Transcript by: Speche Communications
During today's webcast, we will discuss the work of our scientists,
learn more about Lassen and the park and we're going to discuss
the Mars analog challenge that has been presented to you.
We're glad that you joined us today.
And our chat room is open and being moderated.
So feel free to ask think questions you'd like.
Don't worry, if you don't see them online, we see them and we'll
try to answer as many as we can.
Our host at the park has made it possible for all of us to be
>> I'm glad to be here.
>> Can you give us more information about Lassen.
>> Yes, it is located at the northeastern part of California.
It is a land of volcanoes, lakes, elevations from 5,000 feet to
10,457 feet is the highest point.
Lassen Peak erupted between 1914 to 1917.
The main eruption was in 1915.
Then Lassen became a national park in 1916.
So it's a land of volcanoes.
We have all four major types of volcanoes found in the world at
the Lassen Volcanic National Park.
It has 150 miles of hiking trails.
Of course, we have a lot of snow in the winter.
We get over 500 inches of snow in the wintertime here at Lassen,
even though today you would say where is the snow.
>> Is there anything in particular that visitors can do
when they come here?
>> Lassen Volcanic National Park has a large number of hydrothermal
With fumaroles, mud pots, and boiling springs.
We have the largest collection of these features this side of
Yellowstone. We have the hottest fumaroles in the world, and many
of our hydrothermal features are readily accessible for visitors
of all ages.
So it's really a neat opportunity to get the feel for volcanic
features and the volcano and the reasons why this park was set
>> So does all that hydrothermal activity indicate that
the volcano may erupt in the future?
>> No, it's just all part of the system.
We have many volcanoes and of course when we speak of volcanic
eruptions we also have to think of geologic time, not just human
Who knows when the next volcano will erupt here at Lassen. We
Sounds like we're safe for the moment.
We are currently -- thank you very much for your welcome and introduction
to this remote and exotic location.
Now we're going to move on to discuss some of the field work that
our scientists are conducting here at Lassen that we are observing
for the different aspects of our challenge.
>> Jen, what kind of science do you do?
>> I'm most interested in Mars and I’m particularly
interested in water on Mars.
We know in the past on Mars there's been a lot of water, there
are channels and river valleys.
They are dried up now.
Mars is pretty dry.
But there might be places where there are small amounts of liquid
The reason the liquid water is interesting is because, two reasons,
First, is because if there is life on another planet, we would
want to go to Mars and look for where the water is.
All life on Earth requires liquid water.
Everything that is alive needs water.
The second reason that the water is interesting is because when
we eventually send people to Mars, and we send humans, they will
need water to live on, to use for drinking, for daily activities.
We can also use the water to make rocket fuel and that type of
My interest in research is looking for water on Mars.
>> Why is Lassen a good place to do research?
>> Lassen is a good place for several reasons.
Because what we're looking at on Mars is the recent gully features.
They look like they were carved by liquid water sometime in the
recent past in Mars and maybe by melting snow.
There is a theory that maybe there are snow packs on Mars and
they are melting and generating runoff and carving these gully
And so we don't really understand how snow behaves on Mars, because
Mars is so different than Earth.
What we're doing is coming up to the park and, as Steve said,
in the wintertime there's a lot of snow at Lassen.
What we're going to do is install a lot of instrumentation today
and understand how does snow melts and understand how melt is correlated
with the environment.
Once we understand that at Lassen, we will have computer models
that we can test with the data we collect at Lassen.
Once we have models working correctly, we can understand what
happens at Mars, and what happens to snow as it falls on the surface
>> That's very exciting.
It’s neat to be able to Conduct research on Mars here on
And Bill, you’re a computer scientist specializing in artificial
>> Can you tell us more about what you do?
>> I'm mostly interested in people and how they live and
work and how we can build tools, especially – computer tools
that can help them live more comfortably and do their work more
NASA is planning to send human explorers back to the Moon and
And what I want to study here is how do people explore.
We know some of that is by going around and traveling and searching
through ravines and climbing mountains.
Part of it is putting down instruments by which we can study an
area, such as the weather and the water and the plants and so on.
So how does computer science tie into all of that?
>> If I want to build tools to help people do their work
better, then I need to understand how do they do their work.
So I do that by participating in our deployment of the instruments,
which we'll be doing today.
And see especially how the people work together.
