Dr. Ken Edgett is a Mars geologist and director of the Arizona Mars
K-12 Education Program at Arizona State University. He is a member of the
Mars Global Surveyor Thermal Emission Spectrometer research team, and in
1994-96 he helped the Mars Pathfinder project to examine the July 4th landing
site in Ares Vallis. For the past five years, the Arizona Mars K-12 Education
Program has been conducting biannual teacher workshops, tours, and classroom
visits for school groups. The education program also produces several quarterly
newsletters for children, teachers, and the public, and maintains an informative
Internet site at http://esther.la.asu.edu/asu_tes/. He served as science
advisor for the Challenger Center's "Mars City Alpha" and the
Planetary Society's "Marslink" and "Red Rover" education
kits. In the fall of 1996, Edgett appeared several times on the weekly
"What's Up!" children's show on Phoenix's channel 15 (KNXV-TV),
and has been featured on several "ASU Research" programs on Phoenix's
channel 8 (KAET-TV). He is currently designing the education outreach program
for "MarsQuest," an interactive exhibit that will travel to science
centers around the U.S. starting in 1999. The year 1999 will also see publication
of his first children's book (with co-author Peggy Wethered). Edgett's
science research has covered a variety of topics including sand dunes,
volcanoes, and craters on Mars and Earth. He grew up in Rochester, NY,
and has been living in Arizona since 1987. He obtained a Ph.D. in Geology
from Arizona State University in 1994.
(reproduced from Dr. Edgett's web page)
Thanks Dr. Edgett!!
I think we should use the station to help get an idea of what we may be getting in to
We have to leave now Scott. Thanks for being there. signing off
Can the mission be launched from the space station or should we favour a direct trip?
I think we should use the station to help get an idea of what we may be getting in to
Scott : do you really think that a Mars mission should use the space station as a foothold? A lot of people at NASA are against this
Thanks Dr. Edgett!! We hope for a soft touchdown on Friday, and pray that the airbags finally work!!
I think the problems are good experience for us all. It is better
that this happened on MIR than on the new space station-- managing a crisis
like this will be a usefull experience, and helpful once people head to Mars.
ok. I am siging off after this.
I know the chat ends at 2 EDT, but if there is someone
out there with a BURNING question that we have not
addressed, I'd like to hear it. It is not every week that
we are landing on Mars-- this week is the first since 1976!
OK. Thanks, Dr. Edgett. You have been very generous and we really have learned a lot from your interesting answers. Thanks for your time!!
Shouldn't a physicist go? I don't know. Certainly not for repairing problems on
the spacecraft. You want an engineer for something like that. And good flight crew
(i.e., "pilots"). Most problems that could occur with the spacecraft would be solved
just like on Mir or Apollo 13-- most of the people who know how to fix it are
here on Earth-- offering advice and testing out ideas in the simulators.
It would be a tough ordeal, though. You would be gone from
Earth for nearly 3 years, with no opportunity to get some fresh air.
I would miss fresh air the most. Imagine those guys up in MIR right now,
dealing with their power being low, their air is hot and humid right now...
and at least they have the option to come home on the Soyuz. If the same
kind of thing happened on a Mars ship, you wouldn't be able to come home
But, despite my Fresh Air phobia-- I would go. It would be
wonderful. I wouldnt care if I was *first* person on Mars, or
the millionth. I'd still like to do it
Shouldn't a phyicist go if there is a problem with the shuttle?
Would you volunteer for a manned Mars mission???
A lot of work has been done over the years as to the make-up of a Mars crew. In terms of
scientists, I would think a geologist and an organic chemist would be the minimum required. Unless
there is some evidence, before the people are launched, to think that there will be life or fossils-- in
that case, a biologist (probably with background in micro biology) would be useful. The geologist should be someone
with A LOT of experience working "in the field" on Earth-- i.e., not someone who has studied lots of Mars images
or someone who models Earthquakes-- but someone who knows how to make good, careful observations and select samples
gathered OUTSIDE, in harsh environments on Earth.
One of our next activities will be to select our virtual astronauts that will run our simulated mission.
We will take a scientist/geologist on board (again decided by vote of our members and after the web chat with Dr.Stuster). What background/training should we be looking for? Do you think that we can take a geologist/biologist or the other way round (a biologist with some geologic expertise)
Well, in looking for minute traces of organic material and/or evidence of life
on Mars, there really is no substite for human beings. That is based on my
experience as a geologist. A person will notice things, and can step back and
look at a rock outcrop and really think about it.... a person can decide quicky
and efficiently (and work on hunches) to decide where to sample, where to look.
The current wave of robots are inexpensive, and therefore not as capable as a human
being. There have been experiences working on Earth with rovers like Rocky 7, where
scientists looking at the rover pictures will MISS seeing something really obvious,
like a big fossil or organism, because they aren't there IN PERSON to see the big picture.
