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Space Scientists Online &
Mars Millennium QuestChat

May 9, 2000

Daniel Winterhalter
Space Physicist
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

[ Sandy/NASAChatHost - 0 - 15:03:30 ]
Welcome to another in our series of Mars Millennium & Space Scientists Online QuestChats! Our special guest will be space physicist Daniel Winterhalter. Daniel will be in the chatroom at 10 am, PDT (1 pm, EDT) on Tuesday, May 9. Be sure to have your questions ready and please read Daniel's bio BEFORE coming to the chat -- http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/sso/team/winterhalter.html

[ DanielWinterhalter/SpacePhysicist - 6 - 10:02:57 ]
Hello everyone, this is Daniel. I am here ready or not to answer your questions. I see two already, so here we go!

[ DanielWinterhalter/SpacePhysicist - 7 - 10:05:48 ]
RE: [christopher] Hi, I'm doing a project on life on Mars do you have any input on this thanks ....
Hi Christopher, this is a good project. At this point we know very little about the possibility of life on mars. Missions are going there to find out about the water (subsurface), required for life. And of course, we want to find any evidence for past life...

[ DanielWinterhalter/SpacePhysicist - 11 - 10:09:08 ]
RE: [Brenda] Does the solar wind have a direct effect on radio or television transmissions?
Good question Brenda. Yes indeed it does. You may have heard it yourself, somtimes when you listen with a small radio receiver, the sound sot of "warbels, fades in and out, etc. That is somtimes do to solar interference. It can get so bad at times that is knocks out power transmision line to create a blackout, or knock out com satellites like last year, remember?

[ DanielWinterhalter/SpacePhysicist - 13 - 10:12:58 ]
RE: [Joe] How did you participate in voyager 11?
Hi Joe, Voyager was my very first project. I was a member of the flight team, starting shortly after launch. I was working in the science support area where we helped to design the observations, command the instruments, looked at the instrument health, and many other tasks. It was so exciting during the Jupiter encounter, I did not want to go home, and kept a sleeping bag under my desk...

[ DanielWinterhalter/SpacePhysicist - 16 - 10:15:27 ]
RE: [Laura] what was you involvment in pioneer 11?
Laura, for Pioneer 11 I was working with the magnetometer team, helping to reduce the data, having a first look at it and trying to understand what we were seeing at Saturn.

[ DanielWinterhalter/SpacePhysicist - 18 - 10:21:36 ]
RE: [VegaClass] Our class is doing a simulated shuttle mission to Mars, can you give us some suggestions of experiments we can perform on our mission?
Oh boy, that is a tough one, only because it is big in scope. By shuttle mission I take it you mean one with people on board, and that is going to land. There are a gazillion things you would do, I am sure. First of all, there are experiments to perform that would establish wheter or not we can use the water there for life support, and as a resource (fuel). For more scientific activities, I would think the people shuld look for signs of life (by turning over rocks and studying it!), something that a robot will have great difficulty in doing.

[ Sandy/NASAChatHost - 19 - 10:24:58 ]
EVERYONE: I'm collecting all of your questions in my "moderator's queue." There are some really great ones here! I'm posting 3 at a time so as not to overwhelm Daniel with all of your great enthusiasm :-)

[ DanielWinterhalter/SpacePhysicist - 22 - 10:26:46 ]
RE: [VegaClass] What is the most interesting information you have gathered from all the space missions you have worked on?
VegaClass, that too is hard one to answer. Typically, the information comes very incrementally, and it takes a lot of work to piece things together to get a overall picture of what is going on. But our recent discovery that Mars does not have a magnetic field at present (like the Earth does), and that it has strong fossil magnetic fields, certainly ranks up there. It tells us a lot about how the planet has formed originally, how it has evolved, and how it looks inside right now.

[ DanielWinterhalter/SpacePhysicist - 23 - 10:32:36 ]
RE: [VegaClass/Roberto] Is Jet Propulsion only used in Space Exploration?
Hi Roberto. Well, jet propulsion is actually a somewhat general term. It means that you move a vehicle by heating up a fuel (exploding it), and force it out a narrow opening. Actually, you could say that when you blow up a balloon, and then let it go, it'll fly around jet propelled because the air is forced out fast pusing the balloon around. So rockets (used in space) are a form of jet propulsions, as well as jets on airplanes.

