Many folks would like to see us back on the Moon and developing its resources.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Good day.

In hopes that you have the opportunity to look up and contemplate things in
space, the PBS program NOVA will be showing again, "MARS Dead or Alive".

If you don't get the NOVA programs on TV and care to watch by way of the
Internet you can view the individual Chapters (1-7) here.

In October Mars will again be closest to Earth and bright. See Science at NASA
link below. - LRK -

Larry Kellogg
larry.kellogg at

Next on NOVA: "MARS Dead or Alive" (Repeat)

Broadcast: July 12, 2005 at 8 p.m. ET/PT
(NOVA airs Tuesdays on PBS at 8 p.m. Check your local listings.)

This week's NOVA goes behind the scenes to document the
tension-filled process of building, testing, final checking out, and
launching of a pair of NASA rovers designed to be robotic geologists
on Mars. Engineers face a tight deadline as Mars approaches its
closest rendezvous with Earth. They're stretched to the limit as
parachutes rip, bolts fail, and airbags deflate. Watch them apply
all their ingenuity to overcome the technical hitches, and witness
the excitement at NASA as the first rover finally touches down on
the red planet.

Here's what you'll find on the companion Web site:

Inquiry, Interview, and Overview

Life's Little Essential
Everybody knows that liquid water is necessary for life, at
least as we know it. But just exactly why?

Man on a Mission
Steve Squyres, the lead scientist who dreamed up the rovers,
reveals his hopes and fears for the mission.

Explore the Red Planet
See some of the finest images ever taken of the martian surface.

Video and Interactives

From Launch to Landing
Watch an animation of one rover's planned journey from Earth
to Mars.

Mars Up Close
Steve Squyres narrates this visual tour of the rovers' most
revealing discoveries.

Anatomy of a Rover
Examine the robotic geologists and their scientific instruments.

Design a Parachute
Create a parachute both strong and light enough to safely slow
the rovers in their descent toward Mars.


Watch the Program
View the one-hour program online.

NOVA News Minutes
Watch two news clips related to NASA's Mars rover mission.

Also, a list of links and books, a teacher's guide, and the program

MARS Dead or Alive
TV Program Description
Original PBS Broadcast Date: January 4, 2004

On January 3, 2004, a strange sight unfolded on the planet Mars. Above a
vast, dry lake bed south of the martian equator, a conical vehicle
parachuted toward the surface. Then, just before touch down, it was
enveloped by a gigantic protective airbag allowing the craft to bounce
safely to a stop. Inside was Spirit, the most sophisticated rover ever
launched from Earth. "MARS Dead or Alive," which originally aired just hours
after Spirit landed on the red planet, covers this mission in depth.

The program's behind-the-scenes look at the construction of Spirit and its
twin, Opportunity, includes a special up-to-the-minute segment with the
latest news from Mars as of January 3, 2004—to learn if Spirit is ready to
undertake the most comprehensive search for evidence of liquid water ever
attempted on Mars.

NOVA spent months documenting the tension-filled process of building,
testing, final checkout, and launch of a pair of spacecraft that are
designed not only to be remote-controlled field geologists but to perform in
a demanding environment millions of miles from Earth. As the program shows,
unexpected problems with designs for the parachute and airbags almost
scuttled the mission, and a potentially catastrophic electronic problem on
Spirit didn't turn up until the vehicle was completely inaccessible and
awaiting launch.

Riding on the mission are not just the hopes of scientists seeking to answer
baffling questions about the history of Mars, but the future of NASA's Mars
exploration program itself. Twice in 1999 NASA probes arriving at Mars were
lost without a trace. One of the few recent bright spots for Mars research
was the surprising success of the experimental lander-rover Pathfinder in
1997, which was designed to test the airbag-landing technique.

Pathfinder was spawned by a freewheeling group of young scientists and
engineers who are now back with the far more ambitious Spirit and
Opportunity vehicles, which make up what is officially called the Mars
Exploration Rover (MER) project. The MER science team is headed by planetary
scientist Stephen Squyres of Cornell University, who conceived the project
with the goal of probing the most burning questions in Mars science: Was
there ever liquid water on the Red Planet? Were conditions ever suitable for

Spirit and Opportunity are mobile laboratories outfitted with visible-light
and infrared cameras to scan the landscape and locate promising rocks for
investigation; a power tool to grind off the weathered surface; a microscope
to examine the interior; and two other instruments to sniff out the rock's
chemistry. (For a closer look at a MER, see Anatomy of a Rover.) In this
way, the MER team held out hope of finding evidence of the liquid water that
many scientists theorize was once abundant on Mars's surface but has since

The landing sites were chosen for their strong signs of a wet past. Spirit
is now on site in Gusev Crater, a possible former lake, while Opportunity
has been exploring Meridiani Planum, where minerals have been detected that
normally form in the presence of water. And where there's water, there may
have been life. The ultimate goal of Spirit and Opportunity is to shed light
on this intriguing possibility and perhaps pave the way for the most
versatile explorers of all—humans.

[ More links on the web site - LRK - ]

Beware the Mars Hoax
Earth and Mars are converging for a close encounter--but not as close as
some people think.

July 7, 2005: There's a rumor going around. You might have heard it at a
4th of July BBQ or family get-together. More likely you've read it on the
Internet. It goes like this:

"The Red Planet is about to be spectacular."

"Earth is catching up with Mars [for] the closest approach between the two
planets in recorded history."

"On August 27th
Mars will look as large as the full moon."


Right: "Close Encounters" by graphic artist Duane Hilton.

Those are snippets from a widely-circulated email. Only the first sentence
is true. The Red Planet is about to be spectacular. The rest is a hoax.

Here are the facts: Earth and Mars are converging for a close encounter this
year on October 30th at 0319 Universal Time. Distance: 69 million
kilometers. To the unaided eye, Mars will look like a bright red star, a
pinprick of light, certainly not as wide as the full Moon.

Disappointed? Don't be. If Mars did come close enough to rival the Moon, its
gravity would alter Earth's orbit and raise terrible tides.

Sixty-nine million km is good. At that distance, Mars shines brighter than
anything else in the sky except the Sun, the Moon and Venus. The visual
magnitude of Mars on Oct. 30, 2005, will be -2.3. Even inattentive sky
watchers will notice it, rising at sundown and soaring overhead at midnight.

You might remember another encounter with Mars, about two years ago, on
August 27, 2003. That was the closest in recorded history, by a whisker, and
millions of people watched as the distance between Mars and Earth shrunk to
56 million km. This October's encounter, at 69 million km, is similar. To
casual observers, Mars will seem about as bright and beautiful in 2005 as it
was in 2003.

[ See web site for more information and links. - LRK - ]
The Mars Express Mission took advantage of the Mars - Earth closeness in
2003 - LRK -

11 April 2003
About the same time as Earth and Mars make their closest approach in more
than 60 000 years, ESA's Mars Express passes the halfway mark of its
journey, as regards distance.

Credits: ESA 2003. Illustration by Medialab.




No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Moon and Mars - Videos