Live From Mars was active July 1996-December 1997.

UPDATE # 25 - March 22, 1997

PART 1: Next WebChat
PART 2: Challenge Questions are Back
PART 3: Get Out and Observe Mars!
PART 4: Rocky 7 Team Seeks Classes to Participate in Rover Testing
PART 5: Mystery on Mars
PART 6: Mars Team Journal: Off to a Running Start!
PART 7: Pathfinder Mission Status
PART 8: Global Surveyor Flight Status
PART 9: Subscribing & Unsubscribing: How to do it!


Tuesday, March 25, from 9-10 a.m., PDT, Ted Roush, Ames Research
        Center, Moffett Field, CA

TED ROUSH is a planetary scientist who studies the composition of
solid surfaces throughout the solar system. He is interested in the
minerals and rock types found on the surfaces of rocky bodies and
the various ices found on the surfaces of icy bodies. His work
includes telescopic and spacecraft observations, laboratory work
and computer calculations. He use telescopes located on Earth and on
spacecraft to measure the sunlight that is reflected from the
surfaces of objects in the solar system. Be sure to check out Ted's
bio at:
Please join us! RSVP to Andrea by sending a brief Email note to This RSVP is very important, as it will
allow us to ensure that the chatroom does not become too crowded.


In the six weeks leading up each live television broadcast, we
promised a weekly Challenge Question to get your brain cells firing.
Since the next live broadcast, "LFM 102: Cruising Between the
Planets," is scheduled to air from the Jet Propulsion Lab on April 24,
it's time to post the first question.

CQ #1: If geology is the study of Earth (from the Greek geo-earth and
logos-knowledge), what should the study of Mars be called?

Your answer can be either etymologically correct, with Greek
derivation, or more humorous if you like! Watch this cyberspace for
the answer next week!

You are invited to send original student answers to us. We will list
the kids' names online and token prizes will be given to those with
the best answers. Send your answers to Jan Wee at:

Please include the words CHALLENGE QUESTION in the subject line of
your email.


Here is some more information for viewing Mars through the end of

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) last photographed Mars on March
10 for 13 hours. The observations covered three separate
hemispheres through many different color filters. To see these
latest telescopic images of Mars go to the Marswatch archive page

The next series of HST observations of Mars will occur March 30-31.
The dates and times of the observations are shown in the table
below. These observations will provide global coverage through many
different color filters. Supporting ground-based visual observations,
photographs, drawings, or CCD images of Mars shortly before, during
and shortly after this time period could be extremely helpful in
interpreting the HST data. If you and your students are able to obtain
observations, please email your results or upload them using the
instructions at:
Next HST Mars observations:

Date            Time Range (UT)
---------    ---------------
March 30     04:03 to 04:47
March 30     10:30 to 11:14
March 30     12:07 to 12:57
March 30     15:21 to 16:10
March 30     22:06 to 22:38
March 31     10:42 to 11:28

Hubble's Sharpest Views of Mars Now Available

[Editor's note: NASA Press Release N97-21] New, sharpest-ever views of the planet Mars taken by the Wide Field Planetary Camera-2 (WFPC2) aboard NASA's Hubble Space Telescope on March 10, 1997 (following the successful STS-82 Hubble second servicing mission), clearly show clouds, dust storms, polar caps and other bright and dark markings known to astronomers for more than a century. Taken just before Mars opposition -- when the red planet comes closest to the Earth this year (about 60 million miles or 100 million km) -- the images were contained in a single picture element (pixel) in WFPC2's Planetary Camera, which spans 13 miles (22 km) on the Martian surface. These images show the planet during the transition between spring and summer in the northern hemisphere (summer solstice). The annual north-polar, carbon-dioxide frost (dry ice) cap is rapidly subliming, revealing the much smaller permanent water-ice cap, along with a few nearby detached regions of surface frost. Hubble is being used to monitor dust storm activity to support the Mars Pathfinder and Mars Global Surveyor Orbiter missions, which are currently en route to Mars. Hubble's "weather report" from these images, is invaluable for Mars Pathfinder, which is scheduled for a July 4 landing. These images show no evidence for large-scale dust storm activity, which plagued a previous Mars mission in the early 1970s. Image files of Syrtis Major (97-HC-136) and Mars at Opposition (97- HC-137) are available on the Internet as GIF and JPEG formats via anonymous ftp from: in /pubinfo Syrtis Major: gif/marssm97.gif; jpeg/marssm97.jpg Mars at Opposition: gif/marssm97.gif; jpeg/marssm97.jpg Higher resolution digital versions (300 dpi JPEG) of the images are available in /pubinfo/hrtemp: 97-09a.jpg (color) and 97-09abw.jpg (black and white). GIF and JPEG images, captions and information are available via World Wide Web at: and via links in: or


[Editor's note: This press release was written by the Public
Information Office, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.]

