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UPDATE # 25 - March 22, 1997

PART 1: Next WebChat
PART 2: Challenge Questions are Back
PART 3: Get Out and Observe Mars!
PART 4: Rocky 7 Team Seeks Classes to Participate in Rover Testing
PART 5: Mystery on Mars
PART 6: Mars Team Journal: Off to a Running Start!
PART 7: Pathfinder Mission Status
PART 8: Global Surveyor Flight Status
PART 9: Subscribing & Unsubscribing: How to do it!


Tuesday, March 25, from 9-10 a.m., PDT, Ted Roush, Ames Research
        Center, Moffett Field, CA

TED ROUSH is a planetary scientist who studies the composition of
solid surfaces throughout the solar system. He is interested in the
minerals and rock types found on the surfaces of rocky bodies and
the various ices found on the surfaces of icy bodies. His work
includes telescopic and spacecraft observations, laboratory work
and computer calculations. He use telescopes located on Earth and on
spacecraft to measure the sunlight that is reflected from the
surfaces of objects in the solar system. Be sure to check out Ted's
bio at: http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/mars/team
Please join us! RSVP to Andrea by sending a brief Email note to
andream@quest.arc.nasa.gov. This RSVP is very important, as it will
allow us to ensure that the chatroom does not become too crowded.


In the six weeks leading up each live television broadcast, we promised a weekly Challenge Question to get your brain cells firing. Since the next live broadcast, "LFM 102: Cruising Between the Planets," is scheduled to air from the Jet Propulsion Lab on April 24, it's time to post the first question. CQ #1: If geology is the study of Earth (from the Greek geo-earth and logos-knowledge), what should the study of Mars be called? Your answer can be either etymologically correct, with Greek derivation, or more humorous if you like! Watch this cyberspace for the answer next week! You are invited to send original student answers to us. We will list the kids' names online and token prizes will be given to those with the best answers. Send your answers to Jan Wee at: jwee@mail.arc.nasa.gov Please include the words CHALLENGE QUESTION in the subject line of your email.


Here is some more information for viewing Mars through the end of March. The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) last photographed Mars on March 10 for 13 hours. The observations covered three separate hemispheres through many different color filters. To see these latest telescopic images of Mars go to the Marswatch archive page at: http://mpfwww.jpl.nasa.gov/mpf/marswatch_images.html The next series of HST observations of Mars will occur March 30-31. The dates and times of the observations are shown in the table below. These observations will provide global coverage through many different color filters. Supporting ground-based visual observations, photographs, drawings, or CCD images of Mars shortly before, during and shortly after this time period could be extremely helpful in interpreting the HST data. If you and your students are able to obtain observations, please email your results or upload them using the instructions at: http://mpfwww.jpl.nasa.gov/mpf/marswatch_ftp.html Next HST Mars observations: Date Time Range (UT) --------- --------------- March 30 04:03 to 04:47 March 30 10:30 to 11:14 March 30 12:07 to 12:57 March 30 15:21 to 16:10 March 30 22:06 to 22:38 March 31 10:42 to 11:28 Hubble's Sharpest Views of Mars Now Available

[Editor's note: NASA Press Release N97-21] New, sharpest-ever views of the planet Mars taken by the Wide Field Planetary Camera-2 (WFPC2) aboard NASA's Hubble Space Telescope on March 10, 1997 (following the successful STS-82 Hubble second servicing mission), clearly show clouds, dust storms, polar caps and other bright and dark markings known to astronomers for more than a century. Taken just before Mars opposition -- when the red planet comes closest to the Earth this year (about 60 million miles or 100 million km) -- the images were contained in a single picture element (pixel) in WFPC2's Planetary Camera, which spans 13 miles (22 km) on the Martian surface. These images show the planet during the transition between spring and summer in the northern hemisphere (summer solstice). The annual north-polar, carbon-dioxide frost (dry ice) cap is rapidly subliming, revealing the much smaller permanent water-ice cap, along with a few nearby detached regions of surface frost. Hubble is being used to monitor dust storm activity to support the Mars Pathfinder and Mars Global Surveyor Orbiter missions, which are currently en route to Mars. Hubble's "weather report" from these images, is invaluable for Mars Pathfinder, which is scheduled for a July 4 landing. These images show no evidence for large-scale dust storm activity, which plagued a previous Mars mission in the early 1970s. Image files of Syrtis Major (97-HC-136) and Mars at Opposition (97- HC-137) are available on the Internet as GIF and JPEG formats via anonymous ftp from: oposite.stsci.edu in /pubinfo Syrtis Major: gif/marssm97.gif; jpeg/marssm97.jpg Mars at Opposition: gif/marssm97.gif; jpeg/marssm97.jpg Higher resolution digital versions (300 dpi JPEG) of the images are available in /pubinfo/hrtemp: 97-09a.jpg (color) and 97-09abw.jpg (black and white). GIF and JPEG images, captions and information are available via World Wide Web at: http://www.stsci.edu/pubinfo/PR/97/09.html and via links in: http://www.stsci.edu/pubinfo/latest.html or http://www.stsci.edu/pubinfo/pictures.html