[ DanielWinterhalter/SpacePhysicist - 24 - 10:35:47 ]
RE: [VegaClass] What are Mars Observer interplanetary probes?
I am not sure about that. Mars Observer was a probe we lost just as it was about to enter Mars' orbit. I suppose it could be that the term "interplanetary probe" was used because it travelled though interplanetary space to get there.

[ DanielWinterhalter/SpacePhysicist - 28 - 10:39:34 ]
RE: [Brenda] Will NASA attempt another Mars expedition before the end of the decade?
Hi Brenda, you mean before 2010? Yes, certainly. The plan is to launch two every 26 month through 2006 and beyond, culminating in a sample return, and eventally, with a manned mission. The excact schedule is a bit uncertain at this point until we figure out the casues and remidies fro the recent failures.

[ Sandy/NASAChatHost - 29 - 10:40:14 ]
EVERYONE: We have about 15 minutes left in our chat today!

[ DanielWinterhalter/SpacePhysicist - 30 - 10:46:33 ]
RE: [Laura] what's a magnetometer and what's the magnetometer team?
Hi Laura, a magnetometer is a science instrument that measures magnetic fields. In its simplest way, you could say it is like a a compass with which you can map out the Earth's magnetic field. We have much more comlicated magnetometers, of course, and to get one on on a mission we team up to design it, built it, and, most importantly, interpret the data that is measured by it once it flies in space.

[ Sandy/NASAChatHost - 32 - 10:51:51 ]
EVERYONE: There are only 5 minutes left in our chat with Daniel today. Please don't send anymore questions and Daniel will do his best to answer the remaining 15 questions that I still have in my question queue. An archive to this chat will be posted later today for you to review!

[ VegaClass - 33 - 10:52:05 ]
Mr. Winterhalter, this is the first time we have done this, thank you for making it so memorable for my students! Good luck in the rest of your endeavors!

[ Sandy/NASAChatHost - 34 - 10:54:23 ]
EVERYONE: There is still one more Mars chat this week that you can still sign up for. Planetary Geologist Jeff Plescia will be chatting on Thursday at 4 pm, Pacific (7 pm, Eastern).

[ DanielWinterhalter/SpacePhysicist - 35 - 10:54:37 ]
RE: [Alicia] Wow, Mr. Winterhalter, your pofile is so complete, I can hardly ask an intelligent question. How does your career path differ from saomeone who earns a comparable degee in something like aerospace engineeing? Would they be doing pretty much the same thing, or totally different?
Alicia, there are some distinct differences between science and engineering activities. There is some overlap, to be sure, but with an aerospace engineering degree you would likely be more concerned with the "how" (designing sapcecraft, missions, orbits, etc), than with the "why" (why is mars red?, why its atmospere so thin?, why are there aurora?). (Of corse, you could recast that with a "what" flavor, too, like what causes the aurora, etc., but you get my drift.)

[ DanielWinterhalter/SpacePhysicist - 42 - 11:01:48 ]
RE: [Scott] What insights do you hope to gain from your solar wind investigations?
Hi Scott, finally a Solar Wind question. Well, the solar wind comes directly from the sun, so by analysing it we get information of sun stuff not otherwise obtainable. It provides information about the star on which our life depends on. Also, the solar wind interacts with planets, including the earth, to cause aurora and other atmosperic effects like on the Earth or Jupiter, or even take away most of the atmosphere like we think happend on Mars. Finally, the sun is just the nearest star, so there are stellar winds that eventally interact with our solar wind.

[ DanielWinterhalter/SpacePhysicist - 43 - 11:04:37 ]
Ok everyone, lots and lots of good questions, I am sure we could go on for anther year or ten. But I have to sign off now, but I promise I will answer the posted questions today. So, it was fun everyone, and I feel inspired by your questions. Thanks, -Daniel

[ Sandy/NASAChatHost - 45 - 11:07:55 ]
Bob: Daniel will do his best to answer a couple of your questions today, but he won't have time to answer all 12 of them. Also, he will not be able to send the answers to your email address -- they will be answered here in the chat room. You can check the chat archive later today.

[ DanielWinterhalter/SpacePhysicist - 46 - 11:11:38 ]
RE: [WarrenClass] Thank you very much. This was our first experience with a chat and it was very informative.
You are welcome, WarrenClass, I had fun too.

