December 19th, 2005

Bright Idea: Rover to zap rocks on Mars The Albuquerque Tribune

The next rover to land on Mars will come packing heat. On a mast above the six-wheeled, car-sized, insect-looking contraption will be a space laser system designed by Los Alamos National Laboratory. The laser will shoot at rocks from a distance and analyze what they’re made of, said Roger Wiens, a scientist working on the system. A Mars rover can’t drive up to everything that seems interesting – “They’d would never get anywhere,” Wiens said. The laser can zap interesting things from up to 30 feet away, and “if (the scientists are) still interested, they can drive up and whack off a sample.”

November 8th, 2004

Cell phone map may aid Mars rovers The Albuquerque Tribune

Cell phone companies would have a hard time setting up service on Mars. There are no maps of where communications signals will break up and no way to tell how radio waves will travel through the planet’s thin atmosphere or how the iron-rich soil might blur them, at least not yet. It’s not likely cell phone companies will set up service on the planet anytime soon, but a network could certainly help the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as it sends rovers to explore the remote and often rocky terrain, said Steve Horan, director of the Center for Space Telemetering and Telecommunications Systems at New Mexico State University.

August 2nd, 2004

Water could mean Mars hills were alive The Albuquerque Tribune

The Spirit rover has crossed into a new martian frontier – an unexplored hilltop that might hold secrets from the planet’s earliest history. Since it arrived Jan. 4, Spirit has spent its time exploring rocks on top of a powdery surface of volcanic rock and ash – called an ejecta blanket – spewed out from an ancient meteorite impact, said Larry Crumpler, a Mars Exploration Rover team member and curator at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. The rocks there were interesting, but not nearly as cool or old as the rocks Spirit reached last week, when it got to Columbia Hills, named after the space shuttle that exploded in February 2003.

April 5th, 2004

Los Alamos Lab helps heat things up in space The Albuquerque Tribune

Los Alamos National Laboratory gives the Mars rovers a warm feeling all over. That feeling isn’t love – not exactly. It’s plutonium heat. “Without our devices the Mars rovers would have to use battery power to keep their electronics warm,” said Jeff Huling, a Los Alamos scientist. “That would cut down on the lifespan of the mission. Our heaters have extended the lifetime of each rover from 20 days to 90 days or more.”

February 17th, 2004

Geologist having fun roving Mars The Albuquerque Tribune

Larry Crumpler is having the road trip of his life. The Albuquerque scientist may not have his foot on the gas pedal, but as part of the Mars Exploration Rover Team, he’s got the next best job. He’s hanging out in the back, checking out the scenery and telling the engineers driving the Spirit rover where to send the robotic vehicle in its jaunt across the alien landscape of Mars.

December 11th, 2003

Mars close at hand: Volunteers craft own rover The Albuquerque Tribune

The smell of wood and metal and the quiet chatter of engineers and artists fill the back halls at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. They’re building a model of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Mars Exploration Rover, which will become a feature attraction at the museum and the LodeStar Astronomy Center on Dec. 20.

November 17th, 2003

She’s learning to rough it, martian style The Albuquerque Tribune

Marvin the Martian has invaded Penny Boston’s office. Icons of the cartoon character hang from every available portion of shelf space. She says he’s helping her design a way for astronauts to live on the Red Planet – and she’s practicing in New Mexico caves. Boston, a scientist at New Mexico Tech, has studied Mars for the past 30 years. For the last 15 of them, she has also become one of the nation’s top experts on caves. Why not combine the two, she figured. Her idea: build inflatable living environments inside caves.

October 13th, 2003

Going up, waaayyy up: Space elevator envisioned The Albuquerque Tribune

Forget about the noisy, showy rocket-to-the-moon events in the 1960s and ’70s. A small band of Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists thinks the next giant leap for mankind is to build an elevator that reaches 62,000 miles into the sky. “The first country that owns the space elevator will own space,” said Bryan Laubscher, a lab scientist. “I believe that, and I think Los Alamos should be involved in making that happen.”

September 29th, 2003

Probe should help UNM group’s study of Mars The Albuquerque Tribune

There’s something about Mars that turns some scientists into kids. Horton Newsom, a University of New Mexico planetary scientist, is one of them. Ask him about his favorite subject and his eyes light up, scanning across the Mars globes and maps that cover almost every inch of his office.

April 28th, 2003

NMSU wired for Mars project The Albuquerque Tribune

New Mexico State University has a question for the Martians: Can you hear us now? The university was awarded a three-year, $650,000 grant from the National Air and Space Administration to design a wireless communications network for planetary rovers on Mars. The network will let NASA rovers on Mars quickly and easily transmit their findings back to Earth, said Stephen Horan, an electrical engineering professor who will help lead the project.

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