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Mars Team Online WebChat

Date: January 29, 1998

Featuring: Mark Adler
Mars Exploration Program Architect
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

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last read Thu Jan 29 11:35:42 1998

[ Linda/NASAQuest - 0 - 09:31:43 ]
Join us today, January 29 at 10:30 to chat with Mark Adler. Mark is the Mars Exploration Program architect and Mars Sample Return study manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. This will be a good opportunity to ask about NASA's upcoming plans for going to Mars and what we plan to do once we get there! This room will be open for posting about 15 minutes before the chat begins.

[ Linda/NASAQuest - 4 - 10:30:26 ]
Hello, Mark and I are here for your questions. Sandy was not able to be here, so I'm visiting for today. Let us hear from you.

[ Fay/TaylorElementary-Fay/TaylorElementary - 5 - 10:30:51 ]
We are having a difficult time seeing any other messages.

[ Fay/TaylorElementary-Fay/TaylorElementary - 7 - 10:31:38 ]
We now have you!

[ Mark/JPL - 11 - 10:32:42 ]
RE: [Angela-Angela/RosehillCollege] Hi there Mark. I was wondering how far do you think a manned mission to Mars is away?
That's very difficult to say. It's dependent entirely on funding. I would guess the earliest possibility to be around 2014.

[ Mark/JPL - 13 - 10:33:29 ]
RE: [Nelly-students/MontgomeryHigh] What kind of a space suit would an astronaut have to wear to work in mars?
Not much different from those used on the Moon by Apollo astronauts, but they would have to be somewhat lighter.

[ Mark/JPL - 14 - 10:34:46 ]
RE: [Susi-Susi/ChildrensBookAuthor] Mark, please describe the features of rover for 2001 mission. That is the next rover mission, right?
The 2001 rover mission will be a little robot geologist. It (he/she?) will examine rocks, pick at them, and take samples and put them in a box. That box may be returned several years later to Earth by a sample return mission.

[ Mark/JPL - 18 - 10:35:58 ]
RE: [STEPHEN-STEPHEN/PRATTINSTITUTE] Hello Mark, I would like to know what research has occurred for the physical structure of human settlements on Mars?
There has been work on the use on local materials for construction, but that's all I've seen. Human settlement is, of course, quite a ways off.

[ Mark/JPL - 20 - 10:37:19 ]
RE: [Giovannina-students/MontgomeryHigh] Do you think that there ever were animals on Mars?
Maybe. It's more likely that only single-cell life made much progress on Mars. Multicellular life on Earth is a rather recent invention (perhaps 500 million years ago), but by then, Mars may have become unsuitable for such life.

[ Mark/JPL - 21 - 10:38:54 ]
RE: [Angela-Angela/RosehillCollege] Also about this probe already on Mars.... My understanding is that we have lost contact with it as the planet has moved out of range of our equipment. Will we be able to regain control when the planet is near us again and will this cause problems for manned missions with communications?
We will not be able to regain contact with Pathfinder and Sojourner because we believe that Pathfinder has succumbed to the extreme cold. Distance is not a problem for a well designed communication system. We are still talking to Voyager many many times further than Mars.

[ Mark/JPL - 23 - 10:40:09 ]
RE: [Fay/TaylorElementary-Fay/TaylorElementary] Can we use nuclear energy for heat on mars? Is solar power possible on Mars? Could we use it to heat a whole colony?
Both are possible on Mars, but nuclear energy is lighter and cheaper, and more reliable than solar. Most likely the first missions will use nuclear power on the surface. Later solar may augment that.

[ Mark/JPL - 24 - 10:40:41 ]
RE: [STEPHEN-STEPHEN/PRATTINSTITUTE] I would just like to say that a man who puts his dog's picture on his web site deserves to help humanity into space. Will Carl be heading to Mars when you go?
Not until Carl goes to obedience school. :-)

[ Mark/JPL - 25 - 10:41:14 ]
RE: [Nelly-students/MontgomeryHigh] Who will do all the experiment talked about on the video.
I'm sorry--I don't know what video or what experiment you're referring to.

[ Fay/TaylorElementary-Fay/TaylorElementary - 26 - 10:41:44 ]
Can you give us a high and a low temperature for the surface of Mars? A newspaper article, during the past two years, mentioned a temperature surge during a dust storm. Do you have any plans for protecting our astronauts against these high temperature surges?

[ Mark/JPL - 31 - 10:43:57 ]
Temperatures around -120F are not uncommon, though during the day it can get up to around -20F near the equator. The best protection for humans on Mars from the cold is, of course, heat. Their suits and habitats will be well insulated and well heated.

