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Mars Team Online WebChat

Date: December 4, 1997

Featuring: Tim Schofield
Planetary Scientist, Mars Pathfinder
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California


[ Sandy/NASAChatHost 07:39:54 ]
Good Morning! Today's Mars Team Online Web chat with meteorologist Tim Schofield will start in about 50 minutes. Be sure to read Tim's bio first, at: http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/mars/team/schofield.html

[ Sandy/NASAChatHost 08:13:26 ]
A NOTE TO EVERYONE: I am experimenting with some new chat software. The first mistake I made was to give all of you the same username! So when you sign on, you'll all be "redplanet"! To help rectify this, please also type your name in the small box above the chat box that says "Your First Name." It'll look like this: Sandy/redplanet

[ Sandy/NASAChatHost 08:33:07 ]
RE: [marske/redplanet-redplanet] Hi, We're Sioux Center Middle School 6th grade in Iowa and are looking forward to meeting and chatting with Tim Scholfield.
Good Morning Sioux Center Middle School 6th grade! Glad you could make it again :-) The chat with Tim Schofield will begin in just about 5 minutes...

[ Wood/redplanet-redplanet 08:36:22 ]
Hello from Southeast Elementary in Jenks, Ok! We are Mrs. Labbane's and Mrs. Woods' 4th graders, and we've been participating in Weather Worlds. We're excited about chatting with Tim Schofield!

[ marske/redplanet-redplanet 08:37:57 ]
Hello to our friends in OK. You might like to know that it is snowing right now as we chat. Now that's weather!

[ Sandy/NASAChatHost 08:43:05 ]
Hello Everyone: Tim is here and typing away at his first answer! Glad you could all make it :-)

[ Wood/redplanet-redplanet - 16 - 08:43:14 ]
Hello to Mrs. Marske's class in Iowa! Send some snow our way!

[ TimSchofield08:44:13 ]
RE: [marske/redplanet-redplanet] How do you interpret the weather information that you got from the Pathfinder?
We convert the electronic signals into pressures temperatures and winds. We then compare these results with other measurements like those from Viking 20 years ago. Then we try to use models to understand what we are seeing and explain what is actually going on.

[ Sandy/NASAChatHost08:45:32 ]
Welcome to Mrs. Labbane's and Mrs. Wood's classes! We are very glad you could make it today!

[ TimSchofield 08:46:15 ]
RE: [marske/redplanet-redplanet] We were wondering if it snows on Mars?
In the winter CO2 ice (dry ice) freezes out on the poles of Mars. This is probably more like freezing fog than snow, but it may be as much as 3 feet deep by the end of winter.

[ TimSchofield 08:48:50 ]
RE: [Wood/redplanet-redplanet] If there was water on Mars in the past, what caused it to evaporate?
There is evidence foe water on Mars in the past, even oceans. It may still be there in the form of permafrost under the surface and deep ice caps at the pole. It just can not exist as liquid water anymore because mars is too cold and its atmosphere is too thin.

[ marske/redplanet-redplanet 08:48:53 ]
Because the atmospheric pressure is so low, would it be possible to fly aircraft and or helicopters on Mars? If so how?

[ TimSchofield 08:51:20 ]
Yes, but there designs would have to be very light. It is like flying 20 miles up in the atmosphere of the Earth. Designs have been made in the past for planes and balloons.

[ TimSchofield 08:53:22 ]
RE: [Wood/redplanet-redplanet] Did Pathfinder find any trace of Viking? Is it possible for any future missions to find traces?
No, we landed about 300 miles away from Viking 1 and on the other side of the planet from Viking 2. However, Mars Global surveyor, which is orbiting Mars now. may be able to see them from orbit if it is lucky enough to fly right over them.

[ TimSchofield 08:55:17 ]
RE: [marske/redplanet-redplanet] We were wondering how you happened to get involved with JPL when you were originally from England? How did you get connected with them?
I worked as a research student on a JPL project. My university science department built part of a JPL experiment that flew to Venus an Pioneer Venus back in 1978.

