13A_Mars - Lecture 13A: Mars: Exploration, Dimensions,...

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1 GEL36 SOLAR SYSTEM Lecture 13A: “Mars: Exploration, Dimensions, Moons, Surface Conditions” (Ch. 22) Goal of the Lecture: To evaluate the characteristics of Mars, an intermediate size terrestrial planet, by comparisons with the smaller moon and larger Venus and Earth. Also: to discuss past climate change on Mars (including the likelihood of liquid running water), future exploration, and the possibility of life. Where is Mars in the night sky? May 22, 2011 Current and past exploration Most of our earliest knowledge of Mars came from the Mariner flybys which brushed that landed on Mars in 1976, analyzing rocks, photographing the surface and looking for signs of life in the dusty regolith. - interest in Mars was rejuvenated in 1996 when NASA scientists announced potential evidence for microbial life in a Martian meteorite found years earlier in Antarctica. Most other scientists don’t buy their contention these days, suggesting that the evidence could have formed by inorganic (i.e., ‘non-living’) processes or perhaps the meteorite was contaminated as it sat encased in Antarctic ice. (see ‘Life’ lecture)
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2 NASA recently had a spacecraft (a bit smaller than a volkswagon) called the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) orbiting Mars that sent back spectacular high-resolution photos and mapped the entire planet along a pole-to-pole orbit. (launched in 1996, arrived in orbit in ‘97, fell silent in 2006 due to battery failure – 9 year mission) NASA currently (2011) has two exploration rovers on the surface, Spirit , both nearing the end of their lives yet actively returning data. NASA also has the Mars Odyssey spacecraft orbiting the planet (arrived in orbit in 2001). It has a three-part instrument package (basically all are spectrometers) intended to 1) search for minerals on the surface of Mars, 2) search for 20 elements as well as water and ice, and 3) measure the radiation environment of Mars (all preparation for future human landings) Another NASA spacecraft, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter , was launched in 2005 and went into orbit in March 2006 (expected mission time through 2011). The MRO will zoom in for extreme close-up photography of the Martian surface, analyze minerals, look for
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This note was uploaded on 05/31/2011 for the course GEL 36 taught by Professor Osleger,d during the Spring '08 term at UC Davis.

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13A_Mars - Lecture 13A: Mars: Exploration, Dimensions,...

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