[ Mark/JPL - 32 - 10:45:34 ]
RE: [Maria-students/MontgomeryHigh] How many lakes have been found on Mars?
We believe that we have seen many places on Mars that, a very long time ago, were lakes for at least a short time. However today there can be no liquid water on Mars--it is either ice or it evaporates to vapor due to the low atmospheric pressure.

[ Mark/JPL - 33 - 10:46:41 ]
RE: [Susi-Susi/ChildrensBookAuthor] How likely is it, in NASA's view, that the first human trips to Mars will be funded by private enterprise? Is the colonization scenario described in the book "The Case for Mars" credible?
Not very likely, since there would have to be a considerable payoff to justify the expense. However if launch to low Earth orbit drops in cost by a factor of about 100, then such efforts might have a payoff in entertainment or tourism.

[ Mark/JPL - 35 - 10:47:51 ]
RE: [Vianey-students/MontgomeryHigh] How much did the Rover cost? Do you think that it is possible to fix the rover?
The Sojourner rover cost about $25 million. We have no reason to believe that it's broken--we lost communication with the Pathfinder lander through which we talk to the rover. So the rover may still be wandering around, waiting for someone to talk to it.

[ Mark/JPL - 37 - 10:49:23 ]
RE: [Angela-Angela/RosehillCollege] How much do you work with other countries when planning your missions? I only ask this as I am in New Zealand and am interested. :o) Just a personal interest question :o) New Zealands space program is non existent but how about Russia and Japan?
I just got back from Europe last week where we were working with the European Space Agency on their 2003 Mars orbiter, and with the French Space Agency on their offer of a rocket for our Mars Sample Return mission. We are working with the Japanese on their 1998 Mars orbiter mission. In other words, quite a bit.

[ Mark/JPL - 39 - 10:50:44 ]
RE: [Fay/TaylorElementary-Fay/TaylorElementary] Is there a way to alter Mars' atmosphere so that we can breathe without heavy and costly spacesuits?
Many folk talk about "terraforming" Mars, which means somehow making the atmosphere thicker and warmer and maybe even adding oxygen. These sorts of efforts would take perhaps centuries to complete, but would be worth it to get a new inhabitable planet out of it.

[ Mark/JPL - 41 - 10:52:01 ]
RE: [Angela-Angela/RosehillCollege] Who will go to mars? I mean geologists or specialist occupations or explorers?
That depends on who pays for the trip. Most likely it will be a science mission, and so would include field geologists and biologists. But anything is possible, so there might be a reporter, a poet, a movie director, a teacher--who knows?

[ Mark/JPL - 43 - 10:53:43 ]
RE: [Susi-Susi/ChildrensBookAuthor] What could have caused the massive floods at the Ares Valles landing site? Polar cap melt? Earthquake?
We think it is caused by massive upwellings from subsurface reservoirs of water under high pressure released perhaps by meteor impacts or volcanic activity.

[ Mark/JPL - 45 - 10:55:00 ]
RE: [Theresa-students/MontgomeryHigh] What is the most exciting thing about the possibility of going to Mars for you personally?
The possibility of finding evidence and information about ancient life on Mars and gaining therefore a better understanding of the origin of life on Earth and our place in the universe.

[ Mark/JPL - 47 - 10:56:04 ]
RE: [Susi-Susi/ChildrensBookAuthor] What was the total end cost of the Mars Pathfinder mission?
About $260 million.

[ Mark/JPL - 48 - 10:57:02 ]
RE: [Fay/TaylorElementary-Fay/TaylorElementary] Why is the Martian soil so red? Also, why is the sky pink?
The soil is reddish because of essentially rust (iron oxides), and the sky is pink because of suspended red dust.

[ Mark/JPL - 49 - 10:58:10 ]
RE: [Angela-Angela/RosehillCollege] On a documentary I watched it said just to get to mars you would need a huge amount of fuel and with a manned mission I presume you would need more for the life support system. How big would the spaceship have to be to accommodate the fuel needed and the people on their way to mars?
A lot. About 160 tons of stuff would have to be put into low Earth orbit for a complete mission, including the return.

[ Mark/JPL - 55 - 11:02:45 ]
RE: [Susi-Susi/ChildrensBookAuthor] In what form will the 2001 rover leave rock samples on Mars for later pickup. Core samples in a container? How will the return mission work?
The rover will take cores of rocks less than an inch long and about a third of an inch in diameter. It will take up to 91 such cores, as well as up to 13 cups of dirts about half that size. They will be kept in an array of holes in a box. The return mission will land very nearby and send out its own rover to get the box, put it on the return rocket which sends the sample on its way back to Earth.