And what kind of communication occurs and how they assemble their
Then I have to think about, well, how would that be different
Maybe I could give them, like, a robotic mule that could carry
So we're going to be working down in a basin and it's steep and
hard for us to go down.
What if we were in space suits and it was slippery and it might
be more dangerous.
Maybe I could have a robot that could be told to go to a certain
place and take everything down there automatically.
>> That’s a very interesting way to tie computers
and people together.
Brian DuVall and Chris McKay could not be here with us today.
Jen, could you tell us a little bit what Brian’s research
is all about?
He is a biologist on the team.
He is a world expert in snow algae-- [INAUDIBLE].
One of the things that makes Lassen interesting is in the wintertime
when there is snow, and then through the spring, the snow turns
You see long streaks of red running through the snow.
What that is, is algae.
When you have the runoff and the algae blooms and turns red and
they're very happy and like the sunlight.
Then as the snow melts and it goes away, the algae just rests
on the rocks and they just wait until the next snow to come.
And then they just lie dormant.
Then when it snows again and you get the red snow.
Brian came up over the summer and he collected some snow algae
samples and he's studying that.
We want to match what happens in the snowpack, the temperatures
and how much light gets through and how much runoff we have with
the activity of the snow algae.
Because if we have snow algae that can live on Earth in the snowpack,
well the next question is, could you have snow algae that lives
in snow packs on Mars?
We want to try and understand how these ceatures have adapted
to live inside of snow, and then see if we can try and understand
what could be on Mars as well.
>> Very interesting.
It gives us a good chance that there might be some signs of life
on Mars. [INAUDIBLE].
And Chris McKay, what is his research?
>> Chris is an expert on Mars itself, and also in astrobiology.
He does a lot of research in analog environments such as Lassen
to try and understand different environments and extreme environments
on Earth to understand what's going Mars.
He uses a lot of data from spacecraft to understand Mars itself.
Also in the field of astrobiology to try and understand how life
adapts to these different extreme environments and how life might
adapt to these environments on Mars.
Jen, you used the term Mars analog --
>> Can you give us a little information about what an analog
I can start and then Bill can add in.
Since we haven't sent people to Mars yet, although that's the
plan, the best we can do right now is we can study places on Earth
that are very Mars-like.
So there are various places on Earth that have the characteristics
of Mars, such as being very cold.
So sometimes we go to the Arctic or to the Antarctic, to the polar
regions where it is very cold. And also, Mars is very dry, so we
go a lot of deserts and dry places. The Artic and the Anarctic
are also very dry in some regions, so we can have a polar desert,
we go to the at ATACAMA in Chile, in South America; all over the
We've come to Lassen because Lassen is a Mars analog because of
the high amounts of snowfall and the snow algae and the accessible
>> So the first thing I would mention is that Jen is doing
real science that relates to Mars.
If I want to understand exploration, I have to study scientists
that are really doing it.
It's happening right here, so this is a good place for me to be.
The other thing is we are quite remote.
We have to bring all of our equipment.
There are a lot of problems.
We had to make sure everything was in our van before we left.
And we’re isolated.
The fact that we're isolated helps me study a small group because
there aren't a lot of people communicating and we have to solve
problems ourselves, just like Mars.
>>So it’s more than just the science. It’s about
the planning and preparation involved.
>>And we can’t go to Mars yet to study, so it’s
best to start here.
All right, now it's time to discuss the five concepts of the Mars
Remember, instructions for the challenge and more information
can be found on the teachers page at quest.nasa.gov.
The first concept of the Mars analog challenge is habitat, and
that’s the place where the scientists sleep, eat, and take
shelter while they’re conducting their research. If you’ve
seen the online journals, you have seen that our scientists stay
at the Mineral
Lodge where everything is provided for them.
How might this be different for astronauts when they travel to
Without giving away anything for the challenge, can you
give us any hints or clues?
>> Well, it's very nice being in the Mineral Lodge.
As you said, everything is provided for us.
We have to turn on the lights with the light switch.
We have power.
There is food you can buy at the store.
There are beds that are made for us when we get there.
So when we go to Mars, we'll have none of that.
So Bill and I have actually spent some time in simulated Mars
What would a habitat look like on Mars?
And what do you need in the habitat?
You have to have everything self-contained within that one structure.