[Editor's note: This press release was written by the Public Information Office, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.] NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory will be conducting a week-long series of field tests in May with its next-generation rover, called Rocky 7. To engage students in this exciting NASA activity, the Rocky 7 team is seeking international participation by middle and secondary schools interested in remotely driving the rover during one of the tests on May 30. Four to six classrooms which have the necessary computer hardware and software capabilities to participate in the testing will be selected. The students will collaborate to plan command sequences which will be sent to the rover for execution. The students will be able to see the rover exploring specified locations and performing tasks such as digging and placing an instrument mounted to its 1.5- meter (5-foot) mast against a rock. "The purpose of these tests is to demonstrate how scientists around the world will collaborate in future Mars rover missions to plan daily rover activities," said Dr. Paul Backes, rover ground system cognizant engineer. "The test will also demonstrate how mission information will be made available to the general public. Anyone on the Internet will be able to see the plan that the students generate and, then, be able to watch the rover performing the tasks." Schools must submit a letter of interest, along with a checklist of their computer hardware and software capabilities, to Dr. Cheick Diarra, via email at cheick.m.diarra@jpl.nasa.gov, or by fax, 818- 393-6800, or by U.S.mail to Cheick Diarra, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 4800 Oak Grove Drive, Mail Stop 180-401, Pasadena, Calif., 91109. All letters must be received no later than April 18. Those classes selected to participate in the test will be notified by May 5. Selection will be based on the following computer hardware, software and technical support requirements: - Computers must be either Pentium-class personal computers with 32-megabytes of memory or Sun UNIX computers, using a minimum of Sparc 20 and running Solaris operating systems - Monitors must be at least 17-inch color monitors with 1024 by 768 resolution - The preferred Internet connection should be an ISDN (integrated services digital network) connection, but a 28.8K modem is sufficient - The Web browser should be, at minimum, Netscape Navigator 3.0 or Internet Explorer 3.0 supporting Java applications. Schools must also be able to provide on-site technical support during the tests and be able to set up their computer networks about three weeks before the May 30 test. Preferably, schools should have at least two computers in the classroom to allow several students to participate at the same time. More information about the Rocky 7 development and the May field testing can be obtained at: http://robotics.jpl.nasa.gov/tasks/scirover Further information about student participation in the May testing is available at: http://robotics.jpl.nasa.gov/tasks/scirover/operator/fieldTests/may97 /studentOps/studentOps.html


[Editor's note: The following article appeared in "Business Wire" on March 17, 1997.] Headbone Interactive's Internet learning adventure, The Headbone Derby, launched its third installment today with a focus on planetary science. As NASA's Mars Pathfinder and Mars Global Surveyor missions make their way toward Mars, fourth through eighth graders will be given the opportunity to learn all about the Red Planet by playing "Mystery on Mars" at: http://derby.headbone.com In this spring edition of the ongoing Derby (available free of charge), kids will read a Web-based, comic-strip mystery that motivates them to do on-line research on the astronomy, geology and history of Mars in order to resolve cliff-hanger endings and move onto subsequent episodes in the story. "Our broad objective with the school Derby program is to provide a tool for teachers and students to actively learn about the changing ways knowledge can be accessed in this information age," said Sara Snyder, educational marketing manager. "'Information Literacy' is a key skill for 21st century kids -- and adults as well." The storyline for Headbone's third Derby dovetails with NASA's "Live from Mars" curricular Web site, which delivers interactive online resources for teachers and classrooms (http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/mars)."Headbone's 'Mystery on Mars' Derby is fun and educational and engages youngsters directly. Thus, our two sites complement one another perfectly. Together they excite and inform students about the wonders of Mars," said Marc Siegel, Sharing NASA project manager. The Mars Derby will run from March 16 through National Science and Technology Week (April 20-26), culminating on May 21. Prizes such as laptop computers, color printers, and photo scanners donated by sponsors including Epson, Yahooligans and Storm Technology, will be awarded to winning teachers and classroom teams. Yahoo will be the featured search engine, giving teachers customized searching capabilities. "You would not believe how excited my students are about this game. They really enjoy playing," said Renee Kervin of Evansdale Elementary School in Doraville, Ga. "They come to class early, beg me to stay late, and occasionally meet after school to search for the answers to episodes we read earlier in the day." Evansdale is one of thousands of schools that have participated in the Derby to date. The Headbone Derby is a key feature of the Headbone Zone (http://www.headbone.com), the company's newly branded kids' site on the World Wide Web. In addition to the Derby -- designed primarily for school use -- the Headbone Zone contains a broad array of games, puzzles and activities designed for kids 8 through 14.