[ TimSchofield 08:58:49 ]
RE: [Wood/redplanet-redplanet] Are there clouds on Mars, and if so, what type are they?
Yes, there are clouds. We see them from Earth using the Hubble telescope, and Pathfinder saw them at sun rise. They are made of water ice, and look like the wispy high clouds called cirrus that we see on Earth before a storm arrives. There are also CO2 ice clouds over the piles in winter.

[ TimSchofield 09:01:27 ]
RE: [marske/redplanet-redplanet] What are you doing with all the weather data collected from the Pathfinder?
Our first job is to calibrate it properly (Get the temperatures, pressures and winds right), and then get it out to the scientific community by February, into what is called the planetary data base. What we have put out so far on the web is a quick look at the data as we have been collecting it.

[ TimSchofield 09:03:10 ]
RE: [Wood/redplanet-redplanet] Has the new weather data from Mars changed your current ideas about people living on Mars?
What we saw was similar to the Viking results. Viking showed that Mars was a pretty nasty place to live, and 20 years later it is still pretty nasty.

[ Sandy/NASAChatHost 09:06:42 ]
RE: [Megan/DenverElem-redplanet] How does the 83 days worth of weather data collected by ASI/MET compare with the several years worth of data collected by the Vikings? Have seen major similarities/differences?
Megan: See Tim's answer in #37.

[ TimSchofield 09:08:07 ]
RE: [marske/redplanet-redplanet] If there originally was liquid water on Mars what do you think caused Mars to get colder and to lose so much of its atmosphere? Also from "Today on Mars" show we remember that Mars's atmospheric density has increased as evidenced by the MGS. Why do you think that is happening?
The increase in density that MGS saw was high in the atmosphere, the density of the bulk of the atmosphere near the surface has not changed. Weather causes density to change a lot at high altitudes. Why did Mars get colder ? That is a cood question. One possibility is that there was much more CO2 in the atmosphere. This could have disolved in the oceans, and reacted with rocks to form limestone rocks. With less CO2 the atmosphere would have got colder. Pathfinder hoped to see lime stone rocks, but it did not.

[ TimSchofield 09:10:16 ]
RE: [Megan/DenverElem-redplanet] ASI/MET sounds like it's a 2-part thing: an investimgation and an experiment: which is it? What do the 2 parts do?
Megan, It is two parts. ASI was for measuring the atmosphere as Pathfinder fell through it, and MET was the surface weather station.

[ TimSchofield 09:12:37 ]
RE: [Wood/redplanet-redplanet] We live in tornado alley - is it possible to have a tornado alley (or dust devil alley) on Mars?
I'd rather have Earthquakes than Tornadoes. The Mars dust devils are as big as Tornadoes, and they brobably do have favorite spots. Tornado basins id probably a better comparison than Tonnado alley though.

[ Megan/DenverElem-redplanet 09:14:17 ]
Ok, now I understand... thanks Dr. Schofield!

[ TimSchofield 09:16:27 ]
RE: [marske/redplanet-redplanet] We were wondering about your thoughts of whether (not weather) or not we are alone in the universe? Is there a possiblity of life on Mars as well as other places in the universe? Could there possibly be weather conditions facorable to any kind of life?
Im sure that there are planets in our galaxy that are habitable, probably thousands of them. It is possible that primitive life is widespread. However intelligent life might be very rare and to far away ever to communicate with. Many scientists think that Mars did have simple life long ago, and there is evidence for this, although scientists are still arguing about this evidence.

[ TimSchofield 09:18:39 ]
RE: [Wood/redplanet-redplanet] How much does it cost to fund a project like this?
Pathfinder cost $M250 including the rocket to launch it. The spacecraft alone cost $M170. Viking is estimated to have cost $M3000 in today's money .

[ TimSchofield 09:21:51 ]
RE: [Megan/DenverElem-redplanet] What are the most similar characteristics between the weather on Earth and the weather on Mars? What are the biggest differences ?
The things that are most similar are the days and the seasons which are very like those on Earth. Mars also get winter storms like those we see on Earth. What is most different is the thin carbon dioxide atmosphere, the extreme cold, and the dust storms that can cover the whole planet in the Southern summer. In fact a very large dust storm started a few days ago.