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory will be conducting a week-long
series of field tests in May with its next-generation rover, called
Rocky 7. To engage students in this exciting NASA activity, the
Rocky 7 team is seeking international participation by middle and
secondary schools interested in remotely driving the rover during
one of the tests on May 30.

Four to six classrooms which have the necessary computer hardware
and software capabilities to participate in the testing will be
selected. The students will collaborate to plan command sequences
which will be sent to the rover for execution. The students will be
able to see the rover exploring specified locations and performing
tasks such as digging and placing an instrument mounted to its 1.5-
meter (5-foot) mast against a rock.

"The purpose of these tests is to demonstrate how scientists around
the world will collaborate in future Mars rover missions to plan
daily rover activities," said Dr. Paul Backes, rover ground system
cognizant engineer. "The test will also demonstrate how mission
information will be made available to the general public. Anyone on
the Internet will be able to see the plan that the students generate
and, then, be able to watch the rover performing the tasks."

Schools must submit a letter of interest, along with a checklist of
their computer hardware and software capabilities, to Dr. Cheick
Diarra, via email at, or by fax, 818-
393-6800, or by U.S.mail to Cheick Diarra, Jet Propulsion
Laboratory, 4800 Oak Grove Drive, Mail Stop 180-401, Pasadena,
Calif., 91109. All letters must be received no later than April 18.

Those classes selected to participate in the test will be notified by
May 5. Selection will be based on the following computer hardware,
software and technical support requirements:
- Computers must be either Pentium-class personal computers with
32-megabytes of memory or Sun UNIX computers, using a minimum
of Sparc 20 and running Solaris operating systems
- Monitors must be at least 17-inch color monitors with 1024 by
768 resolution
- The preferred Internet connection should be an ISDN (integrated
services digital network) connection, but a 28.8K modem is
- The Web browser should be, at minimum, Netscape Navigator 3.0 or
Internet Explorer 3.0 supporting Java applications.

Schools must also be able to provide on-site technical support
during the tests and be able to set up their computer networks about
three weeks before the May 30 test. Preferably, schools should have
at least two computers in the classroom to allow several students
to participate at the same time.

More information about the Rocky 7 development and the May field
testing can be obtained at:
Further information about student participation in the May testing is
available at:


[Editor's note: The following article appeared in "Business Wire" on
March 17, 1997.]

Headbone Interactive's Internet learning adventure, The Headbone
Derby, launched its third installment today with a focus on planetary

As NASA's Mars Pathfinder and Mars Global Surveyor missions make
their way toward Mars, fourth through eighth graders will be given
the opportunity to learn all about the Red Planet by playing "Mystery
on Mars" at:
In this spring edition of the ongoing Derby (available free of charge),
kids will read a Web-based, comic-strip mystery that motivates
them to do on-line research on the astronomy, geology and history of
Mars in order to resolve cliff-hanger endings and move onto
subsequent episodes in the story.

"Our broad objective with the school Derby program is to provide a
tool for teachers and students to actively learn about the changing
ways knowledge can be accessed in this information age," said Sara
Snyder, educational marketing manager. "'Information Literacy' is a
key skill for 21st century kids -- and adults as well."

The storyline for Headbone's third Derby dovetails with NASA's "Live
from Mars" curricular Web site, which delivers interactive online
resources for teachers and classrooms
("Headbone's 'Mystery on Mars' Derby
is fun and educational and engages youngsters directly. Thus, our
two sites complement one another perfectly. Together they excite
and inform students about the wonders of Mars," said Marc Siegel,
Sharing NASA project manager.

The Mars Derby will run from March 16 through National Science and
Technology Week (April 20-26), culminating on May 21. Prizes such
as laptop computers, color printers, and photo scanners donated by
sponsors including Epson, Yahooligans and Storm Technology, will be
awarded to winning teachers and classroom teams. Yahoo will be the
featured search engine, giving teachers customized searching

"You would not believe how excited my students are about this game.
They really enjoy playing," said Renee Kervin of Evansdale
Elementary School in Doraville, Ga. "They come to class early, beg
me to stay late, and occasionally meet after school to search for the
answers to episodes we read earlier in the day." Evansdale is one of
thousands of schools that have participated in the Derby to date.

