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Mars Team Online WebChat

Date: February 11, 1997

Featuring: Mike Mellon
Planetary Scientist
Ames Research Center - Moffett Field, California


Sandy/NASA Chat Host: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:06AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [21 ] Hello everyone! Welcome to another Mars Team Online WebChat. Today's Mars expert is Mike Mellon from NASA's Ames Research Center, just south of San Francisco, California. Mike's work focuses primarily on studying martian geology and climate, and as a link between these two, water. Mike is investigating where water on Mars could be located.

Sandy/NASA Chat Host: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:06AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [22 ] Welcome Mike!

julie/esd101: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:07AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [23 ] Did you have a teacher that helped you get interested in science or was it just a natural interest for you?

Mike NASA: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:07AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [24 ] Hi everyone! Does anyone have any Mars questions?

Kristen/BigBlueBox: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:09AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [25 ] Mike, do you think the "canals" on Mars were created by wind or water? Or is there some other explanation entirely?

Mike NASA: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:09AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [26 ] Julie, I have always had a natural interest in science. But I have had a few particularly exelent teachers that helped me along.

: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:09AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [27 ] Is the climate of Mars fixed or do you expect it to change over time?

: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:10AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [28 ] WHOEVER SENT THE QUESTION: IS THE CLIMATE OF MARS FIXED... PLEASE SIGN IN ON YOUR HANDLE SO WE KNOW WHO YOU ARE. thanks :-)

5th grade/Morris MN: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:11AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [29 ] Were your grades better in physics than your other grades?

: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:11AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [30 ] Is the climate of Mars fixed or do you expect it to change over time?

OldTimer: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:11AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [31 ] What is the frequency of asteroid impact on Mars?

Mike NASA: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:11AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [32 ] Kristen, there have been a number of explaination about the origins of the cannals that people have put forth. Most believe that water carved them but liquid CO2 has also been suggested, though I don't really believe that.

Mike NASA: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:13AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [33 ] No name, The climate of mars definately changes in time in much the same way as Earth's climate does. These changes are caused by changes in the planets orbit. Orbit changes on Earth can cause ice ages. On Mars we are still trying to figure out the full extent of these effects.

5th grade/Morris MN: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:14AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [34 ] Please answer our question soon.

julie/esd101: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:14AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [35 ] So you know what the climate on Mars used to be like and will it change again?

Nat/Proverbs: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:14AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [36 ] Is the climate of Mars fixed or do you expect it to change over time?

Kristen/BigBlueBox: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:15AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [37 ] What is the general composition of Mars dirt? What makes it red?

Mike NASA: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:16AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [38 ] 5th grade/Morris MN, Before college my grades in science, as well as other classes, were not that great. But after I started college my science class grades were usually better. But regardless of the grades I always had more fun in science class.

5th grade/Morris MN: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:17AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [39 ] How many dust storms are there per day?

Sandy/NASA Chat Host: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:17AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [40 ] Nat: Your question was answered in #33. Use the scroll back box to view it.

The girls: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:19AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [41 ] What's your cat's name?

: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:19AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [42 ] What is a planetary scientist?

Mike NASA: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:19AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [43 ] OldTimer: I really don't know the frequency of asteroid impacts on Mars, but some scientists assume it is the same as the moon for lack of a better answer.

Jamie/Bean School: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:20AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [44 ] Do you make predictions before you do all of your experiments?

Isaac/Bean School : . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:20AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [45 ] What encourged you to be a planetary scientist

Jessaris/Bean school: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:20AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [46 ] Do you have any family?

Kat/Bean School: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:21AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [47 ] Have you lost any fish to your cat?

Katie/Bean School: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:21AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [48 ] Why did you participate in the dig?

Sara/Bean School: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:22AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [49 ] Do you ever want to go to the moon or to Mars?

Mike NASA: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:22AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [50 ] Julie, the climate changes on Mars have two aspects, a periodic change like Earths ice ages and a long term shift that might explain the water erosion on the surface. Which do you want to know about?

Jamie/Bean School: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:22AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [51 ] Do you make predictions before you do all of your experiments?

Nat/Proverbs: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:23AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [52 ] Does mars have any magma below the surface?

Brian/Bean School : . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:23AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [53 ] How many years have you been working for NASA?

Morgan/ Bean School: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:23AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [54 ] What year were you offered your job at NASA?

Katie/Bean School: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:23AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [55 ] Why did you participate in the dig?

Tom/Bean School: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:23AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [56 ] The person who just put the question in about a plantary forgot to put thier name in.

julie/esd101: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:23AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [57 ] I would like to know about the perodic change. We still don't know that much about even the long term change on Earth.

Nat/Proverbs: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:24AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [58 ] Does mars have any magma below the surface?

Ben/Bean School: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:24AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [59 ] Were you ever involved with the pathfinder???

Mike NASA: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:24AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [60 ] Kristen, Mars dirt is chemically consistent with a common rock type on Earth called basalt. The red color comes from a high iron content. The iron then weathers producing, essentially, rust.