by Jack Farmer [Editor's note: Jack is a exobiologist at NASA's Ames Research Center near San Francisco, California. His current research deals with the origin of stromatolites, which are thin-layered sedimentary structures that are produced by communities of microorganisms. He is also interested in how some of the tiny microbes that create stromatolites become fossils. According to Jack, tiny microfossils have been found in rocks as far back as 3.5 billion years. Question is, how do these tiny creatures get preserved and why?] Week of March 10, 1997 This week is off to a running start with meetings and several important writing assignments. And I am also taking the time to reorganize my office! I received some bad news this week that I will share with you later, but first some job highlights. I have been given the responsibility to help organize a workshop here at NASA Ames on the topic of Evolutionary Biology. The problem is, NASA needs to support more research in this science area, but to really do that effectively, we must target those aspects of the very broad field of Evolutionary Biology that are the most crucial to NASA's mission. That mission as I see it is to "explore the living universe," to discover if we are alone in the cosmos and to help humans explore the environment of space (toward what Capt. Kirk would call "the final frontier"). Part of our task in this workshop is to educate our supervisors at NASA Headquarters about the field of Evolutionary Biology, what it encompasses and what research areas in that field are most relevant to NASA's goals. To do that we are going to invite some of the top scientists from across the country to talk to us about what they find most exciting in the field, and where they see the field going over the next few years. The group will be small (perhaps 15 total), advisory in nature and hopefully informal. So, to help get that "off the ground" I have been calling lots of people and trying to entice them to join us for two days in April. This would seem easy enough were it not for the fact that most of the people we are inviting are college teachers with lots of other responsibilities and we are not giving them much notice to plan! I also have several pressing writing assignments this week that have to be completed and it is hard to find large blocks of uninterrupted time to think. Writing is not easy for me. I need to have silence and no distractions to really be efficient. The challenge for me is the telephone, email, and the casual drop-in who just wants to chat. I am considering taking a time management course that will help me balance these things more effectively. But it is important to talk with colleagues, and one does not just close the door day after day and not pay a price. But maybe if I set aside some specific blocks of time for such things, I won't feel so bad about closing my door occasionally. So what's so important that I should have to hide and write? I'm presently a member of an advisory committee for NASA called the Mars '01 Science Definition Team. Our group has the responsibility of identifying the most important science objectives for the orbital and landed missions that will be launched in 2001, making recommendations to NASA Headquarters so they can construct an Announcement of Opportunity or "A.O." for release to the broader scientific community. The A.O. will basically be an invitation to the outside science world to propose research projects and instruments that could be flown to Mars in the year 2001. These experiments and their supporting technologies will be expected to address one or more of the science objectives identified by our group. My assignment is to add my contributions to the draft document and comment on what others have already written. This is very important because the '01 mission opportunity must provide certain types of supporting data that will be needed to guide us to the right place on Mars for a sample return mission that will be launched in 2005. That returned sample should come from a place that has a good chance of containing a record of past life. There is a lot riding on the preceding missions, and especially '01, which will be our last chance to get really high-resolution mapping from orbit. On one hand, this all seems pretty far off, but in actuality, it is just around the corner. Another thing I have to write up this week is a review of a manuscript that was sent to me some time ago by a science magazine called "The Journal of Sedimentary Research." As scientists, we are expected to perform this service on occasion, providing a critique of other scientist's work. It is called the peer- review system and it is the way the science community at large operates to ensure that the best quality work gets published. It is true that lots of things get published that are poorly done and probably wrong, but there is a certain class of journals that operates on the peer-review system which is highly regarded, and having your work appear in one of those journals means that it has survived critical review and is now regarded as solid science. So, about once every month or two I receive a paper to review from one of the journals in my field, and I try and do my best to give a good critique that will help the peer-review process along. After all, the next time it will be someone else's turn to review a paper, and perhaps it will be one I have written! This morning I spent time in the lab doing a particle size analysis of a sample that my science colleague Andy Cheng sent to me. Andy is an engineer and is developing a robotic sampling device to collect rocks on Mars. The device will go on a rover and includes a corer that is fired by an explosive charge into the surface of a rock. The coring device is designed to enter the rock and capture a piece of it along with some of the powder that is formed. The idea is that the larger sample pieces could be collected for sample return and the powder delivered to another device on the rover which will analyze it for the mineral or organic content. My task is to determine the range of particle sizes produced by the explosive corer, the grain shapes and their composition. I am doing the grain size work using a standard sieving method where we shake the sample down through sieving screens of different mesh sizes and measure the fraction of the total sample that is retained on each screen. From that we can plot up a size- frequency distribution and determine the size range of materials produced by the method. Knowing this is important for understanding what kinds of analyses can be done on the samples and how to best design systems that will deliver samples to the instruments carried on the rover. The results of the grain size analysis will go to Andy on Wednesday and he will include them in a presentation we are making at the Lunar Planetary Science Conference in Houston next week. I received some bad news this week. One of my colleagues and friends, Rick Hutchinson, was killed in an avalanche in Yellowstone National Park. Rick was a wonderful guy, dedicated and friendly, and a great help to people like me who go to Yellowstone Park each year to do research. Rick was the park geologist and had worked in Yellowstone as a ranger for many years. He helped me out numerous times during the past five years or so, helping me to get to out-of- the-way places to do my work. He was an expert on the thermal features in the park and knew almost every hot spring or geyser in Yellowstone and how they behaved. Last week he was guiding a visiting researcher into an area in Yellowstone called Heart Lake to look at some of the thermal springs there. They went in on skis. During the time they were in the area there was a snow avalanche that caught them, and they did not make it out alive. This is very sad for all of us who knew Rick, but we also know how much he loved what he did, and how much he cared about Yellowstone. I like to think he probably would not have wanted to leave us in his sleep, but rather the way he did--out and about, doing his useful, friendly things to help others. I'll miss him a lot!

