NASA picks two IU devices to go to Mars

December 15, 2004
NASA picks two IU devices to go to Mars

Two of the eight instruments selected to go on a Mars rover have Indiana University Bloomington geologists behind them, NASA announced yesterday.
One of the devices will provide scientists with a closer look at Mars -- literally. The other will tell us, for the first time, what Mars is actually made of.

Photo: This artist's conception shows the NASA Mars Science Laboratory rover exploring a canyon plateau. (NASA/JPL)

The rover mission is named Mars Science Laboratory and currently is slated for Earth launch in 2009, Mars arrival in 2010. The mission is part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, which will "deliver a mobile laboratory to the surface of Mars to explore a local region as a potential habitat for past or present life," according to NASA's press release.

Despite decades of study, scientists still don't know what rocks make up Mars' surface, let alone the strata underneath. Scientists know roughly what elements exist on Mars but not how they're organized in minerals and rocks. To begin addressing that deficiency, IUB geologist David Bish is working with colleagues from Los Alamos National Laboratory, NASA's Ames Research Center and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to develop a miniature "x-ray diffractometer" that can parse the Martian surface. Typical x-ray diffractometers are the size of large refrigerators -- way too big for NASA's diminutive rovers. So far, the team has gotten the device down to toaster-size, which is, remarkably, still too big.

"We've got to get the diffractometer down to the size of a Coke can," said Bish, a recent Los Alamos emigre who holds the Haydn Murray Chair in applied clay mineralogy. "I think we can do it in time to get the device on a 2009 mission."

IUB sedimentologist Juergen Schieber's contribution to Mars Science Lab will be a wide-angle microscopic camera for imaging rocks, soil, frost and ice at resolutions never before achieved. Schieber will be working with Ken Edgett of Malin Space Science Systems on the project.

Source: Indiana University

Explore further: New detector perfect for asteroid mining, planetary research

Related Stories

Curiosity Mars rover heads toward active dunes

November 17, 2015

On its way to higher layers of the mountain where it is investigating how Mars' environment changed billions of years ago, NASA's Curiosity Mars rover will take advantage of a chance to study some modern Martian activity ...

Rewrite of onboard memory planned for NASA Mars orbiter

October 30, 2015

Tables stored in flash memory aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) tell locations of Earth and the sun for the past 10 years, but not their locations next year. That needs to be changed. Carefully.

Upgrade helps NASA study mineral veins on Mars

November 12, 2015

Scientists now have a better understanding about a site with the most chemically diverse mineral veins NASA's Curiosity rover has examined on Mars, thanks in part to a valuable new resource scientists used in analyzing data ...

NASA vs. cigarettes—a numbers game

November 17, 2015

People often criticize the amount of money spent on space exploration. Sometimes it's well-meaning friends and family who say that that money is wasted, and would be better spent on solving problems here on Earth. In fact, ...

Recommended for you

'Material universe' yields surprising new particle

November 25, 2015

An international team of researchers has predicted the existence of a new type of particle called the type-II Weyl fermion in metallic materials. When subjected to a magnetic field, the materials containing the particle act ...

CERN collides heavy nuclei at new record high energy

November 25, 2015

The world's most powerful accelerator, the 27 km long Large Hadron Collider (LHC) operating at CERN in Geneva established collisions between lead nuclei, this morning, at the highest energies ever. The LHC has been colliding ...

Study suggests fish can experience 'emotional fever'

November 25, 2015

(—A small team of researchers from the U.K. and Spain has found via lab study that at least one type of fish is capable of experiencing 'emotional fever,' which suggests it may qualify as a sentient being. In their ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.