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  • -= Mercurious Chat =- (bushroe2005 Chat Log)During this online chat, 57 questions were asked by 15 schools. There were 3 adults and 31 students involved in this chat.

    Hosted by Mike Bushroe of Cassini/Huygens mission engineer

    Kerrie Brandt - Moderator at Space Explorers, Inc. from De Pere, Wisconsin comments:
    Welcome to Space Explorers, Inc.’s live online chat. Please welcome today’s chat host: Michael Bushroe, Cassini-Huygens mission engineer.

    Kerrie Brandt - Moderator at Space Explorers, Inc. from De Pere, Wisconsin comments:
    Room opened by Moderator on 03/10/05 at 15:00.

    Ben - Chat Guest at from , Colorado asks:
    Is the Huygens probe still returning data from Titan?

    No. The batteries failed som number of hours after the probe landed. Since Cassini went below the horizon severla hours earlier, that extra battery life was not able to send data to Earth

    Chelsie - Chat Guest at Memorial Middle School from , asks:
    What has been the most facinating discovery of the mission so far?

    For me personally, seeing how much the surface of Titan where we landed looked very much like the dry was beds around my home in Tucson

    Mrs. Van Den Heuvel - Chat Guest at Franklin Elementary from , North Dakota asks:
    Could you tell us about a time when you had to work as a team in order to accomplish a difficult challenge?

    When the data ariived, we found several problems with it, and none of our pre-written software could easily work around those probelms. We had to work hard as ateam in Germany to produce even one panoramic image to present to the public

    Orlando - Chat Guest at School from Port chester, NY asks:
    What does the length of a planet's year have to do with its orbit?

    The further a planet is fromt he sun, the more slowly it revolves around the sun, making its' year much longer

    Ariana - Chat Guest at from , Maine asks:
    What do you like best about your job?

    I enjoy the inteligent, intersting people I work with, lunch conversations are never boring! I like doing cuttiong edge stuff, and knowing that in my own small way, I am helping to advance human knowldege!

    Mrs. Van Den Heuvel - Chat Guest at Franklin Elementary from , North Dakota asks:
    How did you get selected to be part of the Cassini/Huygens mission?

    I was selected 10 years ago to help with the testing and calibration of the instrument before launch. As it turned out, the man who hired me for this job had also hired my for my previous job, and spoe highly of my skills to the Principal Investiagtor.

    Ben - Chat Guest at from , Colorado asks:
    If Titan is similar to Earth, do you think there could be life there?

    We currently feel that Titan has recreated the PRE life conditions of Earth. But, it is too cold on Titan for liquid water to exist, and so we doubt that the complex organic molecules that have built up on Titan ever got a chance to develope into true life. So No, no life as we know it.

    Karen Bell - Chat Guest at from Anoka, Minnesota asks:
    What exactly is the DISR instrument you work with?

    DISR is the Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer. This mouth full means that it takes pictures during the descent phase of the mission, and also upwards and downwards spectra in the near infrared and visible spectrums. This is so that we can better understand the composition of Titan's Atmosphere.

    Ariana - Chat Guest at from , Maine asks:
    What is the most interesting thing you have learned about Titan through your research?

    We still have so much to learn that nothing stands out yet. The 'dentridic features' that look like rivers would probably be the best so far!

    Chelsie - Chat Guest at Memorial Middle School from , asks:
    What minerals are you most interested in discovering?

    We are more hoping to find complex carbon compounds, called organics even though they were made by non-living processes, more than minerals ont he surface.

    Mrs. Van Den Heuvel - Chat Guest at Franklin Elementary from , North Dakota asks:
    When did you first know you wanted to get involved with this mission?

    When I first hired on, I was more intersted in just haveing a job :)! But, now that we have reached the exciting stage, I would conitnue working even if I won the lottery. it is not every day that you get to be one of the first 12 human beings to see the surface of a new planet, nor create knowledge that so many others are excited to learn.

    Kendra - Chat Guest at E. Grant Junior High from , MN asks:
    Are we able to view the photos you take or are they classified?

    The raw photos from each of the three small camera are already available to the public on our web site, as well as ESA's web site. As we combine them and refine the images, they are temporarily proprietary, until published. if we released them to the public first, others could publish them and try to get the credit for them.

    Matt - Chat Guest at King Elementary from , Wisconsin asks:
    How long did it take to plan this mission?

    This mission was in the planning stages for at least 10 years before launching, 7 years in flight, 2 1/2 hours of actuall data taking, and several years of post mission data analysis. It is certainly not for the short attention spanned :)!

    Kendra - Chat Guest at E. Grant Junior High from , MN asks:
    Can you describe your typical day?

    I spend each day working in front of a computer. SInce I write complex programs, and use them to process large images, I have 2 two 20 inch monitors, each covered in many windows. I spend part of the tie writing new programs or modifying old ones to do new things, and part of the time assembling panoramic images of Titan, which I was doing just a few moments ago. The image I am currently working on is a low altitude horizon pan that will hopefully be ready in time for our paper in Nature

    cristian - Chat Guest at j.f.k from portchester, new york asks:
    how long is amars year ? how long is an earth year ?

