News from NASA: Jim Green & Andrew Thomas

Quick notes, often copied from PowerPoints. Attempts to write in full paragraphs not made. Jim Green, Director of Planetary Science Division at NASA State of the State of NASA Planetary Science Division (PSD) 18 months ago PSD had these problems: The Reserarch and Analysis budget had been cut 15%. This below life support levels! With this level of cuts, professors began telling students not to go into Planetary Science. Astrobiology had been cut 50%. This got people asking if Astrobiology can survive? NASA is the parent of the astrobiology field and considers astrobiology very valuable. The field has the important mission to determine if there is life in the solar system. Somehow, in one year it’s budget saw $30 disappear! New Frontiers mission...

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Dinner Wednesday with insufficient notice

Sorry for the late notification. Rebecca and I will get dinner at boondogglespub.com at 7:30pm. We will be there until at least 8:30pm (and much later if we are joined by other people). All are welcome. I’ll check email on my iPhone tonight while there. ping me at pamela at starstryder dot com if you don’t see us.

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Mars got womped

Mars got womped

Let’s face it, impacts are cool. Big, small, it really doesn’t matter. Everyone likes a good geological train wreck , especially one not involving us. I just finished listening to one of the most fast paced, data flying talks I’ve seen so far. In 15 minutes, dozens of PowerPoint slides flew furiously as J.C. Andrews-Hanna presented tantalizing new results that indicate that Mars may have been hit by a 2230km diameter impactor early in its history (for perspective, Mars’ diameter is ~6800km – what hit it was ~1/3 its current size!). Here are the details. Anyone who has looked at a topographical map of mars (above right) has probably noticed that the planet has a split topography with one pole being significantly lower elevation than...

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LPSC Random with Alan Stern

I’m very frustrated. I have been walking around reading my schedule, preplanned and placed on my iPhone, trying to make sure I make it to everything I want/need to. One of the things on my list was Alan Stern’s address tonight at 5:30. The problem is it got moved to noon, and I only caught the last 20 minutes. That last 20 minutes did give me a chance to hear one of the best exchanges I’ve heard so far: Alan Stern: MSL can launch in 2011 if we miss the launch window [due to everything being behind schedule]. Infact, we can even launch in 2010 and hang out in a gravity assist Earth orbit that gets us to Mars the same time as the 2011 launch. That doesn’t get us to Mars any faster, but it gets MSL out of California. Audiance: HUGE laughter...

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Looking for Life of Mars: A Question of Temperature

Looking for Life of Mars: A Question of Temperature

Basic Question – where can life live and prosper on Mars? Or can it? Part of answering this question requires us to consider the temperature structure on Mars. As near as we can tell, temperatures above 253 K / -4F (as well as aqueous liquid, shielding from UV) are required for life. Salty water can be liquid to low 200’s, so low temperatures are the real limit. While the average temperature on Mars is no where this high, there are many places on Mars that daily get above this limit. (The 253K limit is based on Siberian permafrost methanogens.) The thing that really has to be brought home is how organics really can exist in briny solutions (really saly water).  In the laboratory, MgSO4, NaCl, MgCl2, CaCl2 Fe2(SO4)3 and other organics have happily...

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