It's a very, very different experience, because you can't run
outside and run down to the store.
It's also different because when we're loading up our van to go
to the field site, you know, we just leave the door open of our
room and go back and forth and put things in the van.
We can't do that on Mars, we can't just go outside.
We want to make sure that we have all of our equipment and everything
So being on Mars will be more of a challenge for sure.
>> Before we left this morning, we spent about a half an
hour doing some assembling in a parking lot.
We had a large open space we could put down our tape ruler and
screws and work together.
We might not have such a space on Mars.
What would be the analog of that on Mars, that parking lot where
we did preassembly of tools?
>> Probably not a parking lot on Mars or a Mineral
Our next major concept is clothing and protection.
Our scientists need to choose these aspects based on the environment
that they’re doing their research in.
How about here at Lassen?
What are we using?
>> At Lassen, since we're still on Earth, we had the good
fortune of talking to our ranger to find out what the weather would
be like, is it going to snow or rain, because when we pack, we
need to know these types of things.
What is the temperature?
Do we need winter jackets or short-sleeved shirts?
That sort of information might be difficult to come across on
Also, this morning we put on our sunscreen, since we knew we were
going to be outside.
>> The U.V. protection which we will need on Mars.
Very important, U.V. protection, yes.
>> All right.
So we had hats and sunglasses.
>> Protection from radiation.
What about the terrain?
Do you have to wear special kinds of shoes to prepare for the
>> That's a good point.
We had talked with Steve ahead of time, because today as you can
see, there's not a lot of snow and it's not very wet.
We have our hiking boots.
Had there been snow, we would have to bring our big, heavy snow
As Bill said we're going down into a basin that's down a fairly
steep slope, so you want to have good traction to make sure you
All these things come into play.
If you are going to Mars, you want to have an idea of what the
conditions are going to be like ahead of time.
You have to be prepared in case they change.
>> It's funny, we think of Earth being different from Mars.
If we were here, say, tomorrow, we would be needing gloves to
do this work.
And there are different types of gloves.
Like in the Arctic, we have gloves that only go as far as the
bottom of your fingers.
Then there's a mitten on the top.
You can fold it back so that your fingers are free to do the fine
And design of gloves is an essential thing for working on the
moon or on Mars.
>> That's important.
You need to take these things into consideration before you go,
>> I need to know what kind of work you're going to be doing.
>> All right.
Our third concept or third aspect is transportation to and from
the work area.
Jen and Bill, how do you get to your research site from the
Lodge, and how far away is it?
>> From the mineral lodge, we took government vans.
We have big vans.
We took the seats out of the back so we could pile up our equipment.
We had enough seats for the people and the rest is the instruments
that we will deploy today.
It takes us 30 minutes to drive from the lodge up to the field
>> Our van supplied oxygen to us, so we didn't have to be
wearing our space suits.
>> Very good.
And we have roads, so navigation is fairly easy because we know
where to go, whereas that may not be the case on Mars.
We may need a more robust vehicle.
>> We're carrying a lot of equipment.
And so we are concerned because some of the equipment is delicate
and on Mars there are not going to be very good roads, so you are
going to have to tie things down better than we did.
We'll have to think about that more, how to pack the stuff in
>> How about once you reach your field site, is it an easy
stroll to the area?
>> Fortunately for us there is a parking lot right near
the field site.
So it's fairly easy for us to park the van.
We have a lot of space to take all of the equipment out, set things
As Bill said, we were building things in the parking lot this
Having enough space actually to do your work is an important consideration.
>> All right.
And what about assistants?
I notice that when you come here today, you have a whole team
of researchers, post docs and grad students who are helping you
with your research today.
Would that be the same thing on Mars?
Would that be possible on Mars?
>> I hope so.
>> And Bill had talked to us a little bit about the concept
of mobile agents.
Can you give us a little more information on what these robots
would do and is it maybe better to have a humor a robot?
>> Well, there are robots and there are agents.
So a robot would something like on wheels or have some kind of
legs that can move around.
An agent is a computer program that could talk to you or speak
to you, and you’re wearing headphones.
It's like when we were leaving today from the lodge, we had driven
about five miles and someone said, did we pack the battery?
And that's exactly what you would like an agent to have said to
you perhaps a little bit closer to the lodge.
So the agent would know what are the essential things.
