Mars Talk

By Amanda Newfield

Astronomy and geology students came together last Wednesday to
listen to a talk given by John Grotzinger of NASA on the recent
discoveries of the environment on the surface of Mars.The
Sedimentary Rock Record and Early Environmental History of Mars
talk took place in Ursa Major of the BSC from noon to 1 p.m.Anne
Scott, a Cal Poly geology professor, was responsible for organizing
the event and bringing Grotzinger, a former colleague, to Cal Poly
for the Mars talk.”I recently saw a talk he gave at Symposium in
Montana,” Scott said. “He actually offered, he said sure I’d love
to come talk to your class.”Grogtzinger, a professor of geology at
the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and project
scientist for the NASA Mars Science Laboratory, said he was happy
to give a talk to Cal Poly students of different disciplines. “I’m
very interested in outreach, I think it’s an important point of the
NASA mission program,” he said. “[I’m trying] to help everyone
understand what it is we are trying to accomplish and why they can
view it as an investment in the future of the country and in their
education.” The main topics up for discussion at the event dealt
with the history of the missions to Mars and the discoveries made
because of those studies, as well as the hopeful finding of future
missions, which may lead to the discovery of former life on the
desert planet. “I find that students really love this [topic]
because it integrates a lot of the great mysteries of science, he
said. “Are there other things out there that are alive?”As the
chief scientist for the upcoming mission, Grotzinger is responsible
for working with the group of principal investigators who are
responsible for the building of the instruments.According to
Grotzinger the mission, which is scheduled to be launched in 2011,
will require cooperation between scientists and engineers in order
to be a success.”[This type of study] requires an audience of
scientists and engineers,” said Grotzinger. “Working on a mission
like this is really a team effort, in the literal sense of the
word.” The future mission will give insights into how the surface
environment of Mars has changed over time, and the chemical
composition of its rocks. Sedimentary Analysis at Mars, or SAM, is
the name of the rover scientists are planning to send to Mars.
Grotzinger explained that SAM is the “hummer version” mars rovers,
being larger, heavier and more advanced than its predecessors.
Grotzinger also stated that this nuclear-powered robot is one of
the most complicated devices ever to be sent out into space.”We
will be working with various types of engineering challenges as
they come up and when we get on the [Mars] ground the goal will be
to lead all the participants in the right direction.”Students from
many different majors attended the event, because of the broad
subject matter and intriguing topics. Yamal Puyehgar, a fourth-year
construction engineering student, attended because of his
fascination with astronomy-related topics.”Mars is something I am
interested in,” said Puyehgar. Kelly Kinder, a fourth-year geology
student, attended the event and was well versed on the topic
discussed at the event.”I wanted to work for Jet Propulsion
Laboratory for the longest time, so I’ve seen a lot of the lectures
that are based on this, ” Kinder said. “I’ve gone to the talks at
JPL before, so I kind of knew what the talk was going to be about,
I just haven’t been to one in a long time. It was nice to see it
again.”Kinder was excited to see the enthusiasm and amount of
interest shown by the students who attended the event.”I was
actually shocked by how many people came in,” said Kinder. “[The
talk] will definitely get more people interested. Its nice to see
how it relates to opportunities coming up.”

Mars Talk

Amanda Newfield/Poly Post

Mars Talk

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