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LIVE FROM MARS 2001: Mars Conference
Mars Virtual Teacher Training Conference
The following is a summary of the Public Lecture at the National Academy of Sciences, July 18
by: Ralph Hudson, a teacher from Vermont
Donna Shirley, Pathfinder project manager, welcomed the participants to the discussion on Mars exploration and the future of NASA in space exploration.
Chris McKay, an astrogeophysicist from NASA Ames described the importance of Mars as a subject of
planetary exploration. Mars is interesting in part because its surface shows water channels and
other evidence of having an early evolution as a planet similar to earth
In 1976 the Viking spacecraft investigated the Martian surface. A claw was unilized to sample
the surface and a mini-laboratory analyzed the soil for evidence of life. The results were
inconclusive, but as Chris pointed out, we had reached across space to another planet and
grasped out for understanding its importance as a harbinger of life. This critical event
changed his life, and he has worked to understand life's origins here and in space.
NASA Director Dan Goldin focused on how NASA would use the vision of "faster, better, cheaper" to
accomplish the dreams of Mars enthusiasts. His vision for NASA has cooperation with other
countries and smart, small and frequent explorers as its cornerstone.
Probes could be launched more frequently and for less by the start of the next millenium. His
vision was apparent as he teased Donna Shirley about moving up her schedule to return a sample
from Mars to Earth by 2002.
Questions were taken and many focused around the importance of preserving the planet during
exploration. All three presenters emphasized NASA's efforts to make information available via the
Internet to schools and children.
A resolution was read honoring Carl Sagan on the 20th anniversary of
Viking's landing and recognizing his work for our understanding of our place in the cosmos.