UPDATE # 16 - January 3, 1997
PART 1: NASA TV Schedule
PART 2: WebChats Resume
PART 3: Wearing Many Hats
PART 4: Roving for Rocks on the Red Planet
PART 5: Mars Pathfinder Update
NASA TV SCHEDULE
The first Live From Mars television broadcast "Countdown," will be
reshown on NASA TV on January 6, 16, 22 and 30 at the following
times: 2-3 p.m., 5-6 p.m., 8-9 p.m., 11 p.m. - 12 a.m., 2-3 a.m. All
times are Eastern. NASA TV may preempt scheduled programming for
live agency events.
Many cable television systems receive and redistribute NASA-TV.
Consider contacting your local system to see if they might
redistribute NASA-TV during the Live From Mars events. For those
with access to satellite reception, NASA-TV is carried on Spacenet
2, transponder 5, Channel 9, C-Band, located at 69 degrees West
longitude, with horizontal polarization. Frequency is 3880 MHz with
audio on 6.8 MHz.
Wednesday January 8, 9 a.m., PST: Chats resume with Steve Stolper,
software flight engineer on the Mars Pathfinder project. Join us!
Weekly WebChats offer an opportunity for your students to virtually
meet the people on the front lines of the Mars exploration adventure.
Teachers have reported that the chats really enliven students'
enthusiasm. Our guest next week will be Steve Stolper. One of Steve's jobs
is to write the set of instructions that allows the computer to control
the Pathfinder spacecraft.
To best prepare, please have your students read Steve's biography
before the WebChat:http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/mars/team/stolper.html
To join in the fun, point your Web browser to
http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/mars/events/interact.html to follow the
links to the *moderated* chatroom for experts. If you plan to
participate in this event, please RSVP to Andrea by sending a brief
email note to firstname.lastname@example.org telling her that you plan
to join the session. This RSVP is very important, as it will allow us
to ensure that the chatroom does not become overly crowded.
A WebChat schedule for January will be posted shortly.
[Editor's note: John Moreau is the data manager of the Space
Photography Laboratory at Arizona State University in Phoenix. Being
the "data manager" means that John is responsible for managing,
organizing and archiving all planetary data that he receives at his
WEARING MANY HATS
John Moreau - http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/mars/team/moreau.html
January 3, 1997
Whenever the general public or the media call or come to our
department for the latest information on the Mars Global Surveyor
(MGS) or Mars Pathfinder missions, they always end up here at the
Space Photography Laboratory (SPL). Our name is kind of deceiving;
we are a laboratory -- graduate students as well as postdoctoral
researchers use our facilities all the time -- but we also function
as a library and a "museum" of sorts.
As one of 17 NASA Regional Planetary Image Facilities in the world,
our job is to store the data returned by spacecraft. These data are
available for everyone to use in the facility. Since these data are
essentially space history in the making, we also serve as a type of
archive, or museum. Data sets are preserved using archive-quality
materials and equipment like acid-free papers and special
transparent sleeves for hard-copy photographs and temperature and
humidity control systems for the entire lab.
When the data from the Mars missions are returned and distributed
by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, they will end up here, just like
data from the Viking missions in the 1970s. We've already begun to
collect whatever information we can about both missions, as well as
the failure of Mars 96, to make available to the public and the press,
and especially to teachers and students who visit often.
On November 7 professors and staff, as well as a reporter from a
local newspaper, came to the SPL and gathered around our TV in
anticipation of the MGS launch. We were all disappointed by the
"scrubbed" launch the day before and were hoping that this one would
be successful. I had set up the VCR to record the launch as well as
the press conference that would follow. Then I had to go to my
planetary geology class, so I would not be able to see it "live" like
everyone else. When I came back, I learned that the launch was
successful. The reporter asked questions of some of our research
professionals about the logistics of Mars exploration.
Because Mars Pathfinder launched in the middle of the night, we
didn't have an audience crowding into the lab to watch as with MGS.
But we still recorded the launch to be played back upon request the
next day. We probably played it for people at least a dozen times the
Lately, I've been trying to learn as much as I can as quickly as I can
about both missions -- the instruments flying on both spacecraft,
the logistics of orbital entry for MGS and aerobraking for Pathfinder,
what experiments the rover Sojourner will carry out on the surface
of Mars, and more -- in order to be able to talk about both missions
to teachers and classes that visit the SPL. We've probably had about
10 classes of roughly 30 kids between third and eighth grade come
in since the MGS launch. They always have lots of good questions
about the missions and about Martian geology and meteorology in
general. Sometimes, these questions are tough! I do my best to
answer them and encourage them to learn more on their own, by
using the Internet for example. It's great to watch them get more
excited about science through what they learn here from us.
