SETI [ASTRO] Geologists To Discuss Mars Mission Landing Sites

Larry Klaes (
Tue, 22 Jun 1999 00:27:49 -0400

>X-Authentication-Warning: majordom set sender to owner-astro using -f >Date: Tue, 22 Jun 1999 3:07:56 GMT >From: Ron Baalke <> >To: >Subject: [ASTRO] Geologists To Discuss Mars Mission Landing Sites >Sender: >Reply-To: Ron Baalke <> > >State University of New York-Buffalo > >Contact: >Ellen Goldbaum, >Phone: 716-645-2626 Fax: 716-645-3765 > >Release date: Friday, June 18, 1999 > >Could Humans Live On Mars? Geologists to Discuss Mission Landing Sites that >Might Have Answers > >BUFFALO, N.Y. -- You think finding a place to park down here is hard. Try >finding a place to land on Mars. > >That's what a group of leading planetary geologists will try to decide June >22-23 when they meet at the University at Buffalo for the Mars Surveyor >2001 Landing Site Workshop. > >The workshop will be held in conjunction with the 1999 Planetary Geological >Mappers meeting, also to be held at UB. > >The Surveyor mission, expected to be launched in the Fall of 2001, will carry >experiments designed to demonstrate technologies needed to support eventual >human colonization of Mars, according to Tracy Gregg, Ph.D., UB assistant >professor of geology and a member of the workshop organizing committee. > >"For example, will we be able to extract useful materials, such as >construction supplies and metal ores, from Martian rocks?" she asked. "And >can we extract oxygen from the soils?" > >The mission also will include experiments to help determine the composition >of Martian rocks, the results of which will assist scientists in understanding >the evolution of Mars, as well as determine if there are useful materials that >can be mined to support communities on the planet. > >Studded with giant craters and huge volcanoes -- including the largest one >in the solar system -- the surface of Mars is a tough place to land anything, >especially a remote-controlled vehicle equipped with tens of millions of >dollars of equipment and exquisitely sensitive scientific instruments. > >Gregg noted that while searching for evidence of life on Mars is always >important, the Surveyor, which has a range of about 2 miles or 3 kilometers, >can land safely only in certain places. > >"Most of the places available for safe landings are not optimum places to >search for Martian life," she explained. "Instead, we are trying to maximize >the science return; in other words, to find a place that will give us the >greatest access to the widest variety of different types of rocks in a small >space." > >Candidate sites are those near flood plains, which are similar to those sites >where previous missions have landed, as well as places that are home to >many different types of rocks, such as the point at which a volcanic plain >intersects an ancient crater. > >At the meeting, Gregg and volcanologist Mark Bulmer of the Smithsonian >Institution will give a presentation on how their experience exploring >undersea volcanoes using a remote-controlled vehicle may be relevant to >missions on Mars. > >The 1999 Planetary Geological Mappers meeting will include presentations >of geological mapping studies and discussion of planetary geological- >mapping procedures and issues. > >Once the conference presentations are done, scientists will continue their >work by donning hiking books and embarking on field trips in and around >Western New York, courtesy of their UB hosts. > >"The reason for the field trips is that there is some controversy over >whether or not glaciers may have existed in the past on Mars," Gregg >explained. "So we'll be showing these geologists who specialize in Mars >what glaciated terrain and glacial deposits really look like." > >The field trips will showcase the most fascinating features of Western >New York's large-scale glacial geology, including Niagara Falls, the >Niagara Gorge, the shorelines of the glacial Great Lakes and other >geological features, such as drumlins, eskers, moraines and the Finger >Lakes. >

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