[ Alicia - 47 - 11:13:50 ]
Okay bye now! Thank you and enjoy your day!

[ DanielWinterhalter/SpacePhysicist - 48 - 11:14:20 ]
RE: [Alicia] Thanks again for chatting with us this hour, Mr. Winterhalter!!!
You are welcome, Alicia. Keep up your interest!

[ DanielWinterhalter/SpacePhysicist - 49 - 11:17:31 ]
RE: [Alicia] How much hype do you have to deal with in your position as a public interface?
Oh its not bad. I am not really a "public interface" as such, we have pros for that. But all us scientists and engineers here are happy to discuss these things, we feel passionate about them.

[ DanielWinterhalter/SpacePhysicist - 50 - 11:30:05 ]
RE: [Bob] What made you decide to enter this line of work? What kind of schooling do you need? Is there any special training required? Is there anything you would have done differently in high school if you knew then what you know now? What is the basic range of salary for a person of your position? Does it vary at all? Would you choose a carrier over this one? Which? How is math used in your job? What courses did you take in high school that help you in your job today? Would you suggest this job to someone else? Do you enjoy your job? These questions are for a school project. It would be of great help if you sent what answers you want to chickley@shaysnet.com Thank you for your time.
Hi Bob. I wanted to be a scientist from my very early teens. I got interested in space, building model rockets, reading sci fi, etc. In terms of schooling, as a scientist you pretty much need to plan on getting a PhD in physcics, or Astronomy, any physical science really, whatever grabs you, at the best university you can get into. Math will become your alternate language, get good at it, practice it like you would doing laps in the pool. Its the tool you'll use to explore and express your discoveries. Another thing, though: You HAVE to publish papers, in plain english, explaning your research - learn how to write, write, write. Take writing classes. If you want to make a lot of money, this may not be the carreer. It pays fine, starting with about $60,000/year, going up to maybe 120,000 after MANY year. Lots of travel to all over the world. And you can't wait to get up in the morning to get to work... its a great life!

[ DanielWinterhalter/SpacePhysicist - 51 - 11:33:35 ]
RE: [VegaClass] Mr. Winterhalter, this is the first time we have done this, thank you for making it so memorable for my students! Good luck in the rest of your endeavors!
Thank you VegaClass, it was fun!

[ DanielWinterhalter/SpacePhysicist - 54 - 11:38:19 ]
RE: [Alicia] Are interested in solar winds because you are a space plasma physicist?
Well Alicia, I am a scientist, interested in space and planets and stars. Stars are made of plasma, and space is full of star stuff, and planets swim in it too...

[ DanielWinterhalter/SpacePhysicist - 55 - 11:46:28 ]
RE: [Alicia] What kinds of touble can the solar wind make for Nasa? Or maybe you can put the solar wind to use? Wouldnt it be great to have all that energy bottled up?
I don't think that the solar wind makes a lot of trouble for spacecraft, although there is a high energy component that can during strong solar activity. But in general, the energetics of the dolar wind are very low. Do you want to try to figure it out? The solar wind goes with about 1 million miles per hour. Very fast, right? But the number of particles (protons and electrons) in a cube 1 cm a side is only 10 (all numbers are rough), at the earth' distance from the sun. So can you calculate what the energy of the solar wind is? Compare that to the enery that the sunlight brings at earth (about 1300 watts/cm^2).

[ DanielWinterhalter/SpacePhysicist - 56 - 11:50:37 ]
RE: [Alicia] Thank you for your time Mr. Winterhalter. Do you have any suggestions for up and coming engineers? How likely is it that a peson with just a degee in electical engineeing could become involved in the making of Mars probes and other types of expeditions?
Electical engineers are always needed, and are intgral to building successful missions. Absolutely a good carreer path.

[ DanielWinterhalter/SpacePhysicist - 57 - 11:53:13 ]
RE: [Alicia] There is a LOT of wok to be done on the Mars expeditions. How involved do you think you are going to be in the planning and implementation stages? Do you think your talents are being put to best use?
Yes I will be involved with Mars a while longer. But I am concentrating on the plentiful data we are getting from Mars Global Surveyor. This is the really interesting part for the scientist...


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