Might know what's inside the van already, because he might have
some kind of a computer chip that you could know what had been
So it would say, hey, the battery is not inside the van.
>> In some cases an agent might be better than a grad student.
>> Take you through the checklist, through the procedures.
And when we test things out, maybe there would be an agent that
could help us through the diagnostics.
Maybe tomorrow morning, we're going to come back and check out
The agents could have been doing some test runs during the night.
Say, maybe you should check that rain gauge, see if the camera
>> Are these agents in use right now?
Or is this still a big development?
>> There are prototypes where we're experimenting and we've
spent about five years using them in the field for exploration
>> All right.
Our final aspect of the challenge and perhaps the most important
part here at Lassen is the scientific instruments.
Jennifer is spending a lot of time while she is here implanting
scientific instruments so she can analyze the data when she gets
Can you tell us a little more about the instrumentation you’re
>> What we're going to do is install these instruments on
a tripod and then it's going to snow on top of the tripod.
So we'll have instrumentation and measurements from within the
snowpack at different levels.
Some of the measurements we're going to make include monitoring
the temperature at different depths within the snowpack and the
amount of sunlight that gets through the snowpacks so we know how
much radiation is penetrating the snow.
We are also going to measure the amount of runoff or melt water.
We'll be monitoring liquid water flow.
We'll also have remote digital camera to look down on the field
site so we can monitor both the snow activity and also how much
snow is falling in this region.
How long will these instruments be at this field site?
>> We're going to leave them up all winter long.
Then we'll be in contact with Steve and once the snow clears enough
so the roads are clear, then we'll come back and download the data.
Sometime next summer, probably.
>> Do these instruments have a shelf life?
Is there a time when they will stop running?
>> Yes, we can usually leave them out for several years.
The limiting factor is the batteries.
What we've done in the field in other places is we install a solar
panel so you can recharge your batteries every day.
>> So you have other options.
That way, if you have a remote field that you can't get to all
the time, you can leave your equipment running and it will run
over the years.
>> All right.
We have a few questions right now from some of our participating
They concern the five aspects of the challenge, so I'll throw
these out here and you can answer them as you would like.
Our first one concerns clothing and protection.
What type of protection is being developed for humans from the
sun while on Mars?
And now, keep in mind, we don't want to give anything too far
>> First, as a clue, the sun has certain kinds of radiation,
but there's other types of radiation that has to be considered,
And you have to consider your living quarters, how they're protected.
And then when you're outside, how are you protected when you're
Those are important considerations.
And right now, for today, I can tell you the sun is very bright,
so I have a hat on which is helping me to block out the sun.
There might be other ways to do that if you're in a helmet on
>> Things like that.
>> So a hat might not cut it on Mars.
>> A Hat might not be okay.
What affect does the Martian atmosphere have on the materials
on spacecraft landers and rovers?
Is it corrosive or beneficial?
>> When we send spacecraft into space, whether it to be
Mars or to the Moon, where we may be going next, there isn't an
atmosphere like we have here on Earth.
So to take the Mars case, you have to send it all the way through
space until you get to Mars.
Then there is a thinner atmosphere when you get there.
You have to make sure that your electronics and such can work
in that vacuum type of environment.
So before anything gets sent on Earth, there is rigorous testing
making sure that the electronics and the instrumentation will withstand
the harsh conditions.
Also, another thing to think about is you have to get through
the launch itself, which can cause a lot of vibration.
You have to make sure that we have these sensitive instruments,
that they can withstand the launch and reentry.
>> One thing that might be good for the school kids to check
out is that we actually have done some research on the affect of
the Mars atmosphere on Opportunity spacecraft.
So we were quite fortunate, and Opportunity was one of the two
Mars exploration rovers that landed on Mars last year.
We were able to send the rover over to a place to inspect that
metal of the aeroshell, which was part of the protection during
So we learned something about that metal from that.
That's something you can learn about on the web.
It sounds like doing some research for the challenge, looking
online would be very helpful.
Another related question we have is what materials are our astronauts
made out of right now?
Do you have to change that material for Mars?
>> Well, there's a few things that -- to look up on that
One of the problems with going to Mars is that when we get there,
we want to do a lot of work.
We want to be in the field, looking at rocks, climbing uphill
slopes, down into valleys.
The space system that we have right now for use on another planetary
surface comes from Apollo.
