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 Banner that includes NASA Quest and the HiRISE instruments over a Martian landscape

Welcome to the Webcast for the HiRISE Challenge
June 6, 2007

Slides in .pdf format

Regretably the first couple of minutes of audio were lost. The first 3 minutes of the webcast show the 9 sites imaged in three levels of magnification each. This part is intentionally without description. Audio will begin about 5.5 minutes from launch.

>> We've made it very easy to browse through these images.
All you have to do is point and click and you can peruse around and fly around the HiRISE image at your leisure and the resolution you would like to.
We've put a discussion group up for all these images.
If you aren't sure what you're looking at, you can submit your comments and we can comment on it or other participants can comment.
Also, we have a little button for you to upload your completed report.
If you not done so, please do that.
You can also still participate in the image captions.
We'll post the final image captions on the final HiRISE website starting later this month to about one image per week and we'll feature the people who suggested the image, as well as those who contributed to the image caption.
So I'm going to turn this over to to the doctor to start looking at the images.
>> Great.
Now we're going to pull up a map of Mars here on the next slide.
Here we go.
This map shows the locations where we've actually already acquired images that you guys have suggested.
And just so you guys know there are still more in the queue.
Some of the suggestions that you guys made came in a little bit after the time for this challenge but we're still trying to acquire them and a couple of them are planned for later this month and so those will be acquired.
Please continue to give us more suggestions.
And we'll continue trying to acquire them.
These are the ones that we were able to acquire at this point.
And as you can see, they are pretty much spread out over the planet.
What we'll do today is talk about each and every one of these images that we acquired and we're going to start with the south polar images.
And we're going to start -- here we go.
And you can see there are three images that we acquired in the south polar area.
Let's look at the first one of those.
Here is a beautiful image of the south polar field suggested by Andrea speaks astronomy class in Budapest.
These dunes in the polar region are basically blown by wind from the right side of the image to the left side of the image and they are blowing and forming these things on the surface.
One of the things you might note on here especially in the color images you see a lot of color variation.
There are some whiter areas and some black areas and black streaks.
Actually that class in their comments and report made some important -- noted a few important things.
They noticed that there are two different patch types.
That there are dark spot-like features and between dune ridges and dark line-like features on dune ridges and they also noted that these dark line-like features were on the very steep slopes of dunes and that they suggest that these be formed in connection with gravity force movement, either by dry material, mass movement of dry material or possibly through the movement of liquid material.
And a lot of the things that we've noticed in the south polar regions, a lot of a similar pattern with this dark -- with these dark spots and these bright spots.
The bright spots are really frost.
It's a combination of frozen carbon dioxide and water ice that covers the dunes in winter and spring and we can actually see them defrosting over the course of the year.
And as the seasonal frost goes away or evaporates away, a lot of these odd spots and fans and streaks start to form.
These small dark spots on the dunes slopes may be recent avalanches of sand or maybe wind has moved dark sand underlying the frost or maybe where frost has been removed to expose these dark sand.
It could be patches of ice that are clear enough so dark material below the ice is visible.
And these dark spots are really a big question mark.
It's a very important question that researchers are currently studying and working on.
If we look at the image on the next page, we can see one of these dark spots in high detail.
We can also see these dunes, that there are additional dunes on top of the larger dunes, so there are multiple layers of dunes on top of dunes and this is something we wouldn't have been able to see before, but because of the high resolution imagery that we're able to collect now we can actually see this very fine detail.
We can see the changes in the dune shape which can tell us a little bit about what velocity the wind is moving at.
Back to this dark material, we can see it looks almost like a hole or blowout of dark material that may have been carried by wind and then covered these dunes.
Or these dark spots may be geysers or gas jets forming during sublimation processes where gas is trapped below the ice and released in some sort of gas jet.
So this is really a very important question.
One of the things that this class in Budapest noted was that one of the important things to do now is maybe to actually monitor these over time and actually look at these, take repeat images of these.
