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Live from Mars 2002
Live from Mars 2002
14 Mar 2002
(Source: University of Arizona)


With Mars in the news, students interact with NASA researchers and find out how they can target a camera aboard the "Mars Odyssey" spacecraft!

Out-of-this-world interactive learning adventure debuts live at 1 to 2 p.m. (Eastern), Tuesday March 19, 2002 on participating public television stations and educational networks. (Check local listings)

Mars, the Red Planet, has always fascinated humans. Just last week, America Online showcased news of ancient Martian floods on its "Welcome" screen. Newspapers across the nation made the first discoveries from NASA's 2001 Mars Odyssey mission front page news: lots of water ice found on the planet! Now students watching via public television and NASA-TV, and connecting over the Internet, can interact with some of the same researchers who made those headlines. They'll also have the opportunity to explore Mars for themselves, through some of the amazing images recently sent back to Earth.

LIVE FROM MARS 2002 originates live from the Mars Student Imaging Facility, at Arizona State University, where Phil Christensen, who heads up the visible and infrared camera team for Odyssey, will unveil some images "just in" from Mars. Heather Enos from the Gamma Ray Spectrometer Team (GRS) at the University of Arizona, Tucson, will present some of the fundamental science behind the initial discoveries. Bill Feldman, from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, will use billiard balls and jars of water to explain how Odyssey's sophisticated instruments can tell the composition of Mars from high in orbit round the planet. Bill Boynton, head of the GRS team, describes their surprise at finding such large amounts of hydrogen, evidence of water ice, so early in the mission. On location at the Grand Canyon and Meteor Crater, viewers discover how Earth and Mars are both alike and also very different in geology and surface features, atmosphere and "weather", and explore the role of water in shaping the Martian landscape, and the possibility of past or present life.

One of the most unique aspects of the program will be an explanation of how students can now actually apply to target the THEMIS camera for themselves! The new Mars Student Imaging Facility, supported by NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, opened on February 22nd, just a few days after the first Odyssey science images arrived. MSIP Director Sheri Klug and colleagues explain the process of applying for on-site "missions," or connecting remotely via the Internet. The first group of on-site "Student Interns", from the Olympia school district, IL, explain what they've learned about image processing, and what features on Mars they've selected for the very first student target. Middle and High School students in Nogales, AZ, are seen getting ready for their own participation. Demonstrating more of what the Internet now makes possible, classrooms in Green Valley, close to Tucson; Chehalis, WA; Silverton, OR, and Pennsylvania, collaborate via videoconference on a hands-on activity building lava layers like those seen on Mars. Some of them interact with Phil Christensen and other members of the enthusiastic THEMIS team, and ask questions about the recent discoveries. Via videoconference and documentary sequences Odyssey scientists and engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory update us on the status of the spacecraft. Arizona student participation on site at MSIP and across the state is being supported by ASSET, Arizona School Services through Educational Technology, which will make the entire program accessible as an indexed video archive after the initial live program.

Viewers of this broadcast can do lots more than just sit back and watch: during the program, and for one hour afterwards, any student, anywhere, can use P2K's "ON-AIR" software to send questions to some of the scientists seen on camera, and get back answers in close to real time. After the broadcast, all the question and answer pairs will be archived as a student-generated Mars "FAQ." (Teachers are invited to subscribe to the moderated DISCUSS-MARS mail list to share resources with fellow-educators, and more: for information about how to subscribe, check out the LIVE FROM MARS 2002 section of the PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE website.

Looking to the future, Francis Cucinotta, Manager for Radiation Health at the Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, explains what the Martian Radiation Environment Experiment on Odyssey discovered en route to Mars, and how to keep future astronauts safe on the long journey there, and back. But first, in 2003, NASA will launch 2 robotic spacecraft, the Mars Exploration Rovers. Larger and heavier than the only previous rover mission, they're due to land on Mars in early 2004. One of Odyssey's tasks, in fact, is to scout out safe and scientifically interesting landing sites for the rovers. We go behind the scenes of this exciting new mission, seeing airbags being made in Delaware and tested in Ohio, sophisticated rock grinding instruments being manufactured in New York City, and the rovers themselves coming together in clean rooms and software testbeds at JPL. Students meet some of the hundreds of engineers and scientists already involved with the rovers, and find out that as they struggle with tight budgets and even tougher schedules, it's the creativity and persistence of the men and women on the rover team who really make the mission fly.