If you look that up on the web, the pictures show that they're
big and bulky and hard to move in and heavy.
This may not be the best way for when we go to Mars.
What some people have started working on are what they call mechanical
These are a Spandex type material that goes on your skin, so instead
of having a pressurized system, you have a Spandex tight material
which allows you more flexibility and you're able to maneuver more
Also, if something happens, if you get a tear in your suit or
something like that, because there are sharp rocks, and if there
are rocks that could tear your suit, you have a single point failure
which wouldn't be lethal.
You would be okay.
You just go back and patch up that one point.
>> A single point failure.
That means a little tear is not going to rip your entire suit
One tear and you would still be okay.
>> Lots of great new technology being developed.
>> I was struck in president Kennedy's speech in 1961 when
he made the official announcement that we would go to the Moon,
he said using materials not yet invented, we will go before the
decade is out.
I think that's an important point.
That this will be a time for inventing new kinds of materials.
>> That's very exciting.
>> We'll see that happen in the next ten years or so.
>> Wow, very exciting.
Let's see what else we have here.
What type of outdoor physical activities that can you do on Mars?
>> I would say hopefully the goal is to do the same types
of outdoor physical types of activities that we do on Earth.
We will have to have space suits and life support systems.
As Bill said, we will work to minimize the impact of those so
we can still hike up mountains and to get to where the interesting
geology is, go to the interesting locations where we might want
to search for biology.
Do rigorous activities such as drilling on Mars or using heavy
equipment or working with robots or having the agent help us.
I think one of the goals is to try to limit the limitations, really.
We can do the same sorts of things on Earth, because as we go
into these field sites and do these field activities, we’re
learning what sorts of activities we need to do to get our fieldwork
done. And so we want to be able to do those same types of things
>> I don't want to leave out in Antarctica, they play sports
outside, even in the dead of winter, and so I would be interesting
in running on Mars, and playing basketball.
Because, imagine, the gravity is only about 38%.
How high could you hit that ball, and I’m sure people would
do that within the first few weeks.
I bet I could even slam-dunk on Mars.
>>We have a question from Antioch Charter school asking
if you’ll be able to plant vegetation on Mars, and where
will people’s food come from?
>>That’s a fantastic question, and there’s a
lot of people that are researching that right now. There have been
some experiments. We have Mars simulant soils from a volcano in
Hawaii, which as close as we know matches the mineralogy and the
particle size, shape, distribution of the regolith on Mars. We’ve
been doing experiments of actually growing plants in this Mars
stimulant soil. Also, there’s been a lot of work done in
growing plants in low-pressure chambers to simulate the low atmospheric
pressure on Mars. Eventually we may want to send a plant to Mars
before we send people, and do a robotic experiment to see if we
can actually grow the plants on Mars. When we go to Mars, and we
want to have a permanent settlement there, we have to be able to
supply our own food and grow our own crops and be self-sustaining
instead of being reliant on Earth the whole time.
>>It would be a major challenge to have to import food to
Mars from Earth.
>>One thing about the greenhouses besides being extremely
useful and necessary for long stays, they are something that we
know people enjoy doing. So being able to go out into a greenhouse,
where you might have a larger space than the one you’ve been
confined in, and to work, to garden, we know many people simply
enjoy that. And then to visit the greenhouse, maybe sit there and
read a book, maybe it’s a little more human. So a lot more
benefits than just the food for us.
>> One more question and then we'll move on to a little
more career information. When do you think the first colony will
be established on Mars, and how long will it take to build? Do
you think it will be in our lifetimes?
>> I hope so.
I think that the generation of students that are in school right
now are the ones that are going to go, and they’re the ones
that are going to build these things, and they’re going to
be the people that are on Mars, so it’s the people that are
doing this challenge right now that are going to be sending things
to Mars and building things on Mars. So I think it’s up to
>> If you have any more questions, just ask now.
Let's find out a little bit more about what it takes to become
one of our experts here, and what a typical day in their lives
Steve, what made you interested in becoming a Park Ranger?
>> I traveled to National Parks as a child and was inspired
by National Parks, and thought how neat it would be to be a Park
Ranger. And then as I started getting older, I took the courses
that I needed in order to move toward that goal, like biology.