In fact, that's what a lot of scientists are interested in doing with this HiRISE camera is looking at the same location over and over again through the seasons if maybe we can catch a jet forming in action in case that's what's happening or to see if these are growing or shrinking or how they change over time.
So this is a great image and a great report by the class from Budapest.
Moving on to the next image, this is also some south polar train and again we can see a very similar type of thing happening.
This was suggested by Richard Smith's class in Florida.
And this also shows some of these darker streaks you can see in the color image, the greenish streaks.
These form a little more fan-like shapes and you can see this frost that we see developing in the winter seasons.
But again, the subsurface of this is slightly -- the surface texture is slightly different.
If we look at the high resolution image on the next slide, we can see that these are sort of -- there is a terrain underneath these features and here you can see a close-up of this white frost on the surface of some of these ridges on -- again, another beautiful image and a great suggestion.
So -- and then the last image in the south pole is an image of layering your southern polar crater and this was suggested by a student in India.
This also shows some of these similar dark spots, slightly different, though, than what we saw in the other images.
There are these small little dark spots as you can see on the color image on the right side, or if you have the website open at home you can look at the color images and see some of these dark spots along the crater rim and up in the far northern part of the image there is also a lot of this defrosting pattern that we see in the other images.
If we look within the dune, we can also see some wind-related processes like yarding and dunes.
Those are both features that are formed by the wind carrying dust through the bottom of the crater.
Michelle suggested this location and also wrote a report on it and he pointed out that there are multiple layers that you could see in this image.
And he suggested that these could have formed as sediments and lakes or oceans by volcanic eruptions and wind processes.
Given this location in the southern polar crater probably wind processes are how a lot of features form here and polar layering.
Water ice deposited during at different times.
Like on Earth in our poles we have layers in the polar caps related to different seasonal changes which cause different amounts of dust and ice to form on the caps.
This is a very similar process occurring here in all likelihood.
And then let's go back to the map for a moment.
The next slide?
And so now that we've looked at the southern polar images we're going to move up a little bit to an area where we're going to see a debris apron and this is just to the east of HELLIS.
Let's go to the next slide.
We can see those in a little more detailed context image.
As you can see there is a little mound here and then there is a debris apron that surrounds the entirety of the mound.
And the image was taken at the southern part -- in the center part of this debris apron.
Let's take a look at this image.
This was also suggested by the class in Budapest and if we look at the image we can see -- if we look at the browse image on this slide there are interesting, different textures going on and wavey patterns formed as this debris comes off the side of this hill slope.
And then if we look at the color image we can see a lot more -- and we look at it a little bit closer up we can see there is a lot of texture in it.
A lot of bumpiness and again some polygons that are forming on the surface.
And this is very common at any type of latitude sort of near polar regions.
You often get this polygons on the surface.
In fact, that's what the class commented on.
They really noticed that there was a lot of this -- a lot of this type of texture on the surface and suggested that some ice in the subsurface that melted in the summer and would refreeze in the winter was the cause of this type of pattern.
And that this might be a good place the look for water that is just below the surface.
That was a really interesting point and a great point to make, that this may be an area that seasonally has water that is, in fact, very close to the surface.
That class also noted that there were some curved line and groove surfaces that were the borders of some terraces, which is, in fact, correct.
And what may have happened is that piles of debris accumulated during a period of really high erosion, for whatever reason, and that each ridge may, in fact, represent a change in climate which caused some increased erosion of that area and deposition of some of this debris on the side of the flow.
This is an important thing not only looking for water close under the subsurface but understanding a little more about the Martian climate and how that has changed over time.
And I think that's about it for that.
Another fantastic suggestion.
These have all been really great.
Okay, moving westward to the great canyons.
Just actually to the western expanse of it.
This is another slide, another suggestion made by Barbara manings class at the international school in the Netherlands.
This area here is part of the canyon system.
It's a series of fractures that you can see here.