It's a fast-paced hour, formatted to be viewed again and again, and used in short segments, on tape, in class.

Major support for LIVE FROM MARS 2002 comes from NASA, through its Office of Space Science. Additional support for the ASU/MSIP uplink comes from ASSET, Arizona School Services through Educational Technology. Additional support for this program has been provided through the cooperation of the Mars Exploration Program at JPL (NASA/Caltech), the ASU Mars K-12 Education Program, Arizona State University, Tempe, and by KAET, Channel 8, Tempe. The remote classroom videoconference has been facilitated by Qwest Communications International, Inc.

PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE (P2K), producer of LIVE FROM MARS 2002, is public television's longest-running series of interactive science education projects. P2K's mission is to connect classroom instruction to exciting, current real world science. P2K aligns its materials with the National Academy's Science Education Standards and Project 2061/"Benchmarks." Its website ( also provides correlations with all 50 state science standards. To date P2K has created nearly 65 hours of original video programming, supported or complemented by award-winning on-line materials and inquiry-based hands-on activities, featuring world-class research and researchers working for NASA, NSF, NOAA and other leading science agencies. Objective measures show 22% improvements in work embodying the National Science Standards. Many public television stations nationwide now regard the LIVE FROM programs as valuable components of their schedule.

The program will be accessible to public television stations on Digicypher Channel 512, one of PBS's digitally-encoded transponders. (Please note, there will be NO test signal on this transponder: program begins straight up at 13:00 hours Eastern.) Please check local listings.

The program may also be accessed from a non-encrypted, analog, Ku-band transponder: AMC-3 (formerly GE-3), 87 degrees West, Ku-band, transponder 15, Horizontal polarity, downlink frequency, 12000.000 Mhz, audio on 6.2 and 6.8. (A test signal of slate, bars and tone will run from 12:30-13:00 Eastern, followed by the program.)

This program is free to all PBS stations and non-commercial educational networks upon registration of usage (form online and distributed via e-mail/PBS FirstClass), and may be re-broadcast unlimited times for one year after March 19. Teachers may tape the program off air and use it in class, also for one year after broadcast.

In addition, subject to Space Shuttle and International Space Station programming, we expect the programs to be carried live and/or on tape delay on NASA-TV. Please check the NASA-TV schedule on the day of the broadcast for any late pre-emptions. NTV is broadcast on GE-2, transponder 9C, C-Band, located at 85 degrees West longitude. The frequency is 3880.0 MHz. Polarization is vertical and audio is monaural at 6.8 MHz.

59:29, mono 2-track, not Closed Captioned.

LFM2002 relates cutting-edge space research to fundamental science concepts being studied in every course of instruction: light and optics, the spectrum, atoms and elements, weather on Earth and the planets of our solar system, water and life, and many more topics central to the curriculum. Target grades are 5-9, though extension options will easily engage elementary and high school students. Hands-on activities created by NASA, JPL, ASU and others are available online in PDF and html formats, via the Mars Exploration Program and Mars Odyssey websites:

Please contact PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE at (973) 656-9403 or via

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the 2001 Mars Odyssey mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. Investigators at Arizona State University in Tempe, the University of Arizona in Tucson, and NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, operate the science instruments. Additional science partners are located at the Russian Aviation and Space Agency, which provided the high-energy neutron detector, and at Los Alamos National Laboratories, New Mexico, which provided the neutron spectrometer. Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver, is the prime contractor for the project, and developed and built the orbiter. Mission operations are conducted jointly from Lockheed Martin and from JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

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Last Updated: 14 Mar 2002