And I was also interested in teaching, and what could be a better
outdoor classroom than a National Park? I got into teaching, then
became a Park Ranger and combined the two to have a career as an
outdoor educator in the NPS. For me, working with schools at Lassen
here is an exciting opportunity to share the wonder and beauty
of a national park. It’s an outdoor classroom where it’s
fun to work with people of all ages.
>>Are there any courses that our students could take to
help prepare them for a career like yours?
>>Biological science, communication, and in some cases recreation
management – all help in providing the background needed
to become a park ranger.
What are your daily activities here at the Park?
Mainly I work in visitor services, helping visitors interpret
and understand the Park itself. I supervise the visitor center,
work with school groups, support search and rescue efforts. It’s
a job that requires a lot of multitasking. So it’s not all
just hiking trails and talking to people, but a variety of things
that are required. It’s a fun, positive lifestyle.
>>And Jen how did you get your start in science?
>>In school I was always interested in math and science,
and particularly in space. I remember in school, we learned about
the planets in the 3rd grade. And then I never saw them again until
college, but they were still there! And then I went to space camp,
which was a fantastic experience. And then when you’re in
college you can take all kinds of great courses like astronomy
and physics and a lot of math and science and geology.
>>And to prepare for those courses you needed to take a
lot of math and science growing up.
Right. All through middle school and high school to get that solid
foundation. If you take all the coursework ahead of time, you’re
prepared to go on and do whatever you’d like to after that.
Looks like it’s pretty worthwhile.
How do you spend the majority of your time? Out in the field,
in the lab?
It’s a mix.Some days I’ll be working on my computer,
or looking at data sent back from Mars, or in the lab working on
equipment, or out in the field.There’s a lot that has to
be done, which is exciting, too, because then it’s always
different and new.
>>Is Lassen your only area of study?
I’m working at a few different field sites. I’ve been
working in the Arctic for several years. We’ve gone to the
Mojave, and Death Valley. I just came back from the Australian
outback, where we’re setting up Mars analog research.
>>If you go to quest.nasa.gov, you can see some of those
analog field sites and explore on your own.
And Bill, how did you get your start?
It’s interesting. Even though Jen and are are in very different
fields, we got our start in similar ways. I was also very interested
in science, I read everything in the paper about the space
program in the 1960’s.
I absorbed it.
But space science wasn’t a common career then, so I went
in the direction of computer science and artificial intellience.
I was fascinated by the programming.
It was like doing puzzles.
I got lost for hours at a time.
I said this is what I should be paid to do, because I do it automatically.
So it was interesting.
I was already interested in robots.
I liked the idea that you could talk to a robot and ask a question
and they could answer it for you.
I did over time learn much more about people. I took anthropology
classes and philosophy – philosophy is very relevant to the
study of space science and it’s
very relevant to know what is knowledge and what is the nature
>> Why is that?
>> Well, if you are going to build a computer program that
has a memory, and like today, we really don't understand what conciousness
is, at all in the sense of human beings.-- We don't understand
how the brain works.
It's rather inconceivable that we could build a robot with consciousness
unless we understand better.
I think today people are realizing that the biological perspective
is where we’ll learn
more about how does nature work.
>> Learn more about ourselves.
>> And again, as I said, we'll have an idea about what can
we build that will help us?
You know, what are our limitations?
What do we enjoy doing?
>> How do you spend most of your day-to-day life?
>> As Jen said, every day is different.
Never a boring moment, for sure.
Always many things to do.
I enjoy reading and writing.
I write a lot.
I do presentations.
Working on photographs and video, which has been one of the real
pleasures at NASA that -- it helps me do my work.
My hobbies are part of my work at NASA.
Science was a hobby. And now I’m helping for Mars.
What advice do you have for those interested in your field?
>> I think that aspect of follow your nose, follow your
Work on things that you like doing.
Photography, if you like being outdoors.
Have hobbies where you like to be.
>> Read about it.
Go talk to somebody who already has that as their profession.
More of that.
And Jen, do you have any advice for our up and coming planetary
>> Figure out what it is, try different things, what you
like to do and talk to people that do that and can help point you
in the right direction.
Try and learn as much about it as you can.
Which if it's something you really like, you'll know because you
enjoy learning more about it.
>> Follow your dreams.
>> That's right.
Strive in the direction of your dreams and you can't help but
>> What if you find those math and science classes to be
really hard, to be a stumbling block?
>> Keep going.
It's always hard.