Mike NASA: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:26AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [61 ] 5th Grade Morris: The are commonly small dust storms on Mars. I don't know how often. The large global dust storms are as infrequent as 1 or 2 a year or none at all in some years (Mars years = 1.8 Earth years)

Nat/Proverbs: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:27AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [62 ] Does mars have any magma below the surface?

Jamie/Bean School: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:27AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [63 ] Do you make predictions before you do all of your experiments?

Mike NASA: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:27AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [64 ] No name, A planetary scientist is someone who studies the physics, geology, chemisty, climate and other processes that occur on planets.

Nat/Proverbs: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:28AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [65 ] Does mars have any magma below the surface?

Meredith Encinal School: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:29AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [66 ] What is your most recent experiment?

Mike NASA: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:29AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [67 ] Isaac at Bean School: I originally wanted to be somply a physicist and studied mostly physics. At some point in college I decided I wanted to do broader science by including geology and chemistry. At that point I went into planetary science.

Josh: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:29AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [68 ] When will U.S.A. send some astronaunts to Mars to explore it's surface.

Morgan/ Bean School: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:30AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [69 ] What year were you offered your job at NASA?

Mike NASA: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:30AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [70 ] Sara at Bean School, I'd have to find someone to feed my cat for me if I went to the moon or Mars. Maybe someday in the future, but for now I'm happy to be on Earth ans study planets from a distance.

Shivani Encinal School: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:31AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [71 ] Why do you think Mars' atmosphere became so cold it couldn't hold liquid water?

nat/proverbs: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:31AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [72 ] Sorry about repeat questions. Oops!

Mike NASA: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:32AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [73 ] Nat/Proverbs: It is quite likely that Mars has magma below the surface, but wehave no direct evidence of it.

Jessaris/Bean school: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:32AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [74 ] Do you have any family?

Kevin Encinal School: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:33AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [76 ] How many traces of water did you find on Mars, and what areas did you find it?

Mike NASA: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:33AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [77 ] Brian and Morgan at Bean school, I was offered my job at NASA in 1994 just before I finished my Ph.D. at the University of Colorado. So I've been here about 2 1/2 years.

Margo Encinal School: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:35AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [78 ] Do you think that there is Martian life on Mars?

Mike NASA: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:35AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [79 ] Ben at Bean School, No I am currently not directly involved with any space craft, but I did participate in a Pathfinder workshop which was to discuss scientific ideas related to what we might find at the surface of Mars.

julie/esd101: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:36AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [80 ] Do you have any involvment with the mars Pathfinder or Global Surveyor?

Josh: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:36AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [81 ] What is the oxygen content of the atmosphere on MARS?

Mike NASA: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:37AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [82 ] Meredith, The same one I've been working on for years. My experiment is to form permafrost in the lab and study various properties of it under Mars climate conditions. Frequently experiments take a long time to set up and mine is compounded by the long time it takes to form permafost under Mars conditions.

Andy/proverbs: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:38AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [83 ] If there is volcanic activity on mars would it create hotspots where life could call home.

Mike NASA: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:38AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [84 ] Jamie at Bean School, I try to predict what results an experiment will produce before hand. This is an importnat part of determining if an experiment is wrth doing.

Isaac/Bean School : . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:39AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [85 ] What encourged you to be a planetary scientist

Mike NASA: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:40AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [86 ] Josh, I don't think there is a specific date planned to send astronauts to Mars. The next 10 years or so is full of plans to send more robotic probes which is an important first step.

Ryan and Charlie Encinal School: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:41AM PDT (- 0700 GMT). . . [87 ] I read that you study meteorology then do you believe it is possible to predict the weather on Mars and/or Earth?

Sandy/NASA Chat Host: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:43AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [88 ] EVERYONE: Your questions are GREAT and there are A LOT of them! Hang on for about two minutes--don't send in questions--so that Mike's tired fingers can catch up. Thanks :-)

Mike NASA: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:44AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [89 ] Shivani, the Mars atmosphere is cold enough to prevent liquid water from being present because it is much furtrher from the sun than the Earth. It may have been in the past that the distance from the sun was canceled by a thicker atmosphere and when that atmosphere thinned the planet got colder.

Mike NASA: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:45AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [90 ] Kevin, The two places we have directly observed water on mars are in the atmosphere (in very very small amounts) and on the polar caps as ice (piles several kilometers high).

Amanda Encinal School: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:45AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [91 ] Why did you join NASA?

Matt/Bean School: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:46AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [92 ] Why did you choose to be a person Who studies Mars???

Mike NASA: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:47AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [93 ] Margo, I really don't know if there is life on Mars today. If there is it would have to be sheltered from the harsh environment at the surface (cold, radiation, lack of oxygen, etc.)

: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:47AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [94 ] Thank you for your answer. Would you be able to go to Mars if it had normal temp.

Morgan/Bean School: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:47AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [95 ] What year did you move to colorado?

Mike NASA: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:48AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [96 ] Andy, Yes, if volcanic activity is present on Mars it could produce a nice little warm and wet location for life to flurish.

Mike NASA: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:50AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [97 ] Josh, The Mars atmosphere has very little free oxygen (O2). I'm not sure exactly but I think it's much less than a percent.

