Live From Mars was active July 1996-December 1997.

PART 1: Please register your LFM participation
PART 2: Internet coverage of the live television program
PART 3: Challenge question catch-up: Ms. Stickney
PART 4: Very cool websites: Mars 96 launch, pick a Mars picture
PART 5: The Mars team answers your questions
PART 6: The Magnificent Launch of Mars Global Surveyor


In a project like Live From Mars (free to the user, without formal
registration), it is sometimes hard to determine who our customers
are, and how well we are serving them. To address these issues, we
are registering people for an eventual evaluation.

At this time, we are ONLY interested in hearing from classroom
teachers who are or plan to use Live from Mars in their classroom(s).
The profile is for research use and individual information will not be
shared publically. Please take a moment to fill in the profile. This
replicates the pre-paid postcard included with the print teacher
materials. Please do not send in the postcard if you complete the
form here.

To help us, please complete the online survey at
It will only take a few minutes. Thank you deeply.


By now, you probably know that our first television program is
rapidly approaching: "Countdown" airs on November 19 from 1-2 PM
Eastern. See
or the previous
update-lfm message (LFM #8) for more details.

Various Internet service will be offered as part of this program
- Sound from the broadcast via Real Audio.
- Sound and pictures from the broadcast via CU-SeeMe and MBONE.
- A web page that updates once per minute with a snapshot of what's
  on TV at that moment.
- The ability to ask questions via the
  address. It won't be active until just before the program starts.
  A select few questions will be read live on TV.
- After the program we'll have an unmoderated chat in the LFM
  unmoderated chatroom:
This is for students to talk with students, not to experts.

The addresses for all of this stuff will be shared by Monday at this
To clear up some confusion, there are no plans to provide live chat
with Internet experts during the TV show.

But there are lots of opportunities to chat with the Mars experts.
for the
latest schedule.

As well, there is also a service in which we'll have Mars experts
answer all email questions within a week or two of receipt. See below.


Slowly, we've fallen behind in the Challenge Question schedule.
So here is Challenge Question #5.

The largest crater on the larger of the two Martian moons, Phobos, is
named Stickney. Ms. Stickney was not an astronomer but she played a
critical role in the discovery of the Martian moons. Who was
Ms. Stickney and why did she have this prominent surface featured
named after her?

You are invited to send original student answers to us. We will list
the names of these folks online and token prizes will be given out to
a small number of the students with the best answers. Send your
answers to Jan Wee at Please include the
words "CHALLENGE QUESTION" in the subject of the email.


Ken Edgett, of Arizona State's Mars Outreach program recently
alerted us to some great Mars Web resources. Ken says:

The Mars 96 mission is getting ready to launch from Kazakhstan,
hopefully this Saturday. They are doing a REALLY GREAT job of
updating the countdown, including COOL pictures of the Proton
Rocket, on a Web site at:
The Mars Explorer allows you to get an image map of any area on
Mars at a variety of zoom factors, image sizes, and map projections.
These images are created using data from NASA's Viking missions.
To access the Mars Explorer, web over to:


The opportunity to send email questions to the men and women of
the Mars team is available now until December of 1997. In most
cases, you will receive a direct reply within 10 days to two weeks.

We are grateful to the Mars folks for generously volunteering
their time to support this service.

The sections below will describe some guidelines and procedures
for the process.

K-12 students and teachers can email questions to researchers,
engineers and support staff. This interaction will be supported by
a "Smart Filter" which protects the professional from Internet
overload by acting as a buffer. The actual email addresses of these
experts will remain unlisted. Also, repetitive questions will be
answered from an accumulating database of replies; thus the
valued interaction with the experts will be saved for original
questions. (More information about how you can directly search
this database will follow later.)


Each and every expert is excited about connecting with
classrooms. But it is important to remember that the time and
energy of these people is extremely valuable. If possible,
please review the materials available online to gain an overall
understanding of the basics. It would be best to ask
questions that are not easily answered elsewhere. For
example, "What is the Mars Global Surveyor?" would not be an
appropriate question. Questions which arise from reading a expert's
biography or Field Journal are encouraged.

We recognize that this creates a gray area about whether or not a
question is appropriate. Simply use your best judgment. Since the
main idea is to excite students about the wonders of science and
research, please err on the side of having the students participate.
If you are not sure whether or not to send a question, send it.

Some teachers have used a group dynamic to refine the questions
that they email to experts. For example, after first studying LFM
material, students divide into groups and create a few questions
per group. All of the questions are then shared, and students are
given an opportunity to find answers to their classmates'
questions. Those that remain unanswered are sent to the LFM

Ideally, the act of sending questions will further engage the
student in their learning. It may help to think back to an early
stage of development when the 3-year-old learns that repeating the
word "why" can get parents to do most of the work in a
conversation. The wise parent will try to get child involvement by
asking, "Why do you want to know?" The same is true in the
classroom. Teachers might want to help students to learn to ask
good questions. Here are three questions the students might ask
themselves as they submit their questions:

      What do I want to know?

      Is this information to be found in a resource I could
      easily check (such as a school encyclopedia)?