>> That's a good thing to know, too, that it might be hard.
It might be challenging.
But it's worthwhile.
We have more questions from our chat room.
One for Steve.
How are the forest rangers helping?
We’re providing Jen with some of the background information
they need. Help in selecting the site, giving weather information,
helping them understand the physical environment to help aid them
in implementing their equipment. Throught the year, we’ll
be assisting with updating weather conditions, ground support,
historical information.. We’re behind the scenes providing
them with the information they need to help make the project a
>>And Jen, you and Bill will only be here during this time.
We probably won’t be back again until after the winter to
download the data.
So Steve really has to act as your eyes and ears while they’re
It’s a rough job, but I’ll manage..
>> It's extremely useful to us have Steve here being willing
to help us out and collaborate.
We couldn't do it without their help.
>> Steve is our agent.
We want to see, what is he doing for us that we might not be so
lucky on Mars to have someone.
>> All right.
I have a question from the chat room.
What are the requirements for something to be -- a Mars analog?
>> Obviously no place on Earth is exactly like Mars.
So it's part of what you're going to study.
If you want to study the dry environment, then you would go to desert,
like the Mojave, or if study things that happen in cold environments,
you would go to places like the Arctic.
It depends on the particular aspects.
Also, some of the analog environments have unique features that
we’d like to look at.
For example, in the Arctic, they're studying the saline springs
that flow-- [INAUDIBLE].
all year-round through permafrost-- [INAUDIBLE]. And something
like this might be happening on Mars.
We want to go to that site.
Another example is going to the Atacama Desert.
It is very dry and you have a hard time finding life there. And
that’s very Mars-like.
It's very dry there.
That's why we go to a bunch of different places around the world.
>> How has the electrical interference affected your work
Is this something that will affect you on Mars?
>> We haven't had too much yet.
>> It is very remote there, which is a good thing.
So we think our electronics should be okay.
Everything here is battery powered.
So we have our batteries and we fully charge them, as we did overnight
We think that everything should work all right.
|We’ve used similar equipement in some of our other analog
They worked okay.
So as for the -- [INAUDIBLE].
On Mars one of the considerations is that we have is that there
are dust devils on Mars.
People have been studying the electrical discharges.
If you actually take – Mars stimulant soild[INAUDIBLE] and
you mix it up, you can actually see the sparks. [INAUDIBLE].
So that's one of the things we were looking at.
Is that enough to actually Affect -- .
That's a very good question.
>> From the computer science side, we're interested in electronic
interference and it's advantage to being here to know we can use
our systems without much interference.
We don't have to worry about it.
[>> It's a very complicated network with wireless networks.
We can do that very well in the desert.
That makes it -- even if it doesn't have a particular desert features.
>> We have a question for Steve.
Do you think there will be parks on Mars?
And what would your job be like, to be a park ranger on Mars?
>> Well, I don't know.
Since it's in the solar system, we'll have to talk to the international
community-- [INAUDIBLE] about it and the United States department
of -- .
But the concept of a solar national park is really neat.
You know, similar jobs.
You're observing and protecting the site itself.
You’re providing information to people around the world
about the site.
>> Is that an important aspect of the challenge also, protecting
the environment, and making sure that we're not destroying anything
that might already be there?
Other it's important both for Mars and also for here, because
we don't want to disrupt anything.
We want to be as non-invasive as possible, so we're not stirring
anything around, not moving huge boulders.
Trying not to leave a path.
Walking down to our field site, we're trying to minimize our impact.
And we should do the same on Mars, as well.
>> We have one here from De Richard.
Are aero gels being used in the vehicles-- [INAUDIBLE] on Mars?
Could they be used in spacesuits>
Any information on that?
>> Well, we use aerogels to capture comet materials, but
I don’tthink it’s been used on Mars.-- [INAUDIBLE]
to -- .
I'm not aware of -- .
>> All right.
Maybe do a little more research and let them find out for themselves.
>> Yes, let us know.
>> And, oh, here's a good question.
Do you make use of engineers and what type of engineers?
>> Yes, yes, yes.
>> I think Jen has some in her research group right now.
>> Yes, we have several engineers in our research group.
A few of them are here today.
Particularly, we need an electrical engineer because we have a
lot of equipment that needs to be wired and programmed and tested.
And, you know, test the batteries.