The Headbone Derby is a key feature of the Headbone Zone
(, the company's newly branded kids' site
on the World Wide Web. In addition to the Derby -- designed
primarily for school use -- the Headbone Zone contains a broad array
of games,  puzzles and activities designed for kids 8 through 14.


by Jack Farmer

[Editor's note: Jack is a exobiologist at NASA's Ames Research
Center near San Francisco, California. His current research deals
with the origin of stromatolites, which are thin-layered
sedimentary structures that are produced by communities of
microorganisms. He is also interested in how some of the tiny
microbes that create stromatolites become fossils. According to
Jack, tiny microfossils have been found in rocks as far back as 3.5
billion years. Question is, how do these tiny creatures get preserved
and why?]

Week of March 10, 1997

This week is off to a running start with meetings and several
important writing assignments. And I am also taking the time to
reorganize my office! I received some bad news this week that I will
share with you later, but first some job highlights.

I have been given the responsibility to help organize a workshop here
at NASA Ames on the topic of Evolutionary Biology. The problem is,
NASA needs to support more research in this science area, but to
really do that effectively, we must target those aspects of the very
broad field of Evolutionary Biology that are the most crucial to
NASA's mission. That mission as I see it is to "explore the living
universe," to discover if we are alone in the cosmos and to help
humans explore the environment of space (toward what Capt. Kirk
would call "the final frontier").

Part of our task in this workshop is to educate our supervisors at
NASA Headquarters about the field of Evolutionary Biology, what it
encompasses and what research areas in that field are most relevant
to NASA's goals. To do that we are going to invite some of the top
scientists from across the country to talk to us about what they find
most exciting in the field, and where they see the field going over
the next few years. The group will be small (perhaps 15 total),
advisory in nature and hopefully informal. So, to help get that "off
the ground" I have been calling lots of people and trying to entice
them to join us for two days in April. This would seem easy enough
were it not for the fact that most of the people we are inviting are
college teachers with lots of other responsibilities and we are not
giving them much notice to plan!

I also have several pressing writing assignments this week that
have to be completed and it is hard to find large blocks of
uninterrupted time to think. Writing is not easy for me. I need to
have silence and no distractions to really be efficient. The challenge
for me is the telephone, email, and the casual drop-in who just
wants to chat. I am considering taking a time management course
that will help me balance these things more effectively. But it is
important to talk with colleagues, and one does not just close the
door day after day and not pay a price. But maybe if I set aside some
specific blocks of time for such things, I won't feel so bad about
closing my door occasionally.

So what's so important that I should have to hide and write? I'm
presently a member of an advisory committee for NASA called the
Mars '01 Science Definition Team. Our group has the responsibility of
identifying the most important science objectives for the orbital
and landed missions that will be launched in 2001, making
recommendations to NASA Headquarters so they can construct an
Announcement of Opportunity or "A.O." for release to the broader
scientific community. The A.O. will basically be an invitation to the
outside science world to propose research projects and instruments
that could be flown to Mars in the year 2001. These experiments and
their supporting technologies will be expected to address one or
more of the science objectives identified by our group.

My assignment is to add my contributions to the draft document and
comment on what others have already written. This is very
important because the '01 mission opportunity must provide certain
types of supporting data that will be needed to guide us to the right
place on Mars for a sample return mission that will be launched in
2005. That returned sample should come from a place that has a good
chance of containing a record of past life. There is a lot riding on the
preceding missions, and especially '01, which will be our last chance
to get really high-resolution mapping from orbit. On one hand, this
all seems pretty far off, but in actuality, it is just around the

Another thing I have to write up this week is a review of a
manuscript that was sent to me some time ago by a science
magazine called "The Journal of Sedimentary Research." As
scientists, we are expected to perform this service on occasion,
providing a critique of other scientist's work. It is called the peer-
review system and it is the way the science community at large
operates to ensure that the best quality work gets published. It is
true that lots of things get published that are poorly done and
probably wrong, but there is a certain class of journals that
operates on the peer-review system which is highly regarded, and
having your work appear in one of those journals means that it has
survived critical review and is now regarded as solid science. So,
about once every month or two I receive a paper to review from one
of the journals in my field, and I try and do my best to give a good
critique that will help the peer-review process along. After all, the
next time it will be someone else's turn to review a paper, and
perhaps it will be one I have written!

This morning I spent time in the lab doing a particle size analysis of
a sample that my science colleague Andy Cheng sent to me. Andy is
an engineer and is developing a robotic sampling device to collect
rocks on Mars. The device will go on a rover and includes a corer that
is fired by an explosive charge into the surface of a rock. The coring
device is designed to enter the rock and capture a piece of it along
with some of the powder that is formed. The idea is that the larger
sample pieces could be collected for sample return and the powder
delivered to another device on the rover which will analyze it for
the mineral or organic content. My task is to determine the range of
particle sizes produced by the explosive corer, the grain shapes and
their composition.

