirl"
Craig is a scientist chosen by the invaders.
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964). Directed by Nicholas Webster.
Starring John Call, Pia Zadora, Jamie Farr. Santa is captured by Martians to
stop Earth kids from being cheery. But once on Mars, Santa teaches those
Marsbugs: The Electronic Astrobiology Newsletter, Volume 12, Number 22, 29 June 2005
little Martian brats the real meaning of Christmas. Quite possibly the silliest
movie ever made. The most excruciating and cringe-inducing moment is at
the end when the Martians, who are a bunch of kids attired in green stockings,
sing "Hooray for Santy [sic] Claus."
(whatever that is), so the Martians plan to steal the Earthmen's rocket and
conquer Earth. Fortunately, a sympathetic Martian underground helps the
Earthmen foil the dastardly plan.
Rocketship X-M (1950). Directed by Kurt Neumann. Starring Lloyd Bridges,
Hugh O'Brian and Morris Ankrum. Five astronauts set off to explore the
moon but due to a malfunction they end up on Mars (so annoying when that
happens!). There they find evidence of an advanced civilization that has
mostly perished in an atomic holocaust. The few Martian survivors now live
like savage cavemen. After two of the astronauts are killed, the remaining
three attempt to return to Earth.
Left to right: Devil Girl from Mars, The Angry Red Planet,
Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars.
Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964). Directed by Byron Haskins, who also
directed War of the Worlds. Starring Paul Mantee, Victor Lundin, and Adam
West ("Batman"). This movie follows Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe plot,
but without the fear-factor of footprints from the original story. Commander
Christopher Draper (Mantee) must survive on the barren planet accompanied
only by his pet monkey, Mona. Draper discovers minor plant life in the
"canals" of Mars and bakes martian rocks to release oxygen in an otherwise
oxygen-poor atmosphere. Eventually a Man Friday appears and the trio ends
up being chased by flying saucers to one of the polar icecaps. Some
uncharitable people have said that the best acting in the movie is by Mona, the
pet monkey. Many scenes were shot at Zabriskie Point, Death Valley.
The Angry Red Planet (1959). Directed by Ib Melchior. Starring Gerald
Mohr, Nora Hayden, Les Tremayne. A group of astronauts land on Mars.
They then have to put up with continual battles against aliens, a giant amoeba,
and the dreaded Rat-Bat-Spider thing (see picture). Colored lenses give a
sickly pink hue to all the Mars sequences.
Devil Girl from Mars (1954). Directed by David MacDonald. Starring
Patricia Laffa, Hazel Court, Hugh McDermott, Adrienne Corri. Not the kind
of girl you really want to get involved with: pouty, leather-clad alien bitch
Patricia Laffa journeys to Earth in a giant spaceship (accompanied by the
obligatory killer robot) to bring back men for breeding purposes. Very camp.
The War of the Worlds (1953). Directed by Byron Haskin. Starring Gene
Barry as Clayton Forrester. A film adaptation of H. G. Well's classic novel
best understood if you bear in mind that it was made at the height of the Cold
War—i.e., replace Martian with Russian. The residents of a small town are
excited when a flaming meteor lands in the hills. Their joy is somewhat
dampened when they discover it has passengers who are not very friendly.
Won an Academy Award for special effects.
Invaders from Mars (1953). Directed by William Cameron Menzies. Starring
Arthur Franz, Helena Carter. Little David MacLean has a problem—all the
adults in town begin acting strangely shortly after he sees strange lights
settling behind a hill near his home. As more and more adults are affected, he
must turn to the pretty Dr. Blake for protection. Eventually, he must confront
his fears in the unusual conclusion. Remade in 1986.
Abbott and Costello Go to Mars (1953). Directed by Charles Lamont. Lester
(Bud Abbott) and Orville (Lou Costello) accidentally launch a rocket which is
supposed to fly to Mars. Instead it goes to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.
They are then forced by bankrobber Mugsy and his pal Harry to fly to Venus
where they find a civilization made up entirely of women, men having been
Red Planet Mars (1952). Directed by Harry Horner. Starring Peter Graves,
Andrea King, Morris Ankrum. A lame, anti-communist movie made under
the influence of McCarthyism. Communications from Mars establish that the
planet is almost a utopia ruled by a supreme authority. News of this somehow
topples Russia and sends the world on to a new higher plane of existence.
Flight to Mars (1951). Directed by Lesley Selander. Starring Carmon
Mitchell, Arthur Franz, Marguerite Chapman. A team of scientists and a
newspaper reporter fly to Mars only to find that Martians look identical to
humans. Mars is running low on an important natural resource called Corium
Flash Gordon: Mars Attacks the World (1938) (a.k.a. Flash Gordon's Trip to
Mars, Deadly Ray from Mars). Directed by Robert F. Hill. Starring Buster
Crabbe, Charles Middleton, Jean Rogers. A feature-length (badly edited)
abridgement of the 15-episode serial, Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars. Flash
Gordon, his lady love Dale Arden, and scientific genius Dr. Zarkov blast off
for Mars, where a mysterious force is sucking the nitrogen from the Earth's
atmosphere. They hope to determine the source of this power and destroy it.
The villain behind the Earth-threatening scheme is none other than "Ming the
Merciless," who also foments a deadly feud between Prince Barin of the
planet Mongo and the Clay People of Mars. Ming hopes that this battle will
allow him to conquer the universe in the confusion. But the Clay People
ultimately align with Barin and Flash Gordon, and Ming is defeated.
Aelita: Queen of Mars (1924). Director: Jakov Protazanov. A silent Soviet
propaganda film: a comparison between 1920s Russia and a capitalistic
planet, Mars. Engineer Los is building a spaceship to reach Mars. He kills his
wife, Natacha (a refugee care worker), flees to Mars, and falls in love with
Aelita, the Queen of Mars. But it's all a dream, thank goodness.
Read the original article at
By Paul Todd
ASGSB release
23 June 2005
All readers of Marsbugs are invited to become members of the American
Society for Gravitational and Space Biology. The ASGSB currently has about
400 members consisting of gravitational biologists, space physiologists,
biophysicists, and astrobiologists with interests ranging from the origin of life
to the search for life in the universe. The Society is experiencing growth in
this latter field and is an excellent specialty organization where astrobiologists
can belong to a family that is truly biological and can take advantage of the
collective voice of an organization as well as meet colleagues and present
scientific results at the ASGSB annual meeting. To join please visit the
ASGSB web site at and complete the membership application
on line. We look forward to seeing you at our annual meeting in Reno,
Nevada November 1-4, 2005.
Mars Society release
28 June 2005
The June 30 final abstract deadline for the 8th International Mars Society
convention is now approaching. This year's conference will be held at the
University of Colorado, Boulder, August 11-14, 2005. With a real human
Moon-Mars exploration initiative now finally underway, the conference
promises to be our most exciting ever. We have over 100 great talks already
scheduled, with more pending.