Zack/ Bean School: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:50AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [98 ] What was your belt in karate?

nick/Bean School: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:50AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [99 ] When you found pottery was it famous or just plain old pottery

Justin/DeForest Middle: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:50AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [100 ] Could the iron oxide on Mars only have been formed by water

Josh: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:51AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [101 ] Does Mares have different times of year like on Earth

Sparky/McMurray Middle School: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:51AM PDT (- 0700 GMT). . . [102 ] What is the martian soil made up of?

Sparky/McMurray Middle School: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:51AM PDT (- 0700 GMT). . . [103 ] What is the martian soil made up of?

Mike NASA: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:51AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [104 ] Ryan and Charlie, It should be possible to predict the weather on Mars, but first we need to gather data about wind patterens and pressure. By learning more about the weather on Mars we can learn more to help us predict the Earths weather as well.

Sparky/McMurray Middle School: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:52AM PDT (- 0700 GMT). . . [105 ] What is the martian soil made up of?

Jamie/Bean: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:52AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [106 ] Thank you for your response!

Mike NASA: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:52AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [107 ] Amanda, I joined NASA cause they offered me a job. That makes it an easy choice.

Nicole/Bean School: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:52AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [108 ] What was your favorite subject in college?

Josh: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:53AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [109 ] How much do you get payed a month?

Mike NASA: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:54AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [110 ] Matt, I'm not sure why I chose to study Mars. I just did. I think Mars is the most interesting of the planets because it is most like Earth. I also study other planets, butmostly Mars.

Megan/ Bean School: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:54AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [111 ] Did you go on any interesting trips when you were younger?

Mike NASA: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:54AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [112 ] Zack, I worked my way up to a purple belt in Karate. That's 2 belts below black.

Derek/Bean school: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:55AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [113 ] How old are you?

Mike NASA: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:55AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [114 ] Nick, The pottery I found on the arceological dig was plain old pottery in tiny broken pieces.

Sandy/NASA Chat Host: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:56AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [115 ] EVERYONE: MIKE HAS AGREED TO STAY 15 MINUTES LONGER... THERE IS QUITE A BACKLOG OF QUESTIONS, SO HOLD ON!

Mr. Downes/Bean School: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:57AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [116 ] Mike-Thanks for answering my kids questions.

Mike NASA: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:58AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [117 ] Josh, Mars has seasons much like Earth. These are caused by the tilt in the planets spin axis. The Earth is tilted about 23 dergrees and Mars is about 25 degrees. So Mars has very similar seasons.

Josh: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:58AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [118 ] THANK YOU FOR ANCERING WHAT I ASKED!!!!

: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 10:58AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [119 ] hello! looks like I'm alittle late. When's the next Mars chat session?

Mike NASA: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 11:00AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [120 ] Sparky/McMurray Middle School, Martian soil is made of a combination of weather bits of rock, and impact generated bits of broken rock. It could also contain volcanic ash.

Ricky/bean school: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 11:00AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [121 ] How old are you?

Sparky/McMurray: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 11:00AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [122 ] When is the proposed human mission to Mars scheduled to launch??

Mike NASA: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 11:02AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [123 ] Nicole, I liked alot of subjects in college. Among physics classes I liked quantum mechanics the most. Of non science classes, it's a toss up between archeology and mythology.

Mike NASA: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 11:02AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [124 ] Derek and Ricky, I am 31 years old.

Mike NASA: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 11:03AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [125 ] Mr Downes, It's been my pleasure. They have been great questions.

Josh: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 11:03AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [126 ] Bye

Sandy/NASA Chat Host: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 11:04AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [127 ] GOODBYE JOSH. YOUR QUESTIONS WERE GREAT! Thank you very much for joining us! Come back next week for another chat!

Mike NASA: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 11:05AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [128 ] Sparky, There is no scheduled mission to send humans to Mars. First we need to answer many scientific questions about the planet to most efficiently ans safely send humans. It may bein 20 or more years.

Kristen/BigBlueBox: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 11:06AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [129 ] Mike & NASA, this was excellent. Thanks for an interesting hour. Your fingers must be really tired!

julie/esd101: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 11:07AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [130 ] Thanks Mike I appreciate the time you put into this chat. Julie

Sandy/NASA Chat Host: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 11:07AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [131 ] Next week's WebChat is on Wed. Feb. 19, from 9-10 a.m., PST. See the Mars Team Online Web site for more details on the Mars expert.

Sparky/McMurray: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 11:07AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [132 ] When will the Pathfinder probe reach Mars orbit?

Mike NASA: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 11:08AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [133 ] Sparkey, Pathfinder is schedule to land on Mars on July 4th this summer. Keep your fingers crossed.

Sandy/NASA Chat Host: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 11:08AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [134 ] Thank you to everyone who joined us today! You made this a great WebChat. I look forward to more of your questions next week. And a special thanks to you Mike! I learned a few more things about Mars today.

Mike NASA: . . . . Tue, Feb 11, 11:09AM PDT (-0700 GMT). . . [135 ] Your welcome. This has been a lot of fun and your questions have been great ones.


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