In all likelihood water probably flowed down through the fracture systems, through here and if you refer back to your maps two slides ago you can see that the canyons empties into the low land regions of Mars.
The water would have emptied out from the fracture systems and canyon systems and may have formed a large body, perhaps a large sea or ocean on Mars.
So the next slide shows you the HiRISE image.
On the left is the full HiRISE image.
The white box shows you the area on the right that is in color.
And if you -- if you're looking at the webpage, you can zoom in on here and see some very, very nice detail in this area.
You can see some light sediments that are streamed down from the canyon walls.
You can see a lot of spurs and a little bit of gullies forming.
Some dark layers, resistant layers and if you move back to the image on the left, you can just make out a little ridge at the bottom.
This is probably some form of landslide that happened.
But there has been a lot that has happened since then.
We have a lot of material that's moved down slope and if we go to the next slide, we can see what the details of the layers in the cliff wall.
You can see there is light and dark layers and we're really not sure what the origin or what they're made out of.
There are a couple of ideas.
One is that they're made from sediments that were laid down over time and another is they are volcanic sediments.
The dark may be lava flows and the light may be ash.
If you can zoom in far on this if you have your website open you can see there are all these little polygons on the light areas.
These layers are probably fine grained and they probably experience a lot of seasonal processes of warm and dry and wet periods throughout the Mars geologic years.
So the next slide takes us down a little bit south of the canyon system and north of a large impact basin.
It's the confluence of two other areas.
Before we go on to the next slide I want to point out on this location map that this does join -- does flow into the northern confluences.
>> This is a small valley system with tributaries on the left that flows into this big area.
It flows from the west to the east and once it flows into USBOY, that flows from the south to the north in the northern lowlands.
This probably happened a long time ago, three billion years old.
If you haven't had water in this area for a long, long time.
We know by looking at river valleys on Earth they get filled with sediment very quickly.
If we look at some of the HiRISE images, the image on the right shows a little context of where this HiRISE is.
You can see it coming into NUBOY.
From this low resolution you can't see that much but you can see the light/dark areas and the rim of an impact crater on the top part of the image.
If we go to the next image, you can see what may be some channels on the lower left and then you see the striped patterns here, these are dunes.
This means that this valley system hasn't been active in a very long time.
So wind has blown sediment in here and moved the sediment around forming dunes.
It tells us water was likely here but in the very distant past and there has been a lot of other processes, geologic processes, mostly wind, channeling into the valley system and filling it up.
If we also go back to the HiRISE image you see on the right, you see the rim of the crater what's also interesting along this rim, if you look at the close-up on the upper left on this slide, you'll see some resistance ridges on the crater walls, the crater wall is -- the rim of the crater goes through the middle of the image from left to right and you see all these dark resistant layers and then stripes of material going to the top.
So those are gullies and they probably formed much more recently than geologic past.
If you can zoom in on those you'll probably see more evidence for water in these areas.
The other area I want to point out is the white patches on the bottom of this zoomed-in area.
This could be salt, it could be hydrothermal mineralization, it could be several different types of compositions.
We don't actually know what it is yet because we don't have the data back from the spectrometer call CRISM that's on the orbiter.
That will give us information on what these processes are.
Are they related to water processes or some other processes?
Just -- I also wanted to talk a little bit about some of the things we heard in some of the reports and I wanted to clear up a few of the misconceptions.
A lot of times you see these dunes on the surface.
These dunes are actually occurent process that's active today formed by wind, not by water.
A couple people mentioned that maybe these dunes were formed by water.
In fact, they actually form by wind and we can see them changing over time as we see reimaging of some of these areas.
We can see that it's the dust that is actually forming that's covering the surface.
That's actually forming the dunes.
So we know it wasn't formed by water.
But it is actually a current process today.
Another thing I wanted to bring up with that image is Jonah, who made that suggestion, also brought up a really great point.
She said one of the questions she said came to her after doing this challenge is what does a confluence area of two waterways look like on Earth after the water is gone?
Is there water beneath the Martian surface still?