While written papers are not required to talk at the conference, those who do
submit full papers will have a chance to have them published in the next On to
Mars book published by Apogee books. (The first edition of On to Mars
containing papers from the first several Mars Society conferences sold out its
run of 6,000 copies. On to Mars 2, containing papers from the more recent
conferences, will be published this fall. So if you've got something to say that
people should hear, get your abstract in now. The final call for papers is
presented below.
Registration for the conference is open at
Marsbugs: The Electronic Astrobiology Newsletter, Volume 12, Number 22, 29 June 2005
Call for papers
Presentations for the convention are invited dealing with all matters (science,
engineering, politics, economics, public policy, etc.) associated with the
exploration and settlement of Mars. Abstracts of no more than 300 words
should be sent by June 30, 2005 to: The Mars Society, P. O. Box 273, Indian
Hills, CO 80454, or via email to: (e-mail submission
NASA/JPL/ASU release
28 June 2005
National Mars Education Conference, 9-10 August 2005.
Location: Doubletree Hotel, Cocoa Beach, FL and Kennedy Space Center, FL
Sponsored by: NASA, The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Kennedy Space Center
and the Arizona State University Mars Education Program
NASA is getting ready to launch the next mission to the Red Planet! The
launch window for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter opens on August 10,
2005. An exciting conference for educators is being held in Florida in
conjunction with this event to highlight NASA's latest Mars mission. This
conference will bring together key NASA mission personnel (Mars scientists
and engineers) as speakers to share their personal stories and passions about
their work and the "behind the scenes" stories that pertain to the upcoming
mission. Education materials for classroom use (such as NASA-based
PowerPoint presentations, Standards-based hands-on activities, and contextual
materials that use cutting-edge science and technological real-world
examples) will be distributed to participants.
National Mars Education Conference Registration Information
Dates: August 9 - 10, 2005
Day 1 - August 9, 2005: Doubletree Hotel, Cocoa Beach, FL
Day 2 - August 10, 2005: Kennedy Space Center Debus Conference Center
Registration Cost: $100.00 per participant ($25.00 non-refundable deposit will
be due after application is accepted). Registration cost includes: continental
breakfast and lunch for Day 1 and lunch on Day 2, conference curricular
materials, general admission into Kennedy Space Center for Day 2, and a
special bus tour of the Kennedy Space Center on Day 2. Registration costs do
not include: all lodging costs, any transportation (e.g., airport), transportation
to and from conference locations (Doubletree Hotel in Cocoa Beach and
Kennedy Space Center), or any meals (except those specified above). All of
these costs are the responsibility of the conference participant.
Workshop participants are free to book lodging at any establishment of their
choice. A block of 50 rooms have been reserved at the Doubletree Hotel in
Cocoa Beach, FL and will be available for reservation at a special rate of
$109.00 (+10% tax = $119.90) per room per night. This block will be
available first come-first served and must be reserved by the participant by
calling the Doubletree Hotel reservation desk directly. All hotel costs are the
responsibility of the conference participant. The Doubletree Hotel Cocoa
Beach Oceanfront is located at 2080 N. Atlantic Ave., Cocoa Beach, FL
32931. The phone number is 1-800-552-3224 or the direct line is 321-7839222. When reserving a room and to get the group rate of $119.90 (before
July 11 and/or before all 50 rooms are reserved) you must ask to reserve under
the MRO Educator Conference.
Conference overview
Day 1: Key Mars mission scientists and engineers from NASA Headquarters
and the Mars Reconnaissance mission team will be the special guest speakers
at this location. Mars education specialists will conduct Standards-based
hands-on activities and provide curricular connections and contextual
materials for conference participants that will enhance classroom teaching of
science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Day 2: Conference participants will have the opportunity to see the first
launch attempt of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft onboard the
Atlas V rocket (as long as weather permits and no unforeseen spacecraftrelated issues occur). As with any launch, many factors (especially weather at
this time of year in FL) can postpone a launch. Hence, the launch is not
guaranteed to occur during this conference time. In the case of an early
notification of a cancelled launch for this day, alternative education activities
have been planned to fill this time slot and will be conducted by Mars
education specialists and take place at the Debus Conference Center located at
the Kennedy Space Center. During the
afternoon session, Kennedy Space
Center education specialists, will present an educator-focused Kennedy Space
Center overview, followed by a bus tour of Kennedy Space Center.
How to apply
Please fill out the application below and submit a brief paragraph on how the
information and materials from this conference will be used in an educational
setting. Participants must indicate that they will be responsible for all noncovered expenses and will attend the entire conference. The conference hours
will be from 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM on 8/9/05 and 6:00 AM (if there is a launch
attempt) until 5:00 PM on 8/10. The conference will be limited to 125
participants and no non-adults (children or students) will be allowed to
participate in the conference or conference-related activities. Please feel free
to contact Sheri Klug, Director ASU Mars Education Team (
if you have any questions about initial registration.
National Mars Education Conference Application
Dates: August 9-10, 2005
Cocoa Beach, FL and the Kennedy Space Center, FL
Name: ____________________________________________________________________
Full Contact Address: ____________________________________________________
Contact Phone: ___________________________________________________________
E-mail: __________________________________________________________________
Fax: _____________________________________________________________________
Marsbugs: The Electronic Astrobiology Newsletter, Volume 12, Number 22, 29 June 2005
I understand that I will be responsible for all non-covered conferencerelated expenses.
Please write a brief paragraph on how the information and materials from
this conference will be used in an educational setting. Please mail, fax
or e-mail application to:
Meg Hufford
Mars Space Flight Facility
Arizona State University
Moeur Bldg. Rm. 131, Box 876305
Tempe, AZ 85287-6305
Fax: (480) 727-7956
NASA release 05-168
29 June 2005
NASA selected 21 space radiation research proposals for funding.
Approximately $19 million will be spent on the research to support the Vision
for Space Exploration.
The goal of NASA's Space Radiation Program is to ensure humans can safely
live and work in space. Safely means acceptable risks are not exceeded
during crews' lifetime. Acceptable risks include limits on post and multimission consequences, such as excess lifetime fatal cancer vulnerability.
Exposure to radiation during space flight is unavoidable. Space radiation
penetrates the crew, spacesuits, spacecraft, habitats, and equipment. The
interaction of radiation with materials changes both; and the interaction with
living organisms leads to potentially harmful health consequences. The
consequences include tissue damage, cancer, cataracts, electronic upsets, and
material degradation.
Space radiation is distinct from terrestrial forms. Space radiation is comprised
of high-energy protons, heavy ions and their secondaries produced in
shielding and tissue. Since there are no human epidemiological data for these
radiation types, risk estimation is derived from mechanistic understanding.