[Editor's note: This status report was prepared by the Office of the Flight Operations Manager, Mars Pathfinder Mission, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.] The spacecraft remains in good health and is currently about 49 million kilometers from Earth. No significant spacecraft operations were performed this week. Entry, Descent, and Landing Flight Software Testing is progressing well. We completed an airbag retraction test in the Building 230 Sandbox last week, and have finished a set of parachute deploy and rocket ignition algorithm robustness tests this week. A couple of significant issues have come up in this testing which are likely to cause us to change flight software. A flight software change board meeting will be held April 1 to determine what changes to make and what regression tests to perform.


[Editor's note: This status report was prepared by the Office of the Flight Operations Manager, Mars Surveyor Operations Project, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.] Friday, March 21, 1997 On Wednesday, the flight team transmitted the C6 sequence to Surveyor. This sequence contains commands that will control the spacecraft for the next four weeks. C6 became active on Thursday at 6:00 a.m. PST. The first major event in C6 occurred at 10:00 a.m. PST on Thursday. At that time, the onboard flight computer commanded the spacecraft's main rocket engine to fire for six seconds in order to make minor corrections to Surveyor's flight path. During this trajectory correction maneuver, the main engine burned a propellant combination of hydrazine fuel and nitrogen tetroxide oxidizer. In total, the spacecraft expended approximately 1.4 kilograms of propellant. Immediately before the six-second burn was performed, Surveyor ignited eight of its 12 attitude-control thrusters for 20 seconds. These tiny thruster rockets are normally used to stabilize the spacecraft during main engine firings. The initial, 20-second thruster firing settled the liquid in the spacecraft's tanks to ensure a smooth flow of propellant to the more powerful main rocket engine that was used to perform the correction maneuver. At this time, the navigation team is busy analyzing the accuracy of yesterday's trajectory correction maneuver. However, preliminary results from the accelerometer onboard the spacecraft show that the engine firing provided a velocity change of 3.875 meters per second. This value was within 0.5% of the predicted change of 3.857 meters per second. Yesterday's maneuver was the second in a series of four trajectory correction maneuvers that are designed to refine the spacecraft's flight path to Mars. The first maneuver occurred shortly after launch last November. The third and fourth are currently scheduled for April 21 and August 25, respectively. After a mission-elapsed time of 134 days from launch, Surveyor is 47.69 million kilometers from the Earth, 63.84 million kilometers from Mars, and is moving in an orbit around the Sun with a velocity of 26.27 kilometers per second. This orbit will intercept Mars on September 12, 1997. The spacecraft is currently executing the C6 command sequence, and all systems continue to be in excellent condition.

SUBSCRIBING & UNSUBSCRIBING: HOW TO DO IT! If this is your first message from the updates-lfm list, welcome! To catch up on back issues, please visit the following Internet URL: (http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/mars/updates To subscribe to the updates-lfm mailing list (where this message came from), send a message to: listmanager@quest.arc.nasa.gov In the message body, write these words: subscribe updates-lfm CONVERSELY... To remove your name from the updates-lfm mailing list, send a message to: listmanager@quest.arc.nasa.gov In the message body, write these words: unsubscribe updates-lfm If you have Web access, please visit our "continuous construction" site at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/mars


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