October 24th, 2013

UA Student Finds ‘Hawaiian Beach’ Sand on Mars University of Arizona

Most geology students are used to traveling far and wide to collect samples for their research, but University of Arizona Shaunna Morrison has everybody beat by a long shot: 140 million miles, on average, stand between her sampling sites and her lab.
As part of NASA’s designated science team in charge of CheMin, one of 10 scientific instruments mounted on the Mars rover Curiosity, Morrison never gets her hands on the samples she collects, but that’s a small price to pay for the opportunity to analyze soil scooped up by a robot on another planet.
Earlier this month, Morrison co-authored two scientific publications in the journal Science, reporting the first scientific results of Curiosity’s digging into the soil near Mount Sharp in Gale Crater. Morrison provided the first detailed analyses of individual mineral compositions in the Martian surface.
“We knew from previous Mars missions what elements are present in the Martian soil, but we didn’t know how they are arranged, in other words, what minerals they form,” said Morrison, a first-year PhD student in the UA Department of Geosciences.

September 19th, 2008

HiRISE Stereo, Color Images Detail Mars Terrain that Tantalizes Explorers University of Arizona

The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, has returned more than 8,214 gigapixel-size images of the Martian surface since the start of the science phase of the mission in November 2006.
HiRISE scientists released 1,005 observations of Mars made between April 26 and July 21 to NASA’s mission data archive, called the Planetary Data System, and also to the public last week.
The new images, a total 3.4 terabytes of data, can be found on the HiRISE Web site.
The HiRISE team has so far released a total 26.9 terabytes of data in more than 7,100 observations with 718,000 different image products derived from those observations, said HiRISE operations manager Eric Eliason of The University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.
That amounts to more data than has been released by all previous deep space missions combined. The image products include color images and stereo pairs, as well as monochrome images.
“If I showed each HiRISE image for 10 seconds, it would take me about 4 years to show them all,” said UA’s Alfred McEwen, HiRISE principal investigator.
Despite this massive data volume, HiRISE images cover less than four-fifths of one percent of the area of the planet.

July 29th, 2008

Phoenix Mars Lander Working With Sticky Soil University of Arizona

Scientists and engineers on NASA’s Phoenix Mars Mission spent the weekend examining how the icy soil on Mars interacts with the scoop on the lander’s robotic arm, while trying different techniques to deliver a sample to one of the instruments.
“It has really been a science experiment just learning how to interact with the icy soil on Mars – how it reacts with the scoop, its stickiness, whether it’s better to have it in the shade or the sunlight,” said Phoenix Principal Investigator Peter Smith of The University of Arizona.

December 9th, 2004

UA’s MAV Team Wins Top Honors in Fly-Off University of Arizona

UA’s Micro Air Vehicle (MAV) team took top honors earlier this month during the 4th International Micro Aerial Vehicle Meeting in Toulouse, France. The event included more than a dozen teams from France, Germany, Belgium, Norway, and the United States. The UA plane, a flying wing with a 6-inch wingspan, was easily the smallest surveillance plane at the competition. The radio-controlled MAV flew a triangular course that was 100 meters on a side. It also used an onboard video camera to photograph and return an image of a target placed along the course. 100 meters is about the length of a football field, including the end zones.

December 9th, 2004

Ultra-sharp, Mars-Bound HiRISE Camera Delivered University of Arizona

The camera that will take thousands of the sharpest, most detailed pictures of Mars ever produced from an orbiting spacecraft was delivered today for installation on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) will be launched on Aug. 10, 2005, carrying a payload of six science instruments and a communications relay package to boost the ongoing exploration of the red planet.

September 22nd, 2004

UA Student Runs Remote Center for Mars Rover Mission University of Arizona

Like some phenomenal high school quarterback drafted into the NFL, University of Arizona undergraduate Nicole Spanovich has made it as a pro. But her skill is in helping run rovers, named Spirit and Opportunity, on Mars. Spanovich, a UA astronomy senior, is running a remote operations center for NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission in Tucson. She set it up at the UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory’s Phoenix Project building, 1415 N. Sixth Ave., last month.

December 9th, 2002

Dark Streaks on Martian Slopes May Signal Active Water University of Arizona

Salty water driven by hot magma from Mars’ deep interior may be forming some of the mysterious dark slope streaks visible near the Red Planet’s equator, according to University of Arizona scientists. They have determined the dark slope streaks generally occur in areas of long-lived hydrothermal activity, magma-ground-ice interactions, and volcanic activity. Some of the dark slope streaks are brand new

December 6th, 2002

UA’s Proposed Phoenix Mission to Mars May Fly in 2007 University of Arizona

In June 2008, a lander mission called Phoenix could deliver tools to search for habitable zones and the history of water on Mars. NASA today announced that the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory’s Phoenix mission has been selected as one of four candidates to fly NASA’s first Mars Scout Mission, cost-capped at $325 million, planned for launch in 2007. Peter H. Smith of the UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory heads the Phoenix mission.

June 4th, 2001

Arizona Dust Devils Targeted for Mars Experiment University of Arizona

A University of Arizona-led international team of 20 space scientists and engineers this week are conducting an ambitious field test of equipment to study dust devils swirling over the Santa Cruz flats near Eloy, Arizona. The “Matador” experiment, led by Peter Smith of the UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and funded by NASA’s Human Exploration and Development of Space enterprise, will help define instruments needed for studying much larger dust devils on Mars later in this decade, possibly in 2007.

May 30th, 2001

Public Gets a Chance to Use Instrument Similar to One Headed for Mars University of Arizona

The UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory’s Gamma Ray Spectrometer Team has created an exhibit that describes the Gamma Ray Spectrometer (GRS) Instrument, part of the 2001 Mars Odyssey mission now on its way to Mars. The Mars Odyssey was launched on April 7, 2001 and is expected to arrive at Mars on Oct. 24 of this year. The Park Place exhibit allows participants to use and understand spectrometers, a key technology used in the GRS instrument. At the exhibit, spectrometer is used to view different kinds of lights. The spectrometer breaks the light into its individual colors and allows the chemicals in each bulb to be identified because of their unique, beautiful color patterns.

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