So having that electrical application is very needed.
Also from the design aspect -- [INAUDIBLE].
Engineers are critical for the design -- [INAUDIBLE].
>> One thing that is especially interesting is that different
areas have to work together.
So when we work in Utah, we have engineers who worry about the
Others who worry about the robots.
And others who worry about our agents.
And seeing how they collaborate in such a natural way is very
rewarding and what makes it fun.
So matter what your interest, you will have some kind of involvement
with this Mars analog research.
>> That's one of the great things about it is that it encompasses
more expert than one person can have.
You have to get a group of people that can cover all of your bases.
>> Teamwork and group work is very important.
I don't see how one person could possibly do this on their own.
This is a question for all of you, I guess.
What interesting things have you discovered so far at lassen.
One of the most interesting things I’ve seen is the snow
>> Really amazing, because, when we came up a few months
ago, these big patches of snow with bright red streaks running
through the snow, as I've never seen before.
Had I not been coming here knowing that it was snow algae, I don't
know that I would have known what that was.
I bet there would be a lot of that on Mars, where you don't expect
to see certain things in places and you have to go and figure out
what it is and try and understand it.
So a lot of important observation skills.
>> I think when you compare our trip here in July to now,
July felt like springtime.
It's very organic.
All of the plants were growing.
That was the very end of July.
It made us aware that the seasons here are quite different than
we're used to.
On Mars you're going to have a year which is the equivalent to
almost two Earth years.
What will the seasons be like on Mars?
How will that affect our deployment of instruments and exploring?
>> It could have an effect on everything.
Important thing to take into consideration.
Any other questions here?
Well, looks like -- oh, we have one question about the robots.
Why are the robots lasting longer than a year on Mars?
>> Well, they have already lasted more than a year-and-a-half.
>> Oh, well, look at that.
>> See, when we build a -- we want to have some sense of
how long can we hope to get it to last.
And the engineers have to make promises.
And it's like a warranty when you buy an appliance.
They warranty the robots for 90 days.
So here we are going on much more than a year-and-a-half.
And some of the specialists tell me we could go for several years
That has a major effect now on the design of the future robots.
Thank you very much.
Any more information you would like to give to the students to
prepare them for their challenge?
Looks like we have a couple more questions coming in.
Here's a good one.
This probably relates to a lot of the Mars analog research also.
How are you going to use the data from Lassen once you collect
>> Well, we're working with a group at Ames Research Center
and also another group at Colorado.
We're developing a computer model of snow packs on Earth and on
We want to run simulations giving different environmental conditions
with different air temperatures and air pressures.
We run these models and they can figure out and calculate how
much runoff we expect.
How much snow do we expect to melt and how much liquid water do
we expect to get.
We do these theoretical calculations based on the physics of snow
melting and the radiation hitting it and what the temperatures
Then we will take the data from the field and compare it with
our models and see if the models are matching in the field and
if they're not, why aren't they.
Tweak them and fix them so you understand the physics of what's
going on in the snowpack.
Once we have our model working because we have compared it with
real data, then it's easy to change the air temperature from Earth
>> It does take a combination of being out there and having
the real life experience and having computer know how to make a
>> I might add that the information we get from this project
benefits us, too, because we learn more about the snowpack and
So this partnership between us and the National Park Service is
great for everyone because it increases the base of knowledge about
the national park and about what we want to accomplish on Mars.
>> I would point out this is now another opportunity for
One idea -- remember, an agent can be like a little software program.
It could write these customized web pages.
We could write a web page for Steve that will show what he might
be interested in, the data that we're collecting.
A different page for Jen and she could see different things brought
together that interest her.
>> All right.
Sounds like we have many uses for those agents.
>> Looks like it's about time to wrap up here.
Any last words of advice for our students before we go?
>> I'm looking forward to if they come up with the challenge.
In this hour, we've raised a lot of issues that are needed for
the design of a Mars mission.
There are many facets to the design.
The habitat, the instruments, the getting there, to living there.
So it's not an easy problem.
And it's impressive that the students have taken on the challenge.
>> That's very true.
We look forward to the future designs.
This could be future designs for Mars exploration some day.
Thank you for being with us today.
Good luck to the students on the challenge.
Remember to visit quest.NASA.gov for more information.
Your designs are due on October 31.
Make sure to get them in.
Thank you very much.