The estimates are based on radiation physics, molecular, cellular, and tissue
biology related to cancer and other risks.
NASA received 115 responses to the request for proposals issued on August
24, 2004. Proposals were peer-reviewed by scientific and technical experts
from academia, government, and industry. The 21 proposals will seek to
reduce the uncertainties in risk predictions, including cancer, degenerative
tissue damage, cataracts, hereditary, fertility, and sterility. They also cover
acute risks and development of effective shielding or biological
countermeasures for them.
J. D. Harrington or Michael Braukus
NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC
Phone: 202-358-5241 or -1979
NASA/JPL releases
Final science activities in the S11 sequence included Composite
InfraRedSpectrometer (CIRS) and Imaging Science Subsystem (ISS)
observations of the F-Ring, ISS movies of Saturn's southern hemisphere, and
low-rate magnetospheric surveys performed by the Magnetospheric and
Plasma Science (MAPS) instruments.
Beginning on Friday, the entire suite of MAPS instruments, which include the
Cassini Plasma Spectrometer (CAPS), Cosmic Dust Analyzer (CDA), Ion and
Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS), Magnetometer Subsystem (MAG),
Magnetospheric Imaging Instrument (MIMI) and Radio and Plasma Wave
Science (RPWS), simultaneously performed low-rate outer magnetospheric
surveys to observe the variability of magnetospheric boundaries at several
geometrically similar apoapses. On Saturday the RADAR instrument
obtained distant full-disk radiometry of Titan to help constrain the thermal
properties of the surface.
Optical remote sensing activities this week included ISS movie feature tracks
of Saturn's winds and clouds in the southern hemisphere, a Visual and Infrared
Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) mosaic of the entire ring system near
apoapsis, Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVIS) observations to detect
flashes from meter-sized interplanetary impactors on Saturn's rings in order to
constrain the flux of impact population for the ring's origins and evolution,
and CIRS integrations of the rings to constrain their thermal properties, and
determine their composition.
Cassini Significant Events for 15-22 June 2005
NASA/JPL release, 24 June 2005
Thursday, June 16 (DOY 167):
The most recent spacecraft telemetry was acquired Wednesday from the
Goldstone tracking stations. The Cassini spacecraft is in an excellent state of
health and is operating normally. Information on the present position and
speed of the Cassini spacecraft may be found on the "Present Position" web
page located at
At a "Science 101, a Science Lecture Series for the Non-Scientist" talk, a
member of the Cassini Science Team gave a presentation on unraveling the
secrets of Saturn's moons. Because Nature often yields her secrets through the
most bizarre examples, the talk focused on the unusual satellites Enceladus
and Iapetus, the violent events that shaped these satellites, their connection to
Earth, the stars, and life itself.
Marsbugs: The Electronic Astrobiology Newsletter, Volume 12, Number 22, 29 June 2005
Epimetheus, and will contain two occultation periods occurring on DOY 177
and 196. Cassini achieved apoapsis today and began its tenth orbit around
The story of the solar system is written upon the faces of its
many worlds, such as Saturn's icy moon Rhea, seen here in
an image from Cassini. The moon's many impact craters
attest to its violent beginnings and more than four billion
years of subsequent history. Rhea is 1,528 kilometers (949
miles) across. Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science
The S15 Science Operations Plan update process kicked off today. It will run
for about five weeks and will conclude mid-July.
A kick-off meeting for the DOY 177 Live Inertial Vector Propagator (IVP)
update and live moveable block (LMB) process was held today. The
Navigation team delivered the orbit determination files by end of day and the
flight team will spend the next few days reviewing them. A Go/No Go
meeting will be held for the update on Monday. Uplink Operations (ULO)
radiated a real-time command for an overlay to the Reaction Wheel Assembly
bias that will execute tomorrow.
Saturn's moon Pan is seen here orbiting within the Encke Gap in
Saturn's A ring in two differently processed versions of the same
Cassini image. The little moon is responsible for clearing and
maintaining this gap, named for Johann Franz Encke, who discovered
it in 1837. Pan is 20 kilometers (12 miles) across. Image credit:
NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.
Monday, June 20 (DOY 171):
At the S12 LMB/Live IVP Go/No meeting today it was decided to proceed
with the LMB but not with the Live IVP update. The leads for S15 received
the first DSN allocation file pertaining to that sequence. It contained no
changes that would cause significant impact to the data volume, so the
decision was made to cancel the S15 Science Allocation Panel meeting
scheduled for today. A real-time command was uplinked today for an INMS
patch to FSW. Since no new requests for waivers were generated for the S13
sequence, the waiver disposition meeting was cancelled.
Friday, June 17 (DOY 168):
The S14 Project Briefing/Waiver Disposition meeting was held today.
Members of the Science Planning team will be generating a hand-off package
for the sequence to be given to ULO. On Monday the Science and Sequence
Update Process (SSUP) will begin.
The last commands were sent today for the S11 sequence. ULO uplinked a
relative timed Immediate/Delayed Action Program to change the CDA wall
impact detection parameter, a CAPS flight software (FSW) checkout file, and
a CAPS overlay during FSW checkout to turn the actuator off for the Radio
Science Subsystem High Gain Antenna Boresight Calibration on Tuesday of
next week. CDA team members confirmed the execution of their file, and the
sequence leads confirmed the registration and activation of the CAPS FSW
checkout program.
A member of the Mission Support and Services Office presented Cassini talks
to groups of 5th and 6th grade students at a career day at Aldama Elementary
School in Los Angeles, CA. Approximately 350 students attended. Science
Planning gave a Cassini presentation to 150 middle school girls and 50 adults
for Space Pioneers in Kansas City, Missouri.
A new Cassini poster is available through the Cassini Outreach Office. This
poster highlights Saturn and early tour results. English and Spanish language
versions are available, the latter in limited quantity. To order, hit the "Contact
Us" link at the very bottom of the Cassini web site. Allow at least 4-6 weeks
for delivery.
Today at approximately 5:11 PM the S12 background sequence began
execution. The sequence will run for 43.9 days ending on July 31, and will
contain Orbit Trim Maneuver #25, an Enceladus targeted flyby, solar
conjunction, 6 non-targeted flybys of Titan, Tethys, Pan, Telesto, Rhea, and
This close-up look at Saturn's moon Janus reveals spots on the
moon's surface which may be dark material exposed by impacts. If the
dark markings within bright terrain are indeed impact features, then
Janus' surface represents a contrast with that of Saturn's moon
Phoebe, where impacts have uncovered bright material beneath a
darker overlying layer. Janus is 181 kilometers (113 miles) across.
Janus may be a porous body, composed mostly of water ice. Image
credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.