[ TimSchofield 09:23:21 ]
RE: [Wood/redplanet-redplanet] Does Mars have natural resources similar to Earth's?
It probably does have mineral resources like the Earth's. What it may be missing is the by-products of life such as coal and oil.

[ Sandy/NASAChatHost 09:25:07 ]
MRS MARSKE'S CLASS: If we don't get to answer all of your questions before you have to leave for lunch, Tim's chat will be archived in the next day so you can check his answers there. Thanks very much to you and your kids for participating today :-)

[ TimSchofield 09:26:02 ]
RE: [marske/redplanet-redplanet] We would like to know what is your biggest responsiblity working for JPL?
Being team leader on the Pathfinder ASI/MET experiment has been my biggest responsibility. I have not had to get up before television cameras and talk about my results (with the lab director sitting in the front row) on any of the other projects I have worked on.

[ TimSchofield 09:27:33 ]
RE: [Wood/redplanet-redplanet] Did Pathfinders take underground readings?
No. The only information it got from below the surface was from pictures of soil disturbed by the airbags, or the rover wheels.

[ TimSchofield 09:29:37 ]
RE: [marske/redplanet-redplanet] How did you feel when the Pathfinder and MGS were successful arriving at Mars and at providing information? We would like to take this time to thank you, Dr. Schofield, for giving your time to us so we could learn more about you and about Mars's weather. We will be having to leave for lunch in a few minutes. So this will probably be our last message.
It was great to be involved in a project that worked and sent back data, particularly as I had worked for years on Mars Observer which failed miserably. It been a pleasure talking with you.

[ Wood/redplanet-redplanet 09:29:43 ]
Thank you for your time today, Mr. Schofield. We've learned a lot! Best wished from Southeast Elementary in Jenks, OK!

[ Sandy/NASAChatHost 09:31:10 ]
Goodbye Wood's class! So glad you joined us today!

[ TimSchofield - 65 - 09:31:43 ]
RE: [Megan/DenverElem-redplanet] What percentage of your time is spent analzying ASI/MET data vs. designing and building new atmosphere instruments? And, which of these do you enjoy doing the most?
At the moment, more than half my time is spent on Pathfinder. I like both looking at data and designing instruments, but it is good to be able to change from one to the other from time to time.

[ TimSchofield 09:35:09 ]
RE: [Wood/redplanet-redplanet] What was the most surprising or interesting fact you learned from Pathfinder?
This is always a hard question. From my own instrument things looked fairly similar to Viking so we were not terribly surprised. We did see temperature at the surface which were 20 F warmer tan Viking, and we are going to have to think about that for a while. Also we knew about dust devils, but we were able to measure them really well with our instruments which were more sensitive than Viking's.

[ Sandy/NASAChatHost 09:35:12 ]
Kevin: We'll answer your question next! Thanks for giving up your lunch :-)

[ TimSchofield 09:38:27 ]
RE: [marske/redplanet-redplanet] One last question from a truly interested student willing to give up some of his lunch time is: Do different areas of Mars have a basic climate like FL here on Earth is generally warm and wet and it is generally cold in Siberia? from Kevin Riggle
Yes the climate is different in different regions on Mars, much like the Earth. The equator is worm (by martian standards, and the poles are very cold. The seasons are weak near the equator and very strong near the poles just like on earth. One difference is that Mars has a very eliptical orbit and gets much closer to the sun at sum times. The southern summer is much warmer than the northern summer for this reason.

[ Sandy/NASAChatHost 09:41:24 ]
EVERYONE: It's time to let Tim get back to work now as he's busy preparing a talk for next week's American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. Thanks so much for participating in today's chat! You asked some terrific questions! And a special thanks to Tim for taking the time to chat with us! We really appreciate you sharing your knowledge about weather on Mars!

[ TimSchofield 09:41:42 ]
Time is up and my two typing fingers are sore ! Its been great talking to everybody, and good to see that you are all so interested about Mars. It is important to remember that we really do not know the answers for many of the questions you asked, particularly about the ancient history of Mars.


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