New Mars research facility to involve scientists, kids NASA

Arizona State University and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, are creating a new NASA facility that will be used by scientists and students studying Mars. ASU and JPL will jointly fund the facility, with JPL providing $1.45 million in initial funding. The ASU Planetary Imaging Facility and Advanced Training Institute (PIF-ATI) is an expansion of a facility originally planned to support the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS), a thermal infrared camera system that will fly on the 2001 Mars Odyssey spacecraft and is directed by ASU Geological Sciences Professor Philip Christensen. According to NASA and ASU scientists, the facility is “a new model” for planetary research projects that will allow greater instrument and data access to scientists outside the project, as well as to university students and even to 5th through 12th grade educators and their students. Also in the planning stages is a graduate and undergraduate program where entry-level personnel can be trained in spacecraft operations and maintenance.