      Why do I want to know it? (What will I do with the
      information? or How will I use what I learn?)

The last question is the most interesting. Student reflection on
why they want to know something is a very valuable learning


Questions will be accepted from now through December 1997.
To submit a question, mail it to the following email address:

We will acknowledge all questions immediately and answer as
quickly as possible. In most cases we should be able to provide an
answer within ten days to two weeks.

In the subject field, please put the letters "QA:" before a
descriptive subject. Also, provide a sentence of background
information to help the experts understand the grade level of your
students. The following example should illustrate this idea.

FROM:           your email address
SUBJECT:        QA: People in control room
I am an 8th grader from Mt.View, California. In the television
program, it seemed like there were a lot of people in the control center
to control the mission to Mars. How many people normally work in this

Thanks, Kelly Valentine


If you or your class has several questions which are unrelated,
we ask that you please send each unrelated question in a separate
email message rather than as one message with many different
questions. While this may be inconvenient, it is important because
it will help us to keep track of the questions and ensure that no
question remains unanswered. Messages that do not follow this
request will be unnecessarily delayed as we go through the extra
step of splitting up the messages ourselves.


Any individual teacher will be limited to submitting a total of
twenty (20) questions every three months. Hopefully this will
encourage more classroom discussion about what students want
to know and will lead to research done before asking questions.


All of the question/answer pairs will accumulate online for your
browsing or searching pleasure. To visit this archive, use
as the starting point.

[Editor's note: Donna, as manager of the Mars Exploration Program,

oversees three flight projects and studies of future missions to
Mars. Everyday she deals with scientists trying to understand Mars,
and with the technology we need to go to Mars without costing a
lot. Recently she went to Florida to see the MGS spacecraft blastoff.]

Donna Shirley -
November 11, 1996
I arrived at "the Cape," as Cape Canaveral is known, a couple
of days before the launch. There are two parts to the Cape: an
air force facility at Cape Canaveral, and the Kennedy Space
Center, which is NASA's launch facility. The space shuttle
launches from the Kennedy Space Center, but most of the
smaller rockets are launched from the air force facility which
is closer to the ocean than Kennedy (known as KSC). MGS
was to be launched from the Air Force side, on launch pad 17A.

The first day we had a review to make really sure that
everything was ready for the launch. A review is when the
project people present the status of the spacecraft, the mission,
the launch vehicle, and the launch facilities to a review board
of senior people who aren't connected with the project so they
can be really objective.

There had been a few small problems with the launch vehicle,
the Delta II 7925, built by McDonnell Douglas Corporation in
Huntington Beach, California. The review board mainly
wanted to be sure that all the problems had been fixed, and
they had. There were some bugs in some new software for
steering the vehicle, but the programmers had tracked them
down and "patched" them. There were some actuators
(mechanisms that move things) which were suspected of
having been contaminated, but inspection proved that they
weren't. So the review board agreed that it was OK to launch.

That afternoon John Callas, Wayne Lee (from the MGS
project) and I made a series of speeches at the KSC visitor's
center (called "Spaceport U.S.A."). We told people about the
MGS mission and the Mars Exploration Program.

That night, Glenn Cunningham, the MGS project manager,
and I gave a talk to members of the Planetary Society. Tony
Spear and I will be giving a similar presentation on November
30 just before the Mars Pathfinder launch at 2 a.m. on
December 2 (Tony is the Pathfinder project manager).

The next day was a briefing to family and friends of the MGS
project people by the deputy director of KSC, by Ed Stone the
director of JPL, by Wes Huntress the associate administrator
for NASA's Office of Space Science, and by Glenn
Cunningham. There was also the unveiling of a large mural
which was painted by students at the Ypres School of Art in
Los Angeles. The mural depicts the god Mars in a chariot
drawn by four horses, led by the MGS spacecraft as it
approaches the planet Mars. The god Mars is holding out his
hand, inviting the students of the world to learn about the
planet Mars. On the right side of the mural is a view of the
planet Mars. Three of the children who worked on the mural
were there for the unveiling. They ranged from 14 to 16 years
old. The manager of the mural project, who is only 11,
couldn't be there, but everyone was impressed with the
quality of the work.

Finally, November 6, we were ready to attempt the launch. At
about 4 a.m. the Delta launch vehicle with the MGS spacecraft
tucked into the shroud on top, was rolled away from the
structure that had supported it while it was being put together.
The vehicle stood, shining with artificial light, and then in the
rays of the morning sun, next to its "gantry" which allows
liquid oxygen fuel to be loaded at the last minute before
launch. MGS project people came out to the pad at 7 a.m. to
admire the vehicle and to get a group photo taken. On the
rocket was painted NASA, JPL and the names of the
companies who built the spacecraft and launch vehicle. The
gantry was painted with a big MGS.

In a very sad note, the name of Mary Kaye Olsen was painted
below the MGS on the gantry. Mary Kaye had died suddenly,
at the age of only 37, a couple of weeks before the launch.
You can read Mary Kaye's bio on the Live From Mars Team
page. She was the person at NASA Headquarters who
oversaw the MGS project, and everyone on the team liked and
respected her. We kept a seat in the launch viewing area, full
of flowers, in memory of Mary Kaye for the actual launch.