As for instruments-- i am not an expert in organic chemistry, but I suspect that in the
field, a person would simply need the rock hammer, chip off teh samples, then
take them to the laboratory (which you would have brought to mars with you).
in there, you could have all kinds of equipment to analyse the samples.
One of our mission objectives would be to study the deposits for organic material. What would you suggest as possible experiments/instruments that should be taken on the mission to make full use of the presence of our astronauts as opposed to all these robotic missions that have to rely on automated procedures?
Dust storms. There are several different kinds. The big global
ones are probably no big deal unless you are standing at the place where it
originates-- Viking 1 and 2 "survived" the 2 great global dust storms of 1977
with no problem- most of the dust was HIGH in the atmosphere and things at the
ground level didn't change much. B
But you *can* get smaller, local storms. Viking 1 experienced one of these on
about it's 1,1742nd day on Mars. It might also have had one around it's 2,2000-something
day. This storm on Sol 1742 moved sediments around and caused the sky to darken.
But the lander survived just fine. It is going to depend on where you are when the
storm hits-- if you are near a sand dune-- look out-- the flying sand will cause damage
The two Vikings hardly had any affects from dust storms-- most of their time functioning
on Mars, things were pretty calm (and the 1970's were most dusty than the 1990's).
No, the Vikings didn't die as a result of a dust storm. You might be thinking of
MARS-3, one of the 1971 Soviet landers. It landed and then "died" 20 seconds later,
before it could send back a picture. There was a global dust storm on the polanet
planet at the time of the landing. The Soviet's blamed the dust storm, but based on
the Viking experience, I would be it was a technology problem, not the dust storm
We read about the dust storms. As we are trying to play at designing a manned mission, we were wondering how to protect the spacecraft against such a storm (in an extended duration mission the probability of suffering a major storm is considerable....)
Also, if we are not wrong, one of the Viking spacecraft "died"after sending a picture of a dust storm approaching?
Good questions. We know a lot about the composition of the
atmosphere, but its properties (density, pressure, etc) change
a lot over time. The Pathfinder will meaure these properites
as it descends of 4 July. This is a pretty standard procedure
anytime you drop a probe into the atmosphere of a planet.
Can we safely predict the drag? this is out of my league but
I think we have pretty good models of what to expect, both in
the case of Pathfinder's descent and Mars Global Surveyor's
Here's some fun news-- Hubble images of Mars taken last
Friday reveal a dust storm headed right toward the Pathfinder
landing site! This is scarey/exciting-- it is just today
being press-released. A tthe Pathfinder news conference (coming
up today, I assume after the Shuttle launch (or non-launch)
I am sure they will talk about it
We were wondering about the Martian atmosphere, and Pathfinder. We know that one of the mission's objectives is to study the atmosphere.
How good is the data we have so far on the atmosphere? Can we safely predict the drag?
Good question about landing sites. For Mars Pathfinder
the engineers had to provide a list of criteria to the scientists.
Because the lander is solar-powered, it had to land at latitudes that
get good amounts of sunlight. To communicate with Earth, it had
to be at latitudes where the Earth will be above the horizon (in
July 1997). In the case of Pathfinder, these latitudes were constrained
to being from the Equator, north to 30 N.
They also constrained the elevation. To land on Mars, you
need lots of atmosphere to slow you down (the thicker, the
better)--- so you want to land at low elevations. In the
case of Pathfinder, they said "below the 0-km datum".
Then there is the size of the landing ellipse. For Pathfinder,
it was 100 km by 200 km. Not exactly a pin-point landing. The
distance of the long axis is like the distance from Seattle, WA,
to Vancouver, BC (Canada)-- a huge distance.
First question : Our members have voted Hebes Chasma as our prime landing site for this mission we are designing.
We have read that the layered deposits on the side of the canyon are in doubt with respect to their origin?
I am ready for questions.
Hi Dr. Edgett! Thanks for being there. Whenever you are ready, we can start firing our questions
Good Morning, Planet Earth! It is 10 a.m. here in Arizona. It
is sunny and will reach 106 F today in Phoenix. The Space Shuttle
is launching soon (on our NASA TV's) and there is a Mars Pathfiner
press conference coming up soon, as well.
Hello to everybody! It is a beautiful day here in Buenos Aires, Argentina. As you log in to the chat, please write a short note to tell us of your whereabouts.
St. Peter's School:
We would like to participe with you tomorrow in the web chat
Our Official astronomer, Rene Duffard just spent 6 weeks in the Arizona Planetarium and got lost in the river bed of one of your desserts
Thank you for all your contribution to education, specialy down here.... at the end of the world in Argentina.
Duncan and Susan
The Chase Foundation Argentina
Advanced International Education Systems
Argentina Telefax: +54 - 541 - 27731 / 31921
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