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Fieldtrip 1: Find a Location for Study

The Team met up in the parking lot at Ames Research Center to transfer into NASA vans for the trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park. Over doughnuts, equipment and luggage were packed from seven cars into 2 vans, with last minute checks to be sure that everything needed was included.

The scientific team consisted of: Research Scientist Jennifer Heldmann, Computer Scientist William Clancey, Planetary Scientist Chris McKay, and Graduate Student Margarita Marinova. Research Associate Brian Duval had visited Lassen earlier and the team used some of his clues to find a location that would fit the requirements for all of the scientific team.

Joining them (to be your eyes and ears) were members of the Ames Educational Technology Team, Liza Coe, Brian Day, Deborah Bazar and Linda Conrad.

How would this part of our trip be different if we were traveling to Mars?

box of donuts
Jennifer, Bill & Liza with van in backgroundJennifer & Bill discuss logistics as Liza looks on.

Photo taken from "education" van following the scientists' van.

When everyone was assembled and the vans loaded, we began the trip from Moffett Field to Lassen Volcanic National Park. About four hours later (with an hour still to go to arrive at Lassen) we chatted by cellular phone with the other van, decided we were all hungry and needed to stretch our legs, so we stopped for lunch. Over lunch, Jennifer, Margarita and Chris studied maps of the park to determine the best way to approach the search for a perfect spot to do the studies.

How would this part of our trip be different if we were traveling to Mars?

photo of Chris, Jen & Margarita at lunch table
Jennifer, Margarita & Chris discuss map over lunch.
Photo of Chris w/ computer and Jennifer ready to goWe had to tear Chris away from his computer to continue.

photo of shasta mountain at a distanceThe roads became more narrow as we approached the park, but we were wowwed by views of Mt. Shasta, a dormant volcano, near the Trinity Alps (part of the Cascade Mouintain Range) in the distance.

Lassen Peak is at the southern terminus of the Cascade Mountains, approximately 50 miles east of Redding, California.

Can you think what sights might be seen on a trip to Mars?


Finally a roadsign lists our destination, a town named Mineral just outside of the park.

sign showing an altitude of 3000 ftWith each passing sign our anticipation grew.

What signs might indicate an arrival to Mars?

Sign for Lassen ForestSign for turn into Lassen Volcanic National Park Van passes a sign for the town of Mineral
photo of Mineral Lodge
Photo of Jenn and Liza getting out of van

photo of country store frontAfter a little more than 5 hours' drive, we arrived and saw where we would be spending the next three days: The Mineral Lodge. We were all glad to see that there was a Cafe so we could have a hearty breakfast before starting each day. It was good to stretch our legs and...

then we all went into the Country Store where we were to register for our rooms -- but wait! Today was not over yet!

What do you think this process might look like on Mars. What about supplies and snacks?

photo of interior of country store with shelves with supplies
photo of Jen, Liza and Chris registering for rooms
Lassen Volcano National Park sign Team looking at mudpotsPark Ranger welcomes usBecause there was still some daylight left, we did a little sight-seeing inside the park steam rising from mudpot
Phew! I think I can still smell the mudpots!
sign warning people to stay on walkways

sign describing mudpots

When you're sight-seeing, t's nice to have helpful signs from those who have explored before .

Where might we get help in exploring Mars?

sign showing falling rocks

Margarita and Jenn looking at instruments

What kind of helper could a scientist count on for Mars?

View of Lake HelenJenn & Margarita sitting on snow bankWork started right away for Jenn and Margarita. Checking their GPS instrument they sought to find the areas that Brian had seen and suggested for study.

As we walked around the beautiful Lake Helen, it was impossible to not throw a snowball or two. Snow, in California, in July!!


What could you find to do for fun on Mars?
The team at picnic table for dinner

The team grabbed a sandwich dinner just before the sandwich shop closed, watched a beautiful sunset over the mountains, and then headed over to the campfire area where that evening they were to speak to campers.

What do you suppose sunsets will look like on Mars?

The science team introduced at evening campfire
Park ranger hands out NASA stickers & pencils to campers

What a terrific way to cap off the evening. As we watched folks file into the small arena, Park Ranger Steve Zachary, circulated while passing out NASA stickers, bookmarks and pencils to young and old alike.

Jennifer Heldmann spoke specifically on her Lassen work and snow algae, Chris McKay gave an overview of Mars analogs and other research locations, and Bill Clancey described and showed videos of work with mobile agents and how they fit into the picture. The crowd consisted of over 200 people who were anxious to learn about why NASA was interested in Lassen Volcanic National Park. It was well after 10 p.m. when we started back to the Inn to turn in after a long day.

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NASA Official: Mark León
Last Updated: May 2005
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