NASA picks two IU devices to go to Mars

Dec 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: NASA image: Curiosity's stars and stripes

Related Stories

New plan proposed to send humans to Mars

Jun 29, 2015

A new, cost-constrained U.S. strategy to send humans on Mars, could be achieved within projected NASA budgets by minimizing new developments and relying mainly on already available or planned NASA assets. ...

Under-ice rover chills with fish at aquatic exhibit

Jun 26, 2015

A school of sardines fluttered by as giant leafy kelp swayed back and forth at the California Science Center in Los Angeles on Monday, June 22. At the bottom of this 188,000-gallon aquatic tank, a bright ...

A brief history of nukes in space

Jun 26, 2015

In just a few short weeks, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will make its historic flyby of Pluto and its moons. Solar panels are unable to operate in the dim nether regions of the outer solar system, and instead, ...

Recommended for you

NASA image: Curiosity's stars and stripes

17 minutes ago

This view of the American flag medallion on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity was taken by the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) during the 44th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars (Sept. 19, 2012). ...

NASA image: Stellar sparklers that last

47 minutes ago

While fireworks only last a short time here on Earth, a bundle of cosmic sparklers in a nearby cluster of stars will be going off for a very long time. NGC 1333 is a star cluster populated with many young ...

Light echo helps researchers map out parts of galaxy

4 hours ago

Thousands of years before humans invented agriculture, a bright burst of X-rays left the dense neutron star Circinus X-1, located in the faint Southern constellation Circinus. A year and a half ago, those ...

User comments : 0

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.