Live From Mars WebChat

Date: August 26, 1997

Featuring: Bridget Landry
Deputy Uplink Systems Engineer, Pathfinder
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

Sandy/NASA Chat Host: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:22AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Today's Live From Mars WebChat with Bridget Landry from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory will begin at approximately 8:30 a.m., Pacific Daylight Time. See you then!

Sonora Elementary: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:38AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Hi, Sandy and Bridget. I am out of my meeting early and my students will be in the room soon to join in the chat. Susan Walter, Sonora Elementary School 6th grade science class Sonora, California

Sandy & Keith/NASA Chat Hosts: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:39AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Welcome Sonora Elementary!

Sandy & Keith/NASA Chat Hosts: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:38AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Most of you know Bridget as the deputy uplink systems engineer for Mars Pathfinder. But did you know that in her spare time she designs sci-fi costumes! Welcome Bridget!

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:39AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Greetings, all!

Lacey/Andover: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:23AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
What kinds of science fiction books do you like to read?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:41AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Lacey: My favorite author when I was a kid was Robert Heinlein, but now my favorite is Lois McMaster Bujold. I like the "hard science" type as well as those closer to fantasy. Depends on my mood.

Michael/Andover: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:27AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
How long will Sojourner's solar panels last?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:41AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Michael: Sojourner was only built to last 30 days. Since it's lasted more than 45 at this point, who can say?

Frank/Andover,ME: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:32AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
We launched model rockets this mornibg. Did you you build model rockets when you were a kid?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:42AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Frank: No, I didn't build model rockets when I was a kid. In fact, I never heard about them until I was older. Wish I'd had the chance!

Clayton/Andover,ME: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:41AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
How long will Pathfinder be in service?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:43AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Clayton: Our prime mission was 30 days and our extended mission is 1 (Earth) year. I'll be willing to work on it as long as the money lasts.

Jessica/Andover,ME: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:44AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
What is the hardest part of your job?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:46AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Jessica: The hardest part of my job is that it keeps changing. With so many people leaving for other jobs, now that the prime mission is over, we keep having to learn new jobs. Keeps us on our toes, but it's somewhat stressfull.

Harry 5th Grade: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:44AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Are you a Picard fan or a Kirk fan?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:46AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Harry: Both have their place. Kirk is more fun to watch, but I think Picard's decisions would be easier to live with. (But it's a close call.)

Alexa/Andover,ME: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:46AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Would you like to go to Mars?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:48AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Alexa: I'd go to Mars in a hot minute. My only regret is that it looks like I was born just a little bit too early to be considered for the missions that will be sent. Would you like to go for me and bring me back a rock?

Shannon/Elms HS: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:46AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Are you still sending messages to Pathfinder? And what are your days like now that the nominal mission is over--still working through the night?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:49AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Shannon: Yes, we're still in contact with the spacecraft, and will be throughout the extended mission, which means through about the same time next year. We're no longer working through the night, except when we have to help take pictures of the rover. We're taking turns covering that, which helps.

Amber/Andover,ME: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:48AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Which space project, Hubble, Topex, or Pathfinder has been your favorite?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:50AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Amber: That's a tough call, but I think Pathfinder wins. The people are so wonderfull,the team is so cohesive and fun, plus the added attraction of it being a mission to my favorite planet. All had their good points, but I think Pathfinder will be my favorite for some time.

Sonora: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:50AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Do you think we'll ever live on mars? from Andy

Sinead 2nd Grade: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:51AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Do you think that we will live on Mars

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:52AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Sinead and Andy: I hope that we will; I really believe that humans will go to Mars, probably in my lifetime. I hope we'll have the money and popular support to stay there.

Shannon: Elm HS: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:53AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Bridget: So what's happening on Mars today--what is Pathfinder doing? Do you know what the weather is like today?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:54AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Shannon: Haven't seen today's weather report, so I don't know what it's like out, but I do know that we'll be taking several "super resolution" shots (many shots taken of the same target to get better resolution) and part of the super pan should be taken today, as well.

Sonora: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:54AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Does Earth look like Venus from Mars? from Matt

David: 4th Grade: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:55AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
What will your next project be?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:57AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
David: I'm already working part-time on a pre-pre-project. This one has two parts: the ultimate objective is to send a probe to Europa, which is moon of Jupiter, to melt through the ice to the ocean underneath and look for life. To test some of the hardware, we will try to deploy a similar craft in Antarctica, which is similar in many ways to Europa.

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:55AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Shannon: The rover is still in the rock garden, but I don't know where it's planning to go today.

Linda: 4th Grade: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:57AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
As a women, what has been your biggest challenge?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:59AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Linda: I think my biggest challenges as a woman have been that women and men communicate differently, so I have trouble being taken seriously. Women tend to look for consensus, which men read as being weak or "one step down". Men tend to challenge one another, which women see as aggressive and threatening. (All of this is gross generalization, but the spirit is close.) This sometimes makes it hard to work together.

Sonora: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:57AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
We were curiiious about the names of the rocks. If there is a Yogi, is there a BooBoo? from Jen

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 9:01AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Jen: Yes, there is a Boo-Boo; he's behind and to the right of Yogi, as seen from the lander. Not sure how the names got started, but they're being kept track of by yellow stickies on one of the early panoramas. Very high tech, no?