It's a great question to ask.
A couple people asked similar questions.
What kind of terrestrial analogs are there?
That's an important tool that scientists are using to try and better understand the Martian surface.
We're looking to see what similar features on Earth look like and what processes formed them on Earth and then using them to better understand Mars.
So I just wanted to make that point.
>> Thank you.
Now moving on to our next site, this is a small valley north of a crater.
We're moving eastward along the highlands/lowlands boundary here which is where the valley system is.
There is not a lot of detail in this but there are -- this is an ancient valley system.
We move onto the next slide to point this out.
You can see the boundaries of the valley system but you cannot see any details.
It's very dusty, which means that this valley system is very ancient.
If you look on the color image HiRISE image on the right you'll see that there are dunes.
This is often the case with these older features.
You aren't going to see a lot in the way of landforms that were formed by water other than you can see the channel part.
But inside the valley system you're going to see more things formed by wind.
Okay, this is just more details on what it looks like up close.
You can see some striping, probably indicative of some kind of wind process but also not a lot of detail on this, unfortunately.
So moving on to the -- our last couple sites, and this is in the large volcanic system on the eastern part of Mars.
And it forms a large bulge.
The next to the last suggestion was the intersection of three areas.
As you see on the slide that's on the western side of the volcanic area.
The color images I don't think we pointed out yet on here.
These are elevations maps so that the red and orange areas and the white are the high areas and the greens and blues are the low areas.
You can see the top of the volcano is kind of brownish whitish in the center of your image.
On the left you can see where this is.
This is likely a fracture system that formed on -- this formed on the flank but also we think that water also flows out, groundwater flows out from these fractures at some point.
Probably a long time ago.
And I'll point out here to the right, there is the same kind of valley system that started as a fracture and groundwater came out.
Let's go back here to look at this.
This is a very interesting area.
The HiRISE images on the left and an intersection with a fracture system with a valley system on the left and the black box shows you the blowup of the color image on the right.
But as you can see, there is a lot of detail in the slopes of the valley systems.
You can see the light and dark material as we did with some of the other valley systems.
This is common throughout Mars.
We still aren't sure what it is.
But you can still see a lot of details in this.
You can see these dark, what we call our dark slope streaks and the leading idea for how these formed are that these slopes are very steep and so the dust, because the slope is so steep, the dust goes off the slope forming a dark streak.
This is a close-up of what these dark streaks look like.
They're all over Mars and they're on -- mostly on crater walls or on slopes of valleys and they form interesting, intricate patterns.
And moving to our last suggestion which was suggested by a third grade class of Sun rise elementary school.
They're our youngest participants.
This is basically a valley system on the east end of the volcanic system flowing off the flank.
And the image on the left shows the HiRISE image with the white box showing the colored area.
And you can see this is a very intricate area.
There is different levels of flow here.
On top you can see this is likely caused by water flow, the shallow regions and then you have the steep trough that's partly in shadow.
So part of this was probably formed originally by fractures but water eroded it out as it does with most fracture systems on Earth.
And this is also probably a very ancient valley system.
The middle image on the bottom shows you a context of what this valley system looks like.
The water flows on the left down to the lower right.
And the image, the color image shows you the detail in the slope wall.
There is a lot of boulders and a lot of different color variations would suggest that there is different -- that the wall is composed of different rocks, different materials.
And just as a comment of what the third grade class thought it was, they said it looks like it has been carved by water as the shape is curved and looks like a river.
The bends in the channel show how the water changed directions like rivers on Earth.
The size of the channel are high so it looks like it's been there a long time.
The channels that branch off the main channel may have been caused by the outflow of water.
The shape is evidence of water was there at some time.
Right they are.
We do think that water was there.
It just may have been there a very long time ago.
Moving on to the next image it shows an interesting feature.
There are actually three of them in this valley system.
These are mounds this this image.
These are mounds.
They're topped by boulders.
We aren't sure what they are but a good guess is that they might be ice cored mountains that formed at some point after the valley formed.
