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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 here today.

Thank you.

>> 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 areas.

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 aside.

>> 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 time.-- [INAUDIBLE].

Who knows when the next volcano will erupt here at Lassen. We sure don’t.

>> Okay.

Sounds like we're safe for the moment.

All right.

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 water.

The reason the liquid water is interesting is because, two reasons, really.

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 thing.

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 features.

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 of Mars.

>> That's very exciting.

It’s neat to be able to Conduct research on Mars here on Earth.

And Bill, you’re a computer scientist specializing in artificial intelligence.

>> 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 comfortably.

NASA is planning to send human explorers back to the Moon and to Mars.

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.

>> Okay.

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 tools.

Then I have to think about, well, how would that be different on Mars.

Maybe I could give them, like, a robotic mule that could carry things.

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?

>> Sure.

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 red.

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].

>> Right.

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 is?

>> Okay.

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 world.

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 environment.

>> 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.

>> Definitely.

>>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 analog challenge.

Remember, instructions for the challenge and more information can be found on the teachers page at

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 Mars?

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 habitats.

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 else.

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 Mars.

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.

>> Right.

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 terrain?

>> 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 gear.

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 don't slip.

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 work.

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, right?

>> Right.

>> 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 site.

>> Okay.

>> 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 the van.

>> 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 up.

As Bill said, we were building things in the parking lot this morning.

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 packed.

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 equipment.

The agents could have been doing some test runs during the night.

Say, maybe you should check that rain gauge, see if the camera is working.

>> 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 like this.

>> 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 back home.

Can you tell us a little more about the instrumentation you’re using here?

>> 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.

>> Okay.

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.

>> Right.

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 challenge participants.

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 away.

>> First, as a clue, the sun has certain kinds of radiation, but there's other types of radiation that has to be considered, as well.

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 outside.

>> Okay.

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 Mars.

>> Okay.

>> 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 landing.

So we learned something about that metal from that.

That's something you can learn about on the web.

>> Okay.


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.

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 pressure suits.

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 easily.

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 open?

>> Right.

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.


Here's one.

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 on Mars.

>> 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 them.

>> If you have any more questions, just ask now.

All right.

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 are like.

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, 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 of understanding.

>> 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?

Work together.

>> 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 interests.

Learn more.

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 scientists?

>> 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 succeed.

>> Right.

>> 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 success.

>>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 away.

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 at Lassen?

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 last night.

We think that everything should work all right.

|We’ve used similar equipement in some of our other analog environements, and

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.

>> Okay.

>> 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 wireless networks.

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.

>> Great.

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.

>> Great.

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 algae.

>> 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.

>> Okay.

So a lot of important observation skills.

>> Yes.

>> 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.

All right.

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 more.

That has a major effect now on the design of the future robots.

>> Okay.


Thank you very much.

All right.

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.

>> Okay.

>> Okay.

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 it?

>> 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 Mars.

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 are.

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 to Mars.

>> It does take a combination of being out there and having the real life experience and having computer know how to make a model?

>> Yes.



>> I might add that the information we get from this project benefits us, too, because we learn more about the snowpack and snow algae.

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.

>> Okay.

>> I would point out this is now another opportunity for the agents.

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 for more information.

Your designs are due on October 31.

Make sure to get them in.

Thank you very much.


 FirstGov  NASA
Curator: Allison Pasciuto
NASA Official: Mark León
Last Updated: February 2005
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