Marsbugs: The Electronic Astrobiology Newsletter, Volume 12, Number 22, 29 June 2005
Tuesday, June 21 (DOY 172):
The S14 SSUP development process kicked off today. The files for the SubSequence Generation phase were distributed to the instrument teams,
Spacecraft Operations Office (SCO), and Navigation for review.
"I'd say this is definitely the best candidate we've seen so far for a liquid
hydrocarbon lake on Titan," said Dr. Alfred McEwen, Cassini imaging team
member and a professor at the University of Arizona, Tucson. The suspected
lake area measures 234 kilometers long by 73 kilometers wide (145 miles by
45 miles), about the size of Lake Ontario, on the U.S. Canadian border.
An image of the Cassini Crater on Earth's moon was taken by the European
Space Agency's SMART-1 spacecraft, and dedicated to the Cassini-Huygens
mission team. The occasion was the European Geoscience Union conference
in Vienna, April 2005, when new results from both missions were presented.
Saturn Observation Campaign members have shown the Cassini Crater along
withMons Huygens on the moon to star party audiences. Here is a picture of
"This feature is unique in our exploration of Titan so far," said Dr. Elizabeth
Turtle, Cassini imaging team associate at the University of Arizona. "Its
perimeter is intriguingly reminiscent of the shorelines of lakes on Earth that
are smoothed by water erosion and deposition."
Wednesday, June 22 (DOY 173):
"It's possible that some of the storms in this region are strong enough to make
methane rain that reaches the surface," said Cassini imaging team member Dr.
Tony DelGenio of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York.
Today a non-targeted flyby of Titan occurred. An image of Saturn's rings
taken with the sun on the opposite side of the ring plane is Astronomy Picture
of the Day today. From this view the rings have similarities to a photographic
negative of a front view. For example, the dark band in the middle is actually
the normally bright B-ring. The ring brightness as recorded from different
angles indicates ring thickness and particle density of ring particles.
A delivery coordination meeting was held today for the SCO tool Flight
Software Development System (FSDS) version 2.19. FSDS is a simulation
environment for the Cassini ACS subsystem.
Check out the Cassini web site at for the latest press
releases and images.
NASA's Cassini Reveals Lake-Like Feature on Titan
NASA/JPL release 2005-103, 28 June 2005
Scientists are fascinated by a dark, lake-like feature recently observed on
Saturn's moon Titan. NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured a series of images
showing a marking, darker than anything else around it. It is remarkably lakelike, with smooth, shore-like boundaries unlike any seen previously on Titan.
The feature lies in Titan's cloudiest region, which is presumably the most
likely site of recent methane rainfall. This, coupled with the shore-like
smoothness of the feature's perimeter makes it hard for scientists to resist
speculation about what might be filling the lake, if it indeed is one.
"Given Titan's cold temperatures, it could take a long time for any liquid
methane collecting on the surface to evaporate. So it might not be surprising
for a methane-filled lake to persist for a long time," DelGenio added.
Despite earlier predictions, no definitive evidence for open bodies of liquid
has been found on Titan. Cassini has not yet been in a favorable position for
using its cameras to check for glints from possible surface liquids in the south
polar region.
"Eventually, as the seasons change over a few years, the convective clouds
may migrate northward to lower latitudes," said DelGenio, "If so, it will be
interesting to see whether the Cassini cameras record changes in the
appearance of the surface as well."
"An alternate explanation is that this feature was once a lake, but has since
dried up, leaving behind dark deposits," Turtle said. Yet another possibility is
that the lake is simply a broad depression filled by dark, solid hydrocarbons
falling from the atmosphere onto Titan's surface. In this case, the smooth
outline might be the result of a process unrelated to rainfall, such as a sinkhole
or a volcanic caldera.
"It reminds me of the lava lakes seen on Jupiter's moon, Io," Dr. Torrence
Johnson, an imaging team member at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in
Pasadena, CA.
"It is already clear that whatever this lake-like feature turns out to be, it is only
one of many puzzles that Titan will throw at us as we continue our
reconnaissance of the surface over the next few years," said Dr. Carolyn
Porco, imaging team leader at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, CO.
Thirty-nine more Titan flybys are planned for Cassini's prime mission. In
future flybys the science teams will search for opportunities to observe the
lake feature again and to look for mirror-like reflections from smooth surfaces
elsewhere on Titan. Such reflections would strongly support the presence of
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European
Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL manages the Cassini
mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini
orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled
at JPL. The imaging team is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder.
To view a computer-enhanced image of the feature and a three-frame movie
showing the evolution of nearby clouds on the Internet, visit, and
This view of Titan's south polar region reveals an intriguing dark
feature that may be the site of a past or present lake of liquid
hydrocarbons. The true nature of this feature, seen here at left of
center, is not yet known, but the shore-like smoothness of its perimeter
and its presence in an area where frequent convective storm clouds
have been observed by Cassini and Earth-based astronomers make it
the best candidate thus far for an open body of liquid on Titan. Image
credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European
Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory,
a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the
Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate,
Washington, DC. JPL designed, developed and assembled the Cassini orbiter.
Carolina Martinez
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA
Phone: 818-354-9382
Marsbugs: The Electronic Astrobiology Newsletter, Volume 12, Number 22, 29 June 2005
Erica Hupp or Dolores Beasley
NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC
Phone: 202-358-1237 or -1753
essentially digital cameras connected to telescopes. They record images and
data before, during, and after impact.
Preston Dyches
Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations
Space Science Institute, Boulder, CO
Phone: 720-974-5859
Additional articles on this subject are available at:
Multiple agencies' releases
Maryland-Led Deep Impact Detects Comet Nucleus
University of Maryland release, 21 June 2005
For the first time, scientists have processed images from NASA's Deep Impact
spacecraft and clearly seen the solid body, or nucleus, of the comet through
the vast cloud of dust and gas that surrounds it. The new images provide
important information about the mission's target: the "heart" of comet Tempel
1. The images were taken at the end of May with the spacecraft's medium
resolution camera, at a distance of some 20 million miles from the comet.
Unprocessed, the images are dominated by the comet's huge cloud of dust and
gas, which scientists call the coma. However, scientists used a neat
photometric trick to isolate the relatively small (3-mile by 9-mile) nucleus
from the comet's coma, or atmosphere. The much larger, but less dense
atmosphere was mathematically identified and then subtracted from the
original images leaving images of the nucleus, the bright point in the center of
the coma.
"It's exciting to see the nucleus pop out from the coma," said University of
Maryland astronomer Michael A'Hearn, who leads the Deep Impact mission.
"And being able to distinguish the nucleus in these images helps us to better
understand the rotational axis of the comet's nucleus, which is helpful for
targeting this elongated body."
"This is an important milestone for the Deep Impact team," explained Carey
Lisse, a member of the Deep Impact team and leader of the effort to extract
views of the nucleus from the spacecraft images. "From here on in we just
watch the nucleus grow and grow and become brighter and bigger as the
spacecraft closes in on the comet. We detected the nucleus a lot sooner than
expected, but now we'll be watching the nucleus all the way to impact!"