And so we're looking into those type of features to see what exactly they really are, since the team doesn't really have a good idea of what they are, either.
They are a very interesting feature and likely ice was involved in forming that.
Lastly, we do have some other observations, some other image suggestions that are planned for later this month on June 12 we'll be acquiring the Olympus ice line from Joan and Douglas and on June 23 we'll be acquiring -- it's one of six image suggestions suggested by another class.
I urge you to keep your suggestions coming.
This does take us a while to acquire them and then we'll discuss any other subsequent suggestions in a webcast in the fall that will be starting in early September.
So do we have any questions?
>> We sure do.
We have some.
We haven't gotten a lot of new ones because I think they're all watching what you're doing, so hopefully they'll get their questions in quickly so that we can try to answer them live during the webcast here.
Let's start with one up here.
It says -- which kind of microorganisms are there on Mars?
>> Okay.
Well, we don't know if there is any kind of microbial life on Mars now and if there were any, it would probably be deep in the subsurface that is protected from the U.V. radiation that the surface of Mars experiences.
That's one of the things we're looking for.
Did Mars once have microbial life or does it still have it deep in the subsurface?
We know on Earth that life can persist and live in all different hazardous areas even in the harsh environments from high volcanoes to several miles down in the subsurface and the aquifers.
We're hoping there might be some evidence for microbial life on Mars either now or in the past.
>> We have a question here now from Keith -- I'm sorry, Neil.
It says, can we use the equipment that may find water hundreds of kilometers below the surface of Mars and find tunnels and voids far below the surface of Earth?
>> Well, one of the -- I think to try to answer that question, one of the other instruments that on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is trying to identify where there might be water in the shallow subsurface of the Earth using radar.
That's another tool that is also on the same instrument.
The HiRISE camera can't actually see beneath the surface so that's not as useful a tool for looking at subsurface features.
>> Yes, that tool allows them to look about a yard or two below the surface.
There is also another radar on the Mars orbiter that's circling around Mars right now and they can look deeper below the surface.
But there hasn't been a lot of date why that has come back from those instruments yet.
We're hopeful.
There is also on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter there is also a spectrometer that looks at the surface of Mars and can give you information about what the physical properties of the surface are.
And it also looks at -- it returns infrared images from the day and the nighttime and that will give us information on what surfaces are warm at night versus what are cold versus what are warm during the day versus what are warm during the day.
And one of the things it helps us with is that if, for example, if a surface is glowing, it's warm during the night, we know that surface is likely very rocky or very well cemented so it's able to hold its heat longer.
Much like if you were to go to a beach, a rocky beach and at night and feel that the rocks are still warm while the sand is kind of cold.
Much like that.
Then we know that fine grain material like sand would be very warm during the day.
So that would be bright in these infrared images.
That also gives us information on the surface of Mars in addition to the radar data.
>> Okay.
Thank you.
I'm going to try to combine two questions here because I hope they've been answered during the webcast.
Just in case you want to make some comments.
The first one what is the main motive behind this challenge and I think Yvette's question, what is the advantage of HiRISE maybe will give you sort of a capsule that you can add here.
>> Well, the motivation of this challenge is to get students involved in the scientific discovery process.
We want students and the public to suggest targets for HiRISE image.
Since we're only going to be imaging 1 or 2% of the surface we want to get the best suggestions so we image the best places.
And like I said we also want everybody involved because we are known as the people's camera and we would like the public to be involved as much as possible in as many facets of the mission as we can.
>> The benefit of the HiRISE camera is really the resolution.
As some of the people commented in their reports, it almost feels like you're looking at a picture of an area you might take if you're hiking in the desert, for example.
These images are such high resolution you almost feel like you're on the surface of Mars.
You can see individual rocks and boulders that we haven't really been able to see in previous images that have been returned of Mars from orbiters.
And so it's a pretty exciting thing.
>> Okay, great.
I have a question here again.