Adults are enthusiastic about Mars exploration, too. On December 14
we held our second annual Open House. About 50 teachers from
around the state came to participate in an all-day workshop/open
house on planetary geology, which included information on missions
to Mars, both past and present. We gave away a Mars globe and the
Viking 20th Anniversary Multimedia CD-ROM as door prizes. It was a
fun event but it was hard work! I began organizing it, with the help
of others in September, but we all wished we had more time! The
teachers seemed very appreciative and enthusiastic, however, and
the work was well worth it. Hopefully, they will take information
and activities back to their classes to teach them more about space
I'm at work right now while writing this. Not all of my job consists
of public education/outreach though. As a librarian here, I have to
make sure that data sets are easy to find and organized, that
missing images, documentation or maps are accounted for or
replaced, that the entire SPL collection is documented and located in
places that are logical and consistent (i.e. easy to find) and that lab
"materials" (from paper to data sets to computers) are available for
Today I'm working on a continuing project to catalog all of our books
and nonserial publications for entry into a database that I'm creating
in Filemaker Pro. Currently, we have no established system for
finding books by subject. Imagine going into your local library and
asking for a book on craters and being told that the book was
"somewhere on those shelves, mixed in randomly with hundreds of
other books on many different topics"! Although we have fewer books
and publications than a public or school library, we still have a lot
and that's kind of what it's like! So, I've decided to organize this
collection into a database where you can search by a topic and find
exactly which books we have and where they are located. When this
is done, people should be able to access it via the Web from their
homes or classrooms. This will take some time!
Before I start this for today, I'll check the Web for updates on both
Mars missions (we post the latest news in the hall for everyone to
see) and also update out information on the Galileo mission. We are
creating a "digital catalog" of press-release images from the Galileo
science teams as soon as they become available. The more
information and images I can get on current missions, the better I
can inform visitors to the SPL about what's going on in space
I think I wear many different hats around here: student, librarian,
public-relations specialist, teacher, archivist, lab assistant,
sometimes planetary geologist (I've been asked to help "do science"
once or twice on Galileo). The job is definitely never boring! Well,
got to get back to work! Happy New Year!
[Editor's note: Matt Golombek is the project scientist for the Mars
Pathfinder mission. Following is an excerpt of an article he wrote
for Eos Vol. 77, No. 49, December 3, 1996. For the complete article
go to: http://www.agu.org/sci_soc/eosgolombek.html]
ROVING FOR ROCKS ON THE RED PLANET: THE MARS PATHFINDER
Mars is the most Earth-like planet in our solar system. After Earth,
it is the only other planet that is capable of supporting life. Recent
scientific evidence suggests that life did once exist on Mars and
makes the planet a doubly exciting target for exploration. Mars is a
unique terrestrial planet. Evidence suggests it underwent major
climatic changes and has a geologic record of surface rocks that
spans the entire history of the solar system. The geologic record
suggests that early climate on Mars was warmer and wetter, and
that liquid water a requirement for life may have been present.
Studying the geological, climatological, and exobiological conditions
of Mars may provide the data science needs to address the almost
theological question of: "Are we alone in the universe?"
[Editor's note: This status report on the Mars Pathfinder mission was
prepared by the Public Information Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in Pasadena, California.]
MARS PATHFINDER MISSION STATUS
December 18, 1996
Sojourner, a 10-kilogram (22-pound) rover tucked away on a petal of
the Mars Pathfinder spacecraft, got a 'wake up' call on Dec. 17 from
flight controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. After waking
up, Sojourner conducted an internal health check and sent data back
to the flight team that all was well.
The Pathfinder flight team was ecstatic with the rover data, which
showed that all systems within the rover were operating normally.
In addition, data from the rover's main science instrument -- the
alpha proton x-ray spectrometer -- showed that it was operating
"The rover woke up, did its internal health check, sent the lander
its status data and went back to sleep, all as planned," said Art
Thompson, rover operations team member. "All subsystems were
verified as being in good health."
Pathfinder continues to perform very well on its 500 million-
kilometer (310 million-mile) journey to Mars, the team reported.
Currently the spacecraft is 4 million kilometers (2.5 million miles)
from Earth, traveling at a speed of 3.1 kilometers per second (7,000
miles per hour). Its destination, Mars, is currently about 190 million
kilometers (118 million miles) away. All temperatures and power
utilization of the lander and cruise stage remain at their predicted
levels for this phase of the mission.
The spacecraft was spun down from 12.3 rpm to 2 rpm on Dec. 11.
Flight controllers first instructed the spacecraft to turn to a Sun
angle of 50 degrees and an Earth angle of 32 degrees. This allowed
them to use all four operating Sun sensors. The spacecraft executed
the commanded spin down to the normal cruise spin rate of 2 rpm in
steps of 2 rpm at a time.
Once the normal spin rate was established, the team turned on the
spacecraft's star scanner on Dec. 12. Star scanner data allows the
spacecraft to establish full, three-axis knowledge of its orientation
in space. This is the normal cruise attitude control mode and the
one in which all trajectory correction maneuvers will be performed.
While Sun sensor #5 continues to work well after a software fix,
the flight team continues to investigate the cause of the loss of Sun
sensor head #4. The team expects to reach a likely conclusion on the
cause of the problem within the next month or two.
Dave Gruel, Pathfinder flight director at JPL, conducted the Dec.16
health check of the lander science instruments, including the
atmospheric sensor instrument and meteorology (ASI/MET) package
and the imager. Temperature, pressure and accelerometer readings
from the atmospheric/meteorology instrument verified it was in
normal working order. Power and dark current measurements
received from the imager while it was imaging the darkness around
it, confirmed that the instrument was working properly, Gruel said.
Richard Cook, Pathfinder mission operations manager at JPL,
reported today that Pathfinder has been fully checked out for this
phase of the mission and that all subsystems are "go" for a
successful seven-month cruise to Mars.
The next major in-flight event will be Pathfinder's first trajectory
correction maneuver, which is scheduled for Jan. 4, 1997.
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