As illustrated in the attached figure, Deep Impact images taken on May 29-31
contain a well-formed coma with a detectable point source at the position of
the brightest pixel. The brightness of the nucleus as determined from these
images was close to that predicted from earlier observations with the Hubble
and Spitzer space-telescopes and observations from large telescopes on the
ground. At present, the nucleus contributes about 20 percent of the total
brightness near the center of the comet.
"The early detection of the nucleus in these images helps us to set the final
exposure times for our encounter observations," said Michael Belton, deputy
principal investigator for the Deep Impact Mission. "Next we need to
determine, using additional nucleus detections, how the comet is rotating in
space, so we can figure out what part we will hit on July 4th."
5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1 - Impact!
Deep Impact—which consists of a sub-compact-car-sized flyby spacecraft and
a five-sided impactor spacecraft about the size of a washing machine—carries
four instruments. The flyby spacecraft carries two imaging instruments, the
medium resolution imager and the high resolution imager, plus an infrared
spectrometer that uses the same telescope as the high-resolution imager. The
impactor carries a single imager. Built to science team specifications by Ball
Aerospace & Technologies Corp., the three imaging instruments are
A false color image of the comet, taken on 30 May 2005, is shown in
the upper left. To its right is a mathematical model of the comet's
atmosphere. The bottom left image is the difference between the two
upper images and shows the nucleus. In the bottom right a trace
through the center of the comet shows the brightness of the nucleus.
In these images North is approximately up and East is to the left. The
direction to the Sun is towards the upper left hand corner. The picture
is about 100,000 miles across.
At the beginning of July, after a voyage of some 268 million miles, the joined
spacecraft will reach comet Tempel 1. The spacecraft will approach the
comet and collect images and spectra of it. Then, some 24 hours before the 2
a.m. (EDT) July 4th impact, the flyby spacecraft will launch the impactor into
the path of the onrushing comet. Like a copper penny pitched up into the air
just in front of a speeding tractor-trailer truck, the 820-pound impactor will be
run down by the comet, colliding with the nucleus at an impact speed of some
23,000 miles per hour. A'Hearn and his fellow mission scientists expect the
impact to create a crater several hundred feet in size; ejecting ice, dust and gas
from the crater and revealing pristine material beneath. The impact will have
no significant affect on the orbit of Tempel 1, which poses no threat to earth.
Nearby, Deep Impact's "flyby" spacecraft will use its medium and high
resolution imagers and infrared spectrometer to collect and send back to Earth
pictures and data of the event. In addition, the Hubble and Spitzer space
telescopes, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and large and small telescopes on
Earth also will observe the impact and its aftermath.
Read the original news release at
Astronomers' Holiday Special—A July 4 Comet Bash
By Lori Stiles
University of Arizona release
23 June 2005
Have a wish for the USA's birthday this year? If you're a ground-based
astronomer in Arizona and states west through Hawaii, you'll wish for clear,
dark skies in early July. It's your chance to watch what happens when
NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft slams its 820-pound copper probe into comet
Tempel 1 at 23,000 mph.
The impact is expected at 10:52 PM MST Sunday, July 3. The mothership
will fly next to the comet to document the fireworks, and several major NASA
space telescopes—Hubble, Spitzer, Chandra—will witness the result. Big
telescopes in Hawaii and major observatories in California and Arizona will
Marsbugs: The Electronic Astrobiology Newsletter, Volume 12, Number 22, 29 June 2005
be watching from 83 million miles away, too. Southern Arizona astronomers
will be watching the comet impact. Some, like those with Arizona Radio
Observatory, which supports the NASA Deep Impact Ground-based Radio
Science campaign, and at Kitt Peak National Observatory have already logged
many nights studying the comet.
The Deep Impact mission goal is to blast a crater for a first-ever look inside a
comet, which is made of the same stuff that made up our solar system billions
of years ago, before the planets formed. Scientists hope to learn a lot from the
small comet, which is only about 8.7 miles long and 2.5 miles wide. No one
knows what will happen on impact.
The UA/Smithsonian 6.5-meter MMTO observatory on Mount Hopkins, AZ.
Web site: Science contacts: MMTO Director Faith
Vilas, 281-483-5056,; Kurtis A. Williams, UA
Steward Observatory, 520-621-9262,
Williams will be observing stars and galaxies with a multi-object spectrograph
on the MMTO on July 3-4, but also comet Tempel 1 according to a strategy
being developed by Faith Vilas, the new MMTO director.
"We expect to be surprised," said University of Arizona Regents Professor H.
Jay Melosh, a member of the Deep Impact science team. "We don't know
what the comet's surface is like. We could hit something as hard as concrete
or as soft as cornflakes."
The Catalina Sky Survey, a consortium of three cooperating surveys: the
original Catalina Sky Survey and the Mount Lemmon Sky Survey in the Santa
Catalina Mountains north of Tucson, and the Siding Spring Survey near
site: Science contact: Steve Larson, 520-6214973,; Rob McNaught,
Melosh will be at the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, CA, during the
probe-comet collision. The Jet Propulsion Lab is managing Deep Impact,
which is a NASA Discovery class mission conducted by the University of
Maryland, College Park, MD.
The cooperating surveys share a common goal—to help inventory more than
90 percent of Near Earth Objects (NEOs) that are one kilometer or larger.
The three surveys have been monitoring the Tempel 1 comet and will observe
during impact from both the northern and southern hemispheres.
Melosh will talk on "First Results from the Deep Impact Mission" in Tucson
on Saturday, July 9. His talk will be at 6:15 PM in the Kuiper Space Sciences
Building, 1629 E. University Blvd., Tucson. The lecture, which is part of a
program sponsored by UA's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory Public Outreach
Program, is free and open to the public. Seating is first come, first served, so
event organizers recommend showing up when LPL opens its doors at 5:00
UA's 61-inch Kuiper Telescope in the Santa Catalina Mountains, north of
Tucson. Web site: Science
contact: Carl Hergenrother, 520-621-9690,
Mike Belton, president of Belton Space Exploration Initiatives, Tucson, and
deputy-principal investigator on the mission, came up with the mission name
"Deep Impact" before a drama-sci-fi-thriller with the same title was released
in 1998. (The movie, starring Robert Duvall and Tea Leoni, is about humans
preparing to survive a catastrophic comet impact.)
Spacewatch on Kitt Peak, AZ. Web site:
Science contacts: Spacewatch Director Robert McMillan, 520-621-6968,; James Scotti, 520-621-2717,
Melosh noted that Deep Impact's copper probe could no more send comet
Tempel 1 careening toward Earth than a kamikaze gnat could change the
flight path of a fully loaded Boeing 747.