Did you find signs of life on either side of the poles?
>> No, we haven't found any signs of life of any sort on Mars including the poles.
As I had said before, if water was on a planet for a long period of time, then the likelihood is that there might be microbial life.
We aren't talking little green people, we're talking about little organisms.
And it might be likely that there is evidence for microbial life in the polar caps or deep beneath the surface.
We have to be able to get to those surfaces to sample and see if we can find evidence for past Mick -- microbial life.
>> What will we do differently if we find that water once existed on Mars?
>> Well, I think everybody is going to be very, very excited.
We know that water did exist on Mars, that's for sure.
But we know from the images that water did.
We don't know where it went and we don't know how it eroded the surface very well because right now Mars' surface is very cold and dry.
If you had a cup of water on the surface it would bubble and freeze away.
It would not flow unless you have a lot of water.
So then you can get water flowing on the surface, or you can get water flowing on the surface if there is a lot of salt, a lot of minerals or it freezes over on top and water flows below.
So we're kind of looking for that type of information.
What we found from the last two spacecraft, the high resolution on surveyor as well as our HiRISE camera on the orbiter, Mars did have recent water on the surface, geologically recent.
We don't know if it was yesterday or we don't know if it was 1,000 years ago.
But the gullies do indicate that water flowed on the surface fairly recently.
There were some reports from the other camera on -- the camera on the Mars orbiter that there was recent water.
That certainly may be the case.
We see these light deposits that were not in the previous images that are there now.
The problem is how did those light deposits get there is the most likely scenario is water formed them but there are other ideas as well.
>> I think you've answered the question, how did the scientists know there is water on Mars, so I'll go on to his next question which is how can life exist without air and with water only?
>> Well, again, life can -- little microbial life can exist beneath the surface, way deep and it can use chemical energy as its source of food, if you want to put it that way.
Many organisms do not need air that we're used to, oxygen, they just need some other form of energy to live and reproduce.
>> Okay.
Here is a very practical one.
Did you find large crater on Mars?
>> Find a large crater?
Well, we've seen a lot of craters, there are quite a few large craters on the surface of Mars and because Mars hasn't been recycled like the Earth has, a lot of craters are preserved on the surface of Mars.
And so, in fact, in one of the images, I forgot to point out, but in one of the images you can go back and look for yourself, there is pretty much a brand new crater, something pretty recent and you can see a beautiful pattern, it's a dark crater, a tiny little spot.
We see everything on Mars from little tiny craters to big huge craters like Hellis basin was formed many years ago.
>> That's right next to the canyon wall and it's a dark splayed-out area.
It's really nice and probably formed very recently.
And also we have -- there are lots of craters on Mars.
Some of the areas, if you look at the location maps, the elevation maps, you'll see these dark blue holes, deep blue areas in the southern part and those are two very large ancient craters, one is called Hellis which is the largest basin on Mars and another one to the west.
Those are very large impacts and there are large craters all over the surface especially in the southern hemisphere.
That surface is thought to be much older.
>> Okay, great.
A question from Barbara.
I'll remind the people who are watching that we would like to get your questions as soon as possible and also relating to this last one, we will -- I'll remind you we'll have the Power Point slides up online so you can look at them close and in detail.
Barbara's question is, does the existence of water necessarily mean that there has been life on the planet?
>> No, it doesn't mean it but we do know from our vantage point that we have, the Earth.
Where there is water, there tends to be life.
We're hopeful if there is water existing over a long period of geologic time that life may have formed there at some point.
>> Okay.
All right.
Question from Jeff.
Sometimes it's hard to know if what we see in the pictures is a projection or an indentation.
Is there a way to know for sure?
>> Yes.
In fact, one of the -- when we take these images we make a note of where -- what direction the Sun is coming from and so a lot of times if you look at an image, you can see that the Sun is coming from the left side of the image and it is making one side of it brighter -- for example, if you have a crater, the side that the Sun is coming in will be brighter and then the other side will be in shadow.
