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02-041
For Release: June 13, 2002

Barbara L. Kakiris, InDyne, Inc.
Media Relations Office
216/433-2901

Lori J. Rachul
Media Relations Office
216/433-8806
Lori.J.Rachul@nasa.gov


Ohio Scientist's Proposal Is Out of This World

Dr. Geoffrey A. Landis, an aerospace engineer at NASA's Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, thinks he knows what it takes to explore Mars. And the Agency believes him. Landis' proposal, "Study of Solar Energy and Dust Accumulation on the Rovers," was one of 28 scientific studies of Mars recently selected by NASA for the 2003 Mars Exploration Rover Mission.

His proposal calls for the use of Mars Exploration Rover (MER) instrumentation to study the intensity, spatial and spectral distribution of solar energy on the Mars surface, and to compare the measured values with various models of solar distribution. Landis will measure three additional properties: the rate of deposition and removal of atmospheric dust on the rover's solar arrays; the operating temperature of the solar arrays on Mars; and the degradation (if any) of the solar power system in the Martian environment. Finally, data derived from these measurements will be used to determine the optical properties of atmospheric and deposited dust.

"I'm really looking forward to working on this mission," says Landis. "The two MER vehicles are going to be much larger and more capable than the Sojourner rover. They can traverse longer distances and make better measurements. This is an exciting mission-I expect that we'll learn a lot about what the surface of Mars is like."

Landis, who resides in Berea, Ohio, has previous Mars mission experience working on 1997's successful Mars Pathfinder expedition as a science investigator of the rover, Sojourner. He and a team of Glenn engineers built a miniature instrument to look for dust accumulation on the rover's solar panels. Giant storms raise large amounts of dust into the Mars atmosphere, and dust settling can degrade solar arrays. Landis' experiment showed almost 20% loss of solar array power during two months on Mars. While not detrimental to the Sojourner mission, such a trend poses a concern for longer missions. Understanding solar power on Mars is important to future exploration, including possible human missions.

The selected proposals were judged to have the best science value among 84 proposals submitted to NASA last December in response to the Mars Exploration Rover Announcement of Opportunity. Each selected investigation will work with the Mars Exploration Rover Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and will become full mission science-team members, joining previously selected scientists as part of the Athena payload science team.

The MER rover mission will send twin rovers to the surface of Mars, landing in January and February 2004. The rover mission science objectives include: (1) study rocks and soils for clues to past water activity; (2) investigate landing sites that have a high probability of containing evidence of the action of liquid water; (3) determine the distribution and composition of minerals, rocks and soils surrounding the landing sites; (4) determine the nature of local surface geologic processes; (5) calibrate and validate data from orbiting missions at each landing site; and (6) study the geologic processes for clues about the environmental conditions that existed when liquid water was present and whether those environments were conducive for life.

A print quality photo of Landis is available online: http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/PAO/pressrel/2002/02-041addm.html

A full list of selected investigators can be found in the official NASA HQ announcement: ftp://ftp.hq.nasa.gov/pub/pao/pressrel/2002/02-100.txt

More information on the 2003 MER rover mission is available online: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/future/2003.html

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