[ Mark/JPL - 56 - 11:04:25 ]
RE: [Theresa-students/MontgomeryHigh] Do we now have the ability to put 160 tons of stuff into low earth orbit?
Not all at once and not economically enough. We would develop a new Saturn V-like launch vehicle that could put up 80 tons at a time in orbit, and we would use three of those for the mission. I just realize I got the 160 tons wrongs--it's actually 240 in recent estimates. But we are trying to get that mass down to make it more affordable.

[ Mark/JPL - 57 - 11:05:12 ]
RE: [Fay/TaylorElementary-Fay/TaylorElementary] We have heard about the possibility of microscopic life in the soil or the permafrost. Did Sojourner give us any proof of this?
No. What Sojourner and Pathfinder did do however was give us very good evidence of liquid water in Mars' past. And water is a crucial ingredient for life.

[ Mark/JPL - 61 - 11:07:06 ]
RE: [Angela-Angela/RosehillCollege] I'm looking way into the future here but when a colony does become a reality on the mars surface, is the soil able to harbor life ie vegetables or will the have to bring earth dirt :o)
Hard to say. We may have to bring some minerals hard to find in the Martian dirt, or we may have to genetically engineer plants that can use the dirt as is. Of course, the most important thing currently lacking over most of the planet is water, which must be supplied somehow.

[ Mark/JPL - 63 - 11:07:45 ]
RE: [Fay/TaylorElementary-Fay/TaylorElementary] If a future colony builds a bubble to encase the colony, what kind of materials are already present on Mars to build that bubble?
Dirt. The dirt could be processed to make cement and possibly glass.

[ Mark/JPL - 66 - 11:08:47 ]
RE: [soledad-students/MontgomeryHigh] HOW MANY YEARS TAKES TO GO TO MARS?
To get to Mars takes seven to ten months, as well as to get back. For a round trip you have to stay on Mars about a year and a half to wait for the return opportunity, so a round trip is about three years.

[ Mark/JPL - 68 - 11:09:27 ]
RE: [Angela-Angela/RosehillCollege] For life we need water in 3 forms liquid, gaseous and solid... Did Mars have clouds once?
Mars has clouds now. Some are carbon dioxide ice clouds and some may be water ice clouds.

[ Mark/JPL - 71 - 11:10:51 ]
RE: [Fay/TaylorElementary-Fay/TaylorElementary] How would get enough oxygen to Mars to support human life?
Oxygen is not too difficult--it can be extracted out of the Carbon Dioxide atmosphere. Hydrogen however is more difficult since it is an ingredient of water and is usually found in water. Water is relatively scarce on Mars.

[ Mark/JPL - 72 - 11:11:29 ]
RE: [CRISTIAN-students/MontgomeryHigh] how many hours takes to go to mars?
Around 6000 hours.

[ Mark/JPL - 73 - 11:12:38 ]
RE: [Angela-Angela/RosehillCollege] If a colony is built on Mars, where would you build it? On the equator where it is warmer or nearer to the poles for access to water?
Great question. It depends on what the colony is for. If science, then we'd go where the good rocks are, probably not at the poles. If for settlement then we would go where the resources are, probably to the poles.

[ Linda/NASAQuest - 74 - 11:12:40 ]
RE: [Fay/TaylorElementary-Fay/TaylorElementary] It is lunchtime here and we are signing off.
Bye! Thanks for joining us.

[ Mark/JPL - 76 - 11:14:30 ]
RE: [Susi-Susi/ChildrensBookAuthor] Could one derive fuel from Mars' carbon dioxide rich atmosphere to power colonies? Is there any evidence of valuable minerals that would be worth mining as a basis of trade with Earth?
Yes, we can extract fuel from the atmophshere, but that requires power--it does not create power. Power will likely come from nuclear reactors. It is incredibly unlikely that any minerals on Mars would be worth the expense of sending to Earth. However it will certainly be useful to exploit local materials to avoid sending them from Earth.

[ Mark/JPL - 77 - 11:15:11 ]
RE: [STEPHEN-STEPHEN/PRATTINSTITUTE] I think it can be inferred from the discussion of low-orbit costs that we are referring to propulsion based rocketry. Have you folks been willing to entertain a breakthrough in physics that would reveal how to distort gravity fields and allow payloads to "fall down" to low earth orbit?
That sure would be nice, but I'm not holding my breath.