Here's the rundown of what southern Arizona observatories are doing the
week of Deep Impact.
The Arizona Radio Observatory (ARO) 12-meter Kitt Peak telescope and
ARO's 10-meter Heinrich Hertz Submillimeter Telescope on Mount Graham,
AZ. The 12-m ARO web site is Science
contacts: UA Professor Lucy Ziurys, ARO director.
520-621-6525,; St. Cloud State University Professor Maria Womack,
principal investigator, 320-308-4171,
The ARO 12-meter telescope has been observing comet Tempel 1 for baseline
information on the kinds and quantities of molecules that are present around
the comet before impact. ARO's Heinrich Hertz Submillimeter Telescope on
Mount Graham, Ariz., begins making baseline observations June 23. The
project is led by St. Cloud State University astronomer Maria Womack, a
collaborator of the NASA Deep Impact Ground-based Radio Science team.
The observers will study molecules ejected in debris after impact, molecules
rarely detected in coma gas. "We're most interested in 'parent' molecules—
those which sublimate directly from the nucleus," Womack said. "By
measuring their abundances we can determine the chemical composition of
the comet nucleus and, therefore, get information about the conditions in
which the comet formed." Womack added, "Remote observing procedures
work so well that I don't need to be at the Arizona telescope, and that gives me
the chance to collect much more data than I otherwise would have."
"These molecules should be bright enough for our telescope to detect in a few
minutes after impact," said ARO graduate student Stephanie Milam, who'll
assist with the observations and is heavily involved in cometary studies.
National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) on Kitt Peak, AZ. Web
site: Media contact: Douglas Isbell, 520-3188230, All major NOAO telescopes on Kitt Peak will be
observing the comet for several nights before impact as well as the impact
itself. These include the Mayall 4-meter telescope, the Kitt Peak 2.1-meter
telescope, and the WIYN 3.5-meter telescope.
The comet will be about 20 degrees above the horizon, and sets about two
hours after impact. With a 61-inch telescope, Hergenrother plans to observe
as many as 50 other comets as well as Tempel 1 from July 2 through July 5.
McMillan and Scotti have made no specific plans for watching comet Tempel
1 during Deep Impact because the comet is so low in the sky, although Scotti
said he may try for some before-and-after impact images of Tempel 1. The
25-year-old Spacewatch project is the pioneering comet-and-asteroid survey,
and another source of top comet and asteroid experts.
Campus Station 21-inch telescope, adjacent to the astronomy department
Science contacts: Steward Observatory associate astronomer Thomas
Fleming, 520-621-5049,; UA astronomy major
Joshua V. Nelson,
Fleming and Nelson photographed the comet with Steward Observatory's 21inch telescope at Campus Station on June 8, using a light-pollution reduction
filter to cut out some of the street light pollution. They'll use the same setup
to observe the comet on encounter night, starting at 10:00 PM.
Tempel 1 is named after Ernst Wilhelm Leberecht Tempel, who discovered
the comet on April 3, 1867, in Marseilles, France. The comet is now on a
south-southeast course through constellation Virgo. It is about 40 times
dimmer than is visible to the unaided eye, but could brighten enough after
impact to be seen through binoculars, astronomers say. However, they add, it
could take minutes to hours, even days before the comet fully brightens, and
there's no guarantee that Earth-based telescopes will even see the immediate
impact flash.
Flandrau Science Center will open its observatory special hours Sunday, June
3, through Saturday, June 9. Because comet Tempel 1 will be so faint and low
in the Arizona sky during its collision with the probe at 11:00 PM. Sunday
night, the comet will be difficult to find in large amateur telescopes from light
polluted city locations. For stargazers who want to try Sunday night, Flandrau
will open its 16-inch telescope from 7:30 PM until midnight, for real time
video imaging and for direct viewing if the comet is bright enough.
The best nights to view the comet from Flandrau's 16-inch telescope may be
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights after impact. The telescope will be
open for the public from 7:30 PM to 10:00 PM. Monday through Saturday,
July 4 - 9. Flandrau's 16-inch telescope is the only free public telescope open
on a regular basis in the state of Arizona. Normal telescope hours are 7:00
PM to 10:00 PM Monday through Wednesday, weather permitting. For more
Marsbugs: The Electronic Astrobiology Newsletter, Volume 12, Number 22, 29 June 2005
information, visit Flandrau's Web page at and call the
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Hibernating Spacecraft Awakens for Comet Impact Mission
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics release, 28 June 2005
The Submillimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite (SWAS) has been asleep on
orbit for the past 11 months. SWAS operators placed it into hibernation after
a highly successful 5.5-year mission highlighted by the discovery of a swarm
of comets evaporating around an aging red giant star. Now, they have
awakened SWAS again for the first-ever opportunity to study a comet on a
collision course with a U.S. space probe.
Current SWAS measurements indicate that Comet Tempel 1 is ejecting about
730 pounds of water per second, which is modest by cometary standards.
Deep Impact mission designers specifically selected the target for this reason
because the probe's mothership will have a better chance of surviving the
flyby. SWAS will watch closely for any changes to the water production rate
during and after the impact. Its measurements will help constrain the nature
of the comet's nucleus, including its chemical makeup.
NASA and the SWAS team decided to reawaken the satellite because it offers
several unique advantages for observing the impactor-comet collision. SWAS
can determine the water production rate directly. It has a large field of view
that encompasses both the comet nucleus and the surrounding envelope of
vaporized gases known as the coma. And, it is above the atmosphere and
unaffected by weather, allowing SWAS to monitor the comet almost
continuously. In early June, the satellite was powered up and its components
successfully tested. SWAS will remain active through the end of August,
watching Comet Tempel 1 for any long-term changes.
"It's gratifying that a satellite that has contributed so much during its lifetime
has been given one more opportunity," said Melnick. "Helping to decipher
the composition of material thought to be unchanged since the birth of our
solar system seems like a great last act."
Read the original news release at
NASA's Deep Impact Craft Observes Major Comet "Outburst"
NASA/JPL release 2006-104, 28 June 2005
NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft observed a massive, short-lived outburst of
ice or other particles from comet Tempel 1 that temporarily expanded the size
and reflectivity of the cloud of dust and gas (coma) that surrounds the comet
nucleus. The outburst was detected as a dramatic brightening of the comet on
June 22. It is the second of two such events observed in the past two weeks.
A smaller outburst also was seen on June 14 by Deep Impact, the Hubble
Space Telescope and by ground based observers.
SWAS will have a ringside seat for a probe-comet impact on July 4,
2005. Image credit: NASA, B. Scott Kahler, David Aguilar.
"We knew there was life left in SWAS," said SWAS Principal Investigator
Gary Melnick (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics). "SWAS's
ability to detect emission from water convinced us that we could contribute to
the broader understanding of comets generated by this event. This once-in-alifetime event was just too tempting to pass up."