Or if you have a mountain slope you'll see the side the Sun is coming on is bright and the other side is in shadow.
As the images are being released we'll also provide the Sun direction so you can use that to tell.
>> Okay, great.
I have a question here from India.
I'm hoping that I represent it correctly.
And the question is, sending equipment can give much more easy access to taking images.
We already sent one mission to Mars, why don't we send such gadgets in a few more numbers to check separate areas of the Martian region?
>> Well, that's what we'd love to do.
It just takes money.
And there are several more missions planned.
And even in the current missions that we have, we have two rovers in two different locations on Mars so we're getting there but it is very expensive to send instruments and spacecraft to Mars, especially on the surface of Mars.
It requires a lot of funds.
And so with the budgets that we're given, we do the best we can, or at least NASA does.
>> And with the Pathfinder back in 1997, gave us one area.
Then we have two now and there are two more planned.
They're all spread across the planet so it gives us a nice representation of what we might see at the surface.
>> Great.
We have a question.
Why until now has no living being been sent to Mars?
>> Well, it is -- we still haven't sent humans to Mars because it's hard, number one.
And it's a long trip.
It would take at least seven months to get there and it would take seven months to get back and you want to spend one or two months on the surface.
It takes a lot of preparation and technology to get that person back especially.
The other thing is the person is subjected to a lot of radiation, which affects their health, and it's just -- it would just be a massive, massive undertaking which NASA is -- has planned for that but it is a very difficult thing to do to send humans to Mars.
Until we can do that, we are sending different instruments to be our eyes and for us, to give us information back on what the surface is like.
>> Okay.
We talked a little bit about the rovers that have been there.
What happened to the rover that landed a while back?
>> Well, there were several rovers.
The two most recent were the Mars exploration rovers.
One landed in USEP crater and the other to the west.
Very different locations.
They're still in operation, they're still traversing the surface of Mars and still bringing back fantastic data.
I would urge you to go to the website and see the images that are being put on the website almost daily.
They are just spectacular.
>> Also the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is working with these rovers that are on the surface.
We're trying to do coordinated efforts so we're taking pictures at the same time as they're taking pictures so we can see things from two different perspectives.
Both from the surface and also trying to help them in terms of planning where they should go by using -- since we can take a broader area and give them some context about where to go and different challenges they might face.
>> Okay.
In this same line of questioning, has there been any digging into the surface of Mars, or just on top?
>> Yes, there has been some limited digging.
Most of that is done with the rover wheels as they traverse up a slope they're able to dig a little bit into the surface and they've done that and then the instruments look or image that area, take data of that area to see what it looks like.
We have a microscopic imager on the Mars exploration rovers and that can take very high resolution microscopic images of what we're looking at and a variety of spectrometers that are giving us information on what is below the surface.
There used to be an arm, which there still is, but -- there used to be a wire brush but the wire brushes are no longer functioning.
But we can still image things up close so the answer to your question is yes, we have but it's mostly been done with the wheels so far.
>> All right.
We've got a question here -- I'm trying to figure out who it's from.
I'm not sure, people don't always represent their names.
I taught an astrobiology class this year.
We debated about sending spacecraft to other planets due to contamination issues.
Is there still a concern, and if so, how do you protect against sending Earth's life forms elsewhere?
>> Well, this is actually a huge problem that there are a number of people who are thinking about contamination both ways.
Both contamination of Mars from Earth and also from -- for example lunar return missions from the Moon to Earth.
There are several people who are thinking about it.
And who have done quite a bit of work to ensure that pretty much the entire process of space travel pretty much decontaminates the instruments and that's all that's really needed.
But they work very hard on making sure and ensuring that that's not a problem.
>> Okay.
This one almost doesn't sound like a question but perhaps we can work on it together.
Consider that if there is water and air on Mars there will be favorable climate and good conditions to live like Earth.
>> Well, what we know about Mars is it is not favorable for life of any kind on the surface.
It is a very harsh environment.