[ Mark/JPL - 78 - 11:16:16 ]
RE: [cristian-students/MontgomeryHigh] some day would you go to mars?
I wouldn't hesitate if I was offered the opportunity.

[ Linda/NASAQuest - 79 - 11:17:12 ]
We'll be here just a few more minutes, so if you have more questions, this is the time to write!

[ Angela-Angela/RosehillCollege - 82 - 11:19:53 ]
Too many questions, too little time!! :o)

Live long and prosper and don't forget the prime directive.

[ Mark/JPL - 86 - 11:21:03 ]
RE: [Angela-Angela/RosehillCollege] What would you be looking for in the samples sent back from the upcoming return mission to Mars?
Lots of things. We will look for information about the history Mars in the rocks in terms of water, climate, volcanic, and impact events. We will look for evidence of organic molecules, life precursors, and perhaps evidence of fossil life. And we will simply look and we will find unexpected things that we weren't looking for.

[ Linda/NASAQuest - 87 - 11:22:00 ]
RE: [Angela-Angela/RosehillCollege] Thank you so much this has been really great... Pity we didn't have more time :o(
Angela, You still have about 10 minutes if you have another question or two. Mark's been doing an excellent job of staying up with you.

[ Mark/JPL - 88 - 11:22:06 ]
RE: [Susi-Susi/ChildrensBookAuthor] One more question about sample return mission. Would 2003 mission leave the return rocket, and 2005 retrieve rocks and put in rocket to send back? Need chronology. Many thanks for talking to us today!
The 2001 and 2003 rover missions will both collect rocks, and a 2004 sample return mission will go to one of those sites (the one with the best rocks) and return that sample to Earth in 2008.

[ Mark/JPL - 89 - 11:22:44 ]
RE: [soledad-students/MontgomeryHigh] have any body went to mars ?
No humans have yet gone to Mars.

[ Mark/JPL - 92 - 11:25:12 ]
RE: [cristian-students/MontgomeryHigh] what type of spaceship have to use to sent people to mars?
A big one. It has to carry all the stuff to land softly on another planet, to live there for over a year and do good stuff, to make fuel there for the return trip, to make the return trip and land back on Earth, and all the oxygen, water, food, and energy to survive for several years in unforgiving environments.

[ Mark/JPL - 94 - 11:26:46 ]
RE: [Angela-Angela/RosehillCollege] Is there a way to melt the poles to get water to the mid planet regions or will it just freeze again?
If water was simply brought to the equator it would evaporate and go right right back to the poles where it settle out again as ice. The atmosphere would have to be made thicker somehow before trying to move water to the equator.

[ Mark/JPL - 95 - 11:27:36 ]
RE:[ Susi-Susi/ChildrensBookAuthor - [Mark, Science magazine article indicates rocks analyzed by Sojourner were less like mars meteors and more like terrestrial rocks formed by plate shifts. Mars has no plates, so how can this be?
We don't know. That's why we're still sending spacecraft there to learn more. Mars is a big planet and quite complicated, like Earth.

[ Angela-Angela/RosehillCollege - 96 - 11:28:39 ]
Thank you so much for taking time to talk to us today. Hope to do this again soon :o) It's been real. :o)

[ Mark/JPL - 97 - 11:29:11 ]
RE: [Angela-Angela/RosehillCollege] Thank you so much for taking time to talk to us today. Hope to do this again soon :o) It's been real. :o)
You're welcome.

[ cristian-students/MontgomeryHigh - 98 - 11:29:14 ]
how many miles per hour have to go the spaceship to reach Mars in 10 months?

[ Linda/NASAQuest - 99 - 11:29:45 ]
I personally want to thank Mark for his time and willingness to answer our questions. We will hang in here for another minute or two, but if there are no more questions, we'll say goodbye.

Plan on falling down to Mars. The universe is on your side.

[ Mark/JPL - 102 - 11:30:42 ]
RE: [cristian-students/MontgomeryHigh] how many miles per hour have to go the spaceship to reach Mars in 10 months?
It has to leave Earth at about 26,000 miles per hour.

[ Angela-Angela/RosehillCollege - 103 - 11:31:08 ]
Thanks Linda, thanks Mark. See you in a decade or so when I'm hopefully working for Nasa or one of it's sister groups :o)

[ Linda/NASAQuest - 104 - 11:32:16 ]
Thank you all for joining us today. This Chat will be archived and can be found soon from a link on Mark's bio page.