I am doing the grain size work using a standard sieving method
where we shake the sample down through sieving screens of
different mesh sizes and measure the fraction of the total sample
that is retained on each screen. From that we can plot up a size-
frequency distribution and determine the size range of materials
produced by the method. Knowing this is important for understanding
what kinds of analyses can be done on the samples and how to best
design systems that will deliver samples to the instruments carried
on the rover. The results of the grain size analysis will go to Andy
on Wednesday and he will include them in a presentation we are
making at the Lunar Planetary Science Conference in Houston next

I received some bad news this week. One of my colleagues and
friends, Rick Hutchinson, was killed in an avalanche in Yellowstone
National Park. Rick was a wonderful guy, dedicated and friendly, and
a great help to people like me who go to Yellowstone Park each year
to do research. Rick was the park geologist and had worked in
Yellowstone as a ranger for many years. He helped me out numerous
times during the past five years or so, helping me to get to out-of-
the-way places to do my work. He was an expert on the thermal
features in the park and knew almost every hot spring or geyser in
Yellowstone and how they behaved. Last week he was guiding a
visiting researcher into an area in Yellowstone called Heart Lake to
look at some of the thermal springs there. They went in on skis.
During the time they were in the area there was a snow avalanche
that caught them, and they did not make it out alive. This is very sad
for all of us who knew Rick, but we also know how much he loved
what he did, and how much he cared about Yellowstone. I like to
think he probably would not have wanted to leave us in his sleep, but
rather the way he did--out and about, doing his useful, friendly
things to help others. I'll miss him a lot!


[Editor's note: This status report was prepared by the Office of the
Flight Operations Manager, Mars Pathfinder Mission, NASA Jet
Propulsion Laboratory.]

The spacecraft remains in good health and is currently about 49
million kilometers from Earth. No significant spacecraft operations
were performed this week.

Entry, Descent, and Landing Flight Software Testing is progressing
well. We completed an airbag retraction test in the Building 230
Sandbox last week, and have finished a set of parachute deploy and
rocket ignition algorithm robustness tests this week. A couple of
significant issues have come up in this testing which are likely to
cause us to change flight software. A flight software change board
meeting will be held April 1 to determine what changes to make and
what regression tests to perform.


[Editor's note: This status report was prepared by the Office of the
Flight Operations Manager, Mars Surveyor Operations Project, NASA
Jet Propulsion Laboratory.]

Friday, March 21, 1997

On Wednesday, the flight team transmitted the C6 sequence to
Surveyor. This sequence contains commands that will control the
spacecraft for the next four weeks. C6 became active on Thursday at
6:00 a.m. PST.

The first major event in C6 occurred at 10:00 a.m. PST on Thursday.
At that time, the onboard flight computer commanded the
spacecraft's main rocket engine to fire for six seconds in order to
make minor corrections to Surveyor's flight path. During this
trajectory correction maneuver, the main engine burned a propellant
combination of hydrazine fuel and nitrogen tetroxide oxidizer. In
total, the spacecraft expended approximately 1.4 kilograms of

Immediately before the six-second burn was performed, Surveyor
ignited eight of its 12 attitude-control thrusters for 20 seconds.
These tiny thruster rockets are normally used to stabilize the
spacecraft during main engine firings. The initial, 20-second
thruster firing settled the liquid in the spacecraft's tanks to ensure
a smooth flow of propellant to the more powerful main rocket engine
that was used to perform the correction maneuver.

At this time, the navigation team is busy analyzing the accuracy of
yesterday's trajectory correction maneuver. However, preliminary
results from the accelerometer onboard the spacecraft show that
the engine firing provided a velocity change of 3.875 meters per
second. This value was within 0.5% of the predicted change of 3.857
meters per second.

Yesterday's maneuver was the second in a series of four trajectory
correction maneuvers that are designed to refine the spacecraft's
flight path to Mars. The first maneuver occurred shortly after launch
last November. The third and fourth are currently scheduled for April
21 and August 25, respectively.

After a mission-elapsed time of 134 days from launch, Surveyor is
47.69 million kilometers from the Earth, 63.84 million kilometers
from Mars, and is moving in an orbit around the Sun with a velocity
of 26.27 kilometers per second. This orbit will intercept Mars on
September 12, 1997. The spacecraft is currently executing the C6
command sequence, and all systems continue to be in excellent


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