For life as we know it, for breathing and living it is far too cold and the atmosphere is far too thin and we couldn't exist on the surface right now.
>> There is an idea, however, called tera forming which some folks at NASA Ames are thinking about and consider.
How to convert Mars into a planet that is more like Earth by doing basically greenhouse, by inserting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and making it more of a habitable planet but that's a big project and will take a lot of time and research.
>> It wouldn't happen in a human lifetime.
Not in our lifetime.
>> We just have a minute or two more.
I have a question from Barbara.
Will there be a time when we can see below the surface with something like thermographics?
>> Well, there are a variety of instruments we have now.
We have an imaging spectrometer that can look at the surface of Mars and the infrared which tells us surface temperatures and physical properties.
There is also a couple of radar instruments, I think I mentioned one is on our Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter that can take some information about the near surface of Mars down to about a yard or so and then there is a radar on the Mars express which can take data from a little bit deeper than that.
That's about all we have right now.
I'm sure future instruments will look at that more closely.
See what's below the surface.
>> Okay.
I think that is giving you sort of a chance here to wrap up and talk a little bit about the future as he asks, in the future what will we learn from this type of program?
>> Well, depends on what you mean by this type of program.
If you're thinking just the challenge, then what we're hoping is students and teachers and the general public will become more informed about Mars and science in general.
If we're talking about our camera, the HiRISE camera, then we're looking at, you know, possibly we'll be able to find areas where there is recent water on Mars or just details on some of the different ideas that we have for how these different landforms formed and evolved and with high resolution it's really neat because it's like you're walking along a canyon system or standing on top of a small hill and you're looking down at your field site and you can see it.
Just at a human scale what we're imaging in the HiRISE camera except that we're basically now 200 miles above the surface but we're resolving your dinner table very nicely.
The thing that you can actually see in your daily life we can see with our camera.
>> And also along the lines of the Quest challenge we'll also keep taking any captions that you might still want to give.
For example, if you made a suggestion and your target was imageed, you can send us a caption or if you just found a picture that is really great and write a figure caption for it send it to us.
We'll release them as we get figure captions from class groups and we're going to release them and actually give credit to you guys for writing up part of those captions.
We encourage you to keep sending those to us and keep sending images and we'll continue to take those pictures as we can.
>> The nice thing about participating in challenge and the next one they flow into one another.
On the website you can send us questions or post your ideas and have other participants, we or other HiRISE team members comment and them and also submit your reports and your image captions.
The one thing I wanted to mention is that in the near future we're going to be allowing the whole world to suggest targets for the HiRISE camera to image.
And that will likely happen probably in the next month or two.
The important difference between that and the Quest challenge is that you're going the get credit for making that suggestion.
It's going to be your name, your class name and if you make some contributions to the image captions, your name is going and your class names are going to go on the website.
On the image release website.
When we release the images it will be so and so's class from wherever it is.
Your image captions and who suggested it.
You can point to it and say hey, I helped analyze that image.
I helped suggest that image.
Where the public suggestion system that we'll be releasing will be anonymous.
The public will be making suggestions but it will not be labeled with who suggested the image.
>> Okay, great.
You've talked a little bit about next challenge.
But maybe give you a chance here to sign off and tell folks what's coming up.
>> Okay.
Well as I mentioned, we will be releasing the -- it's called the image suggestion -- the ones that joined us early in the challenge worked with.
And so anyhow, that will be released to the world.
We encourage you to keep sending your suggestions because we'll keep targeting them as long as we get them.
As soon as we acquire them we'll put them on the HiRISE challenge website that I sent to you all in the email and that I showed you earlier in the webcast.
We'll keep posting them and you can also submit your image captions, etc. or email us via the discussion group.
>> We hope you also part participate in the Quest challenge starting in the fall.
We hope you'll keep checking in and participate in that next year.
>> So thank you.
>> Thanks.

 FirstGov  NASA

NASA Official: Liza Coe
Last Updated: May 2005
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