NASA's Deep Impact mission will rendezvous with Comet Tempel 1 at the
end of June. Twenty-four hours before collision, on July 3rd, the flyby
spacecraft will deploy a 39-inch long by 39-inch wide, 802-pound copperreinforced impactor to strike the comet's nucleus. As the main Deep Impact
spacecraft watches from a safe distance, the impactor will blast material out of
the comet, excavating a football stadium-sized crater of pristine ice from the
interior. SWAS will measure the abundance of water molecules as the icy
comet debris vaporizes.
"Because a comet is composed mostly of ice and rock, water is the most
abundant molecule released by a comet. Everything else vaporizing from the
comet is measured relative to the amount of water," said Melnick. "Water is
the gold standard for comets, so knowing how much water is being released
per second is a very useful piece of information."
In a dress rehearsal for the rendezvous between NASA's Deep Impact
spacecraft and comet 9P/Tempel 1, the Hubble Space Telescope
captured dramatic images of a new jet of dust streaming from the icy
comet. Image credit: NASA, ESA, P. Feldman (Johns Hopkins
University), and H. Weaver (Johns Hopkins University/Applied Physics
"This most recent outburst was six times larger than the one observed on June
14, but the ejected material dissipated almost entirely within about a half day,"
said University of Maryland College Park astronomer Michael A'Hearn,
principal investigator for the Deep Impact mission. A'Hearn noted that data
from the spectrometer aboard the spacecraft showed that during the June 22
outburst the amount of water vapor in the coma doubled, while the amount of
other gases, including carbon dioxide, increased even more. A movie of the
cometary outburst is available on the Internet at
"Outbursts such as this may be a very common phenomenon on many comets,
but they are rarely observed in sufficient detail to understand them because it
is normally so difficult to obtain enough time on telescopes to discover such
phenomena," A'Hearn said. "We likely would have missed this exciting
event, except that we are now getting almost continuous coverage of the
comet with the spacecraft's imaging and spectroscopy instruments."
Deep Impact co-investigator Jessica Sunshine, with Science Applications
International Corporation, Chantilly, Va., agreed that observing such activity
Marsbugs: The Electronic Astrobiology Newsletter, Volume 12, Number 22, 29 June 2005
twice in two weeks suggests outbursts are fairly common. "We must now
consider them as a significant part of the processing that occur on comets as
they heat up when approaching the sun," she said.
Dolores Beasley
NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC
Phone: 202-358-1753
Comet Tempel 1 is near perihelion, or the point in its orbit at which it is
closest to the Sun.
Lee Tune
University of Maryland, College Park, MD
Phone: 301-405-4679
"This adds to the level of excitement as we come down to the final days
before encounter," said Rick Grammier, Deep Impact project manager at
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA. "But this comet outburst
will require no modification to mission plan and in no way affects spacecraft
Deep Impact consists of a sub-compact-car-sized flyby spacecraft and an
impactor spacecraft about the size of a washing machine. The dual spacecraft
carries three imaging instruments, two on the flyby spacecraft and one on the
impactor. A spectrometer on the flyby spacecraft uses the same telescope as
the flyby's high-resolution imager.
The final prelude to impact will begin early on July 3, 24 hours before the
1:52 AM EDT July 4th impact, when the flyby spacecraft releases the
impactor into the path of the comet. Like a copper penny pitched up into the
air just in front of a speeding tractor-trailer truck, the 820-pound impactor will
be run down by the comet, colliding with the nucleus at a closing speed of
23,000 miles per hour. Scientists expect the impact to create a crater several
hundred feet in size; ejecting ice, dust and gas from the crater and revealing
pristine material beneath. The impact will have no significant affect on the
orbit of Tempel 1, which poses no threat to Earth.
Nearby, Deep Impact's "flyby" spacecraft will use its medium and high
resolution imagers and infrared spectrometer to collect and send to Earth
pictures and spectra of the event. The Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes,
the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and large and small telescopes on Earth also
will observe the impact and its aftermath.
The University of Maryland, College Park, conducts overall mission science
for Deep Impact that is a Discovery class NASA program. NASA's Jet
Propulsion Laboratory handles project management and mission operations.
The spacecraft was built for NASA by Ball Aerospace and Technologies
Corporation, Boulder, CO.
Lori Stiles, UA
Phone: 520-626-4402
Virginia Pasek, LPL Public Events
Phone: 520-621-9692
Mike Terenzoni, Flandrau
Phone: 520-621-3646
Doug Isbell, NOAO
Phone: 520-318-8230
David Aguilar, Director of Public Affairs
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Phone: 617-495-7462
Fax: 617-495-7468
Christine Pulliam
Public Affairs Specialist
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Phone: 617-495-7463
Fax: 617-495-7016
D. C. Agle
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA
Phone: 818-393-9011
Additional articles on this subject are available at:
ESA release 34-2005
22 June 2005
MARSIS, the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding
onboard ESA's Mars Express orbiter, is now fully deployed, has undergone its
first checkout and is ready to start operations around the Red Planet. With
this radar, the Mars Express orbiter at last has its full complement of
instruments available to probe the planet's atmosphere, surface and subsurface
MARSIS consists of three antennas: two "dipole" booms 20 meters long, and
one 7-meter "monopole" boom oriented perpendicular to the first two. Its
importance is that it is the first-ever means of looking at what may lie below
the surface of Mars.
The delicate three-stage phase of radar boom deployment, and all the
following tests to verify spacecraft integrity, took place between 2 May and
19 June. Deployment of the first boom was completed on 10 May. That
boom, initially stuck in unlocked mode, was later released by exploiting solar
heating of its hinges.
Taking advantage of the lessons learnt from that first boom-deployment, the
second 20-meter boom was successfully deployed on 14 June. Subsequently,
ESA's ground team at the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in
Darmstadt, Germany, commanded the non-critical deployment of the third
boom on 17 June, which proceeded smoothly as planned.
MARSIS's ability to transmit radio waves in space was tried out for the first
time on 19 June, when the instrument was switched on and performed a
successful transmission test. The instrument works by sending a coded stream
of radio waves towards Mars at night, and analyzing their distinctive echoes.
From this, scientists can then make deductions about the surface and
subsurface structure. The key search is for water. But MARSIS's capabilities
do not stop there. The same methods can also be used by day to probe the
structure of the upper atmosphere.
Before starting its scientific observations, MARSIS has to undergo its
commissioning phase. This is a routine procedure for any spacecraft
instrument, necessary to test its performance in orbit using real targets in situ.