By 9 a.m. many of us "looky-loos" were crowded into the
viewing area behind the consoles of the people controlling the
launch vehicle as the countdown wound toward launch time
(12:11 p.m. EST). The consoles are like the ones you see
when a space shuttle is flying. There are computer screens
with a lot of buttons that you can push to see different views
of the launch vehicle, or to bring up information - like on the
weather. Everyone wears earphones so that they can hear the
countdown and listen to the engineers talking to each other to
make sure that everything is OK. Glenn Cunningham, the
MGS project manager, and George Pace, the MGS spacecraft
manager were "on console," as was Bud McAnally, the
manager of the MGS spacecraft project at Lockheed Martin
Astronautics in Denver, Colorado. Lockheed Martin is our
industrial partner and is building the two Mars Surveyor 98
spacecraft as well as MGS.

Everyone was watching the weather. At a press briefing the
day before the weather expert had said that he thought the
weather would be fine for the launch, but the day was
clouding over rapidly. Every hour or so weather balloons
were sent up to measure the winds "aloft." If the clouds were
too thick there was danger of lightning striking the rocket.
And if the winds were too strong it could get blown off
course. Our eyes were glued to a large TV screen in front of
the consoles that displayed weather maps and plots of the
winds. At four minutes to noon there was a 10-minute "hold"
while we waited for the weather to clear. But it didn't.

There were two times each day when the rocket could be
launched, when the trajectory could be lined up just right to
get to Mars. The first opportunity passed at 12:11 and we all
waited anxiously for the next opportunity, which was at 1:15.
The launch vehicle controllers quickly loaded new software
parameters into the vehicle's computer to account for the
different launch time. The countdown resumed. Every now
and then we'd go outside to peer at the clouds. Suddenly, the
clouds looked as if they were breaking up. Everyone thought -
"We're going to make it." But suddenly, at about a minute
before 1:15 a loud voice shouted "HOLD, HOLD, HOLD"
over the loud speakers. The launch had been canceled at the
last minute because the winds aloft were too strong.

Disappointed, everyone straggled away and the launch vehicle
people began to "safe" the rocket and store it for a try again
the next day.

That night there was a big party, originally planned for a
post-launch party, but which turned into a pre-launch party.
The next morning, everything was repeated, but this time the
weather was beautiful. At about 10 minutes to noon some of
us ran outside and were bussed over to a viewing area a
couple of miles from the launch pad. The loudspeaker counted
down, joined by the crowd, "Ten, nine, eight, seven, six,
five, four, three, two, one, zero." And at exactly noon there
was a brilliant flash and a roar and the loudspeakers
announced "We have ignition!" The rocket rose on a column
of smoke and flame and arced through the cloudless sky. We
could see six solid rocket motors fall away in little trails of
smoke at just the right time. We cheered until the rocket
disappeared into the blue, then we ran back to the bus and
went back to the control room.

Every event was tracked by different tracking stations around
the Earth. When the rocket passed over the Indian Ocean it
was too far from any land stations to be "heard," so two
aircraft were flown to listen for the radio signals. Then we
cheered when the tracking stations in Australia acquired the
signal. Everything happened exactly on time. The solid
rockets burned out and dropped away. The first and second
stages ignited and then shut off. The rocket "coasted" in a
"parking orbit" for almost an hour before the third stage
burned to send the spacecraft on its way to Mars. Then the
spacecraft separated from the launch vehicle and was on its
own. There were several anxious minutes until the Deep
Space Network tracking antennas heard the spacecraft's own
signals...but then there they were! The launch was successful!

There was an orgy of handshaking and hugs all around.
Glenn Cunningham and George Pace had huge grins. The
spacecraft team was now in charge and they began studying
the telemetry from the spacecraft to make sure that everything
was as planned. Some of the early results were puzzling and
the spacecraft team determined that one of the solar panels
hadn't unfolded completely. It was at an angle about 20
degrees from where it was supposed to be. This was no
problem yet because there was plenty of power being
provided by the solar arrays this close to the sun. Everything
else was working perfectly and the engineers began
diagnosing the solar array situation. They concluded that it
was probably not a serious problem, and they had plenty of
time to fix it before the first trajectory correction maneuver
scheduled for 13 days after launch.

Then there was a press briefing by Glenn, Wes Huntress,
Bud McAnally, and people from the Goddard Space Flight
Center (managers of the launch vehicle contract). Finally,
there was an impromptu party organized by Mike Malin,
principal investigator of the MGS camera, where a lot of
chicken wings and shrimp were eaten. That night I was
interviewed on MSNBC for an "online chat" on the Internet.
People sent in questions to the "chat room" and I dictated the
answers to Melinda, who typed them in. It was an odd
experience - say - ing - ever - y - thing - ver - y - slow - ly - so
- Mel - in - da - could - type.

Well, MGS is on its way to Mars. The next big event is the
launch of the Russian Mars 96 mission on November 16.
Then Pathfinder launches on December 2. Since that's a night
launch it will be spectacular. Our fleet will be getting ready to
invade Mars starting in July.

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