Shannon: Elm HS: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:59AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Bridget: I'm interested in your costume designing... I think this is a totally cool thing you do! Is this a hobby or a p/t job? Do you go to a lot of sci-fi conventions? What was the last one you went to?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 9:03AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Shannon: It's a little of both; most of my costumes are made for fun, but earlier this year I started a business making specialty garments for historical costumers. Since the business just consists of me, it's what you'd call a small business (!) but I have fun and it does bring in some extra money.

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 9:04AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Shannon: The last convention I went to was Costume College, which is very historically oriented and teaches you a lot about how to reasearch and make historical costumes. In two days I leave for the World Science Fiction Convention in San Antonio, and I'm really looking forward to it!

Sonora: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 9:02AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Have we gotten any information on Mars's Moons? from Matt

Jeanette: R.Cucamonga: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 9:03AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
What programming language do you use to make the computers on the ground talk to the computers on Pathfinder? And, did you study programming in high school?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 9:06AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Jeanette: The language we use was based on FORTRAN, but has been upgraded to be more like C; however, it's unique to JPL as far as I know (not even sure it has a name.) No, I didn't study programming in high school; started in college--with punch cards!

Sonora: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 9:05AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Why did you give your cats the names that you did? from Bobby

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 9:07AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Bobby: Shortstop moved like one: run here, stop, turn, run there, stop, turn...she was never still. Butterball is sweet but he's very roooooound and he's butter colored; we often call him Butter for short.

Shannon: Elm HS: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 9:06AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
What character will you be at the World Science Fiction Convention in San Antonio?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 9:08AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Shannon: Many! I'll be taking the black one you see on my web page, and one from classic Star Trek, where they went into the parallel universe, plus some just plain futuristic clothes.

David:: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 9:07AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Will we have ships that can travell the speed of light like the Enterprise?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 9:10AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
David: Funny you should ask; I was on a panel at last year's WorldCon which discussed that. I think so, but it would require a fundamental breakthrough in our understanding of how the universe works. I would be very surprised if it happened in our lifetimes. Sorry! I'm disappointed too!

Deborah/Assoc. of Applied Science: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 9:08AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Bridget: Are you familiar with sci-fi books by Frank Perretti?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 9:10AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Deborah: No, I haven't read any Perretti. Is is hard science, cyberpunk?

Helen: Calgary, Canada: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 9:11AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Bridget: What are you doing today? Are you talking to Pathfinder? What kinds of meetings do you have?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 9:13AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Helen: Today we will be talking to the s/c, late this evening getting down parts of the super pan. I will be working on building the commands that will be executed early next week; for that, we will have a meeting with the scientists, to decide what targets we want to take pictures of, how many, etc.

sonora: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 9:14AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
We were looking at images of flat top and it looked like there was mud and water. Is this possible?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 9:16AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Sonora: We landed where we did because we think this is a place where there was once a huge flood. So there may have been mud there millions of years ago. However, at the temperatures and pressures we've measured, it isn't mud now.

Helen: Calgary, Canada: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 9:14AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Bridget: So who gets to decide which pictures to take: you or the scientists? Is there a lot of arguing that goes on?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 9:18AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Helen: A little of both. The only time I got to decide was when I told the principle investigator for the camera, Peter Smith, that he couldn't have what he wanted because we couldn't build that file that fast. Was a little scary! But usually, people say why they want what they want and we all usually agree on the priorities. Matt Golombek, the project scientist, gets the final decision.

sonora: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 9:17AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
How fast does Sojourner move? from ARIN

Tommy/Andover,ME: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 9:17AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Are there any canyons on Mars as deep as the Mariana Trench-35,827 feet deep?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 9:20AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Tommy: Vallis Marineris is MUUUUUUCH bigger than the Marianas Trench--it's as long as the U.S. is wide, and is 6 miles deep in places.

sonora: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 9:18AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
How long did it take to build the Pathfinder? Jacob

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 9:23AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Jacob: From the first "go ahead" decision by NASA (after some preplanning) until we landed on Mars was about 4 years. Amazing, huh?

David:: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 9:19AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
How will the Astronauts that goto mars cope with the Isolation?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 9:22AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
David: That's a good question! That's part of why astronauts are screened so carefully: they have to be able to deal not just with the physical stresses, but with the psychological ones as well. They will have contact with the Earth, and will be carefully chosen for their compatibility and ability to get along. I think I could do it, but I also think it would be hard. That would be a 2-3 year trip, at a minimum.

sonora: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 9:19AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Is there gravity on Mars? from Davey

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 9:24AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Davey: Any object which has mass (that means you and me and the chair you're sitting on) has gravity. The strength of the gravity depends on how much mass there is. Since Mars has about a third the mass of the Earth, it has about a third the gravity, which is about twice that of the Moon.

sonora: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 9:23AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
When did you become interested in science? from Summer

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 9:25AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Summer: I don't remember a time when I wasn't interested in science. I loved it in elementary school, and then, once they landed on the moon, I was hooked. I *HAD* to be part of that.

Sandy & Keith/NASA Chat Hosts: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 8:38AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Well, it's time to let Bridget get back to her real job! A special thanks to Bridget for taking the time to chat with us today! And thanks to all of you for some terrific questions!

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Aug 26, 9:27AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Thanks for all your great questions! I had a great time!