In this case, the commissioning will last about ten days, or 38 spacecraft
orbital passes, starting on 23 June and ending on 4 July. During the
commissioning phase, MARSIS will be pointed straight down (nadir pointing
mode) to look at Mars from those parts of the elliptical orbit where the
spacecraft is closest to the surface (around the pericenter). During this phase,
Marsbugs: The Electronic Astrobiology Newsletter, Volume 12, Number 22, 29 June 2005
it will cover the areas of Mars between 15° S and 70° N latitude. This
includes interesting features such as the northern plains and the Tharsis
region, so there is a small chance of exciting discoveries being made early on.
16-22 June 2005
On 4 July, when the commissioning operations end, MARSIS will start its
nominal science observations. In the initial phase, it will operate in survey
mode. It will make observations of the martian globe's night-side. This is
favorable to deep subsurface sounding, because during the night the
ionosphere of Mars does not interfere with the lower-frequency signals needed
by the instrument to penetrate the planet's surface, down to a depth of 5
The following new images taken by the Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) on the
Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft are now available.
Through to mid-July, the radar will look at all martian longitudes between 30°
S and 60° N latitude, in nadir pointing mode. This area, which includes the
smooth northern plains, may have once contained large amounts of water.
The MARSIS operation altitudes are up to 800 kilometers for subsurface
sounding and up to 1200 kilometers for studying the ionosphere. From midJuly, the orbit's closest approach point will enter the day-side of Mars and stay
there until December. In this phase, using higher frequency radio waves, the
instrument will continue shallow probing of the subsurface and start
atmospheric sounding.
"Overcoming all the technical challenges to operate an instrument like
MARSIS, which had never flown in space before this mission, has been made
possible thanks to magnificent cooperation between experts on both sides of
the Atlantic," said Professor David Southwood, ESA's Science Programme
Director. "The effort is indeed worthwhile as, with MARSIS now at work,
whatever we find, we are moving into new territory; ESA's Mars Express is
now well and truly one of the most important scientific missions to Mars to
date," he concluded.
The MARSIS instrument was developed by the University of Rome, Italy, in
partnership with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena,
California. The instrument team is led by Professor Giovanni Picardi. It is
the first instrument to actually look below the surface of Mars, using low
frequency microwaves reflected by the different layers of matter. Among its
primary objectives are the attempt to detect underground water ice and the
characterisation of terrains underneath layers of sediment. In addition,
MARSIS will conduct large-scale altimetry mapping and provide data on the
planet's ionosphere, as this electrically-charged region of the upper
atmosphere reflects radio waves too.
Gullied Crater Wall (Released 16 June 2006)
Candor Chasma Features (Released 17 June 2006)
South Hemisphere Gullies (Released 18 June 2006)
Defrosting Sand (Released 19 June 2006)
Crater with Streak (Released 20 June 2006)
Mars at Ls 230 Degrees (Released 21 June 2006)
Small Impact Crater (Released 22 June 2006)
All of the Mars Global Surveyor images
NASA/JPL/ASU release
20-24 June 2005
Fred Jansen
ESA, Mars Express Mission Manager
Arsia Mons Overlapping Flows (Released 23 June 2005)
ESA Media Relations Division
Phone: +33(0)1-53-69-7155
Fax: +33(0)1-53-69-7690
Additional articles on this subject are available at:
Mars Global Surveyor was launched in November 1996 and has been in Mars
orbit since September 1997. It began its primary mapping mission on March
8, 1999. Mars Global Surveyor is the first mission in a long-term program of
Mars exploration known as the Mars Surveyor Program that is managed by
JPL for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, DC. Malin Space
Science Systems (MSSS) and the California Institute of Technology built the
MOC using spare hardware from the Mars Observer mission. MSSS operates
the camera from its facilities in San Diego, CA. The Jet Propulsion
Laboratory's Mars Surveyor Operations Project operates the Mars Global
Surveyor spacecraft with its industrial partner, Lockheed Martin Astronautics,
from facilities in Pasadena, CA and Denver, CO.
Mars Express was launched on 2 June 2003 and reached the Red Planet on
Christmas Day that same year. MARSIS was planned to deploy its three
antenna booms in April 2004, towards the end of the orbiter's commissioning
phase. Computer simulations pointed to a risk that the booms could lash back
and harm the spacecraft and its instruments during deployment. ESA
therefore delayed deployment until the boom supplier (JPL) and the spacecraft
prime contractor (Astrium, France) together with ESA's experts had
conducted further analyses and simulations of boom behavior during
deployment and the possible impact on the spacecraft. Once the magnitude of
the risk involved had been assessed and the relevant mitigation scenarios
defined, ESA decided to proceed with releasing the MARSIS antennas in May
Agustin Chicarro
ESA, Mars Express Project Scientist
Arsia Mons Southern Flank (Released 20 June 2005)
Arsia Mons Lava Flows (Released 21 June 2005)
Arsia Mons Surface Flow (Released 22 June 2005)
Filled Crater (Released 24 June 2005)
All of the THEMIS images are archived at
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the 2001 Mars Odyssey mission
for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, DC. The Thermal
Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) was developed by Arizona State
University, Tempe, in collaboration with Raytheon Santa Barbara Remote
Sensing. The THEMIS investigation is led by Dr. Philip Christensen at
Arizona State University. Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver, is the
prime contractor for the Odyssey project, and developed and built the orbiter.
Mission operations are conducted jointly from Lockheed Martin and from
JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
Marsbugs: The Electronic Astrobiology Newsletter, Volume 12, Number 22, 29 June 2005
NASA expendable launch vehicle status report E05-04
23 June 2005
Mission: Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO)
Launch Vehicle: Lockheed Martin Atlas V 401
Launch Pad: Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41), Cape Canaveral Air Force
Station (CCAFS), FL
Launch Date: August 10, 2005
Launch Window: 7:53:58 to 9:53:58 AM (EDT)
Power-on testing continues to go well. The high-gain antenna will be
installed Friday. The solar arrays are being cleaned and inspected in
preparation for installation; planned for June 28.
On June 17, the Centaur upper stage for the Atlas V was transported from the
hangar at the Atlas Space Operations Center to the Vertical Integration
Facility (VIF) at SLC-41. It was hoisted atop the Atlas stage to begin
The Launch Vehicle Readiness Test is under way. A countdown wet dress
rehearsal with the launch vehicle fully fueled is scheduled in early July.
The MRO will be transported from the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility
at KSC to the VIF in late July. It will join the Atlas V for the final phase of
launch preparations. The spacecraft will undergo a functional test, a final
week of integrated testing and closeouts.
The MRO mission is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a
division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif., for the
agency's Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin Space Systems is the
prime contractor for the project and will provide launch services for the
mission with International Launch Services.
status reports
are available on the Internet
information about NASA and agency programs on the Internet, visit
Katherine Trinidad
NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC
Phone: 202-358-3749
George H. Diller
NASA Kennedy Space Center, FL
Phone: 321-867-2468
End Marsbugs, Volume 12, Number 22.