    I beleive that a mars year is roughy 2 to 2 1/2 eather years. An earth year is one year :).

    Cassie - Chat Guest at from cincinatti, ohio asks:
    how did you get huygens on to titan?

    Huygens rode piggyback ont eh Casini space craft.The were launched by a Titan 4 Centaure rocket. When Huygens reached Titan, it detachted, drifted to Titan for 21 days, then aerobraked and descended on a parachute.

    Ben - Chat Guest at from , Colorado asks:
    How long have you been working on this mission?

    I have been working on this mission for over 10 years. My Boss for more like 18 years!

    Mrs. Van Den Heuvel - Chat Guest at Franklin Elementary from , North Dakota asks:
    Based on your findings, how would you describe the surface of Titan?

    Titan seems to be amazing like the Earth. But, instead of silicate rock, Titan has hard frozen water ice. And instead of water rain, Titan has methane/ethane rain. But the river beds and dry lake beds, hills, rocks, sand and soil look remarlably similar.

    Matt - Chat Guest at King Elementary from , Wisconsin asks:
    What is the distance from Earth to Saturn?

    The distance from the sun to Saturn is about 1 billion miles. Since the earth revolves around the sun, too, the Earth/Saturn distance varies a little around 1 billion miles.

    Malcolm - Chat Guest at Elmore Elementary from Green Bay, WI asks:
    How big are the cameras, how different ar they from the ones we have?

    The cameras on DISR are very tiny, very low resolution, and very special. They see in very dim light, since Titan is 10 times farther fromt he Sun, and with much finer resolution in each pixel. If we had flown an ordianry digital camera, the haze would have prevented us from seeing the surface at all!

    Karen Bell - Chat Guest at from Anoka, Minnesota asks:
    Have you always worked on space-related missions, or did you start out in a different branch of science?

    I started out with a double Bachelors degree in Math and Physics, then switched to Masters Degrees in Electrical Engineering and COmputer Science. Most of my time hase been spent programing computers, but only recently for the space program

    Elizabeth - Chat Guest at Memorial Middle School from , asks:
    Where is the spacecraft right now?

    Cassini will continue orbiting Saturn for years. A few days ago it passed by the moon Encaledus. Huygens remains where it hit ont he surface of Titan, and will do so forever.

    Chelsie - Chat Guest at Memorial Middle School from , asks:
    Do you think there will be more missions to Titan?

    I fear that with the budget tightening, and the President focusing efforts on manned missions to Mars, which do sound very exciting!, that we will not return to Titan for a very long time

    ashley - Chat Guest at st. johns lutheran from , asks:
    how big is titan.

    Titan is about 2600 in radius, and is just smaller than Jupiter's moon Ganymede. It is however large than Earth's moon, and large even then Mercury! If it did not circle Saturn, it would be a Planet in its' own right!

    Lauren - Chat Guest at from , New Mexico asks:
    what are the temperetures there?

    Titan is VERY VERY cold. The temperature is 95 degrees Kelvin (above absolute zero). I think that is around -350 degrees farnhiet, but I am not sure.

    Matt - Chat Guest at King Elementary from , Wisconsin asks:
    I have two questions that I would like for you to answer for me! How long did you have to go to college to become an engineer and did you have to have any special training to prepare for this mission?

    Many people complete an engineering degree in 4 years. However, I started in math and physics, and did not take any engineering course until I graduated. It took me about & years, and at that I did nto actually complete the Computer Science Masters. My backgraound was strong enough that no special training was required to contribute many things to this mission, for which I am very glad!

    Lauren - Chat Guest at from , New Mexico asks:
    When you take pictures, how long before you can see them?

    ALthough the DISR camera are digital, they require a telemtery process to get them out of the instrument and into a computer, the telemtry must then be decoded into raw data, then the raw data must be read by yet another program before it can be displayed. This can happen in only a few minutes. For the actuall descent, we had to wait about 7 hours!!!

    Dillon - Chat Guest at Jackson Middle School from San Antonio, TX asks:
    Are you working on any other missions?

    I am not working on any other mission right now. I would have worked on the Mars Polar Lander, but that mission crashed when a faulty switched caused te rocket engines to stop too soon. I may work on the Phoenix mission to Mars when I am done working for DISR.

    Matt - Chat Guest at King Elementary from , Wisconsin asks:
    What do you hope to find from this mission?

    We hope to learn how the atmosphere on Titan works, to see how complex organic molecules are created and combine, so that we can make better guesses as to how life started here on Earth. A very exciting possibility, even if I will have a very small part in it!

    Malcolm - Chat Guest at Elmore Elementary School from Green Bay, WI asks:
    Will it ever get warmer?

    As the Sun gets older, it will grow in size. At some point, it will become so large that life on Earth will be impossible, but Titan will be warm enough to be covered in liquid water oceans. But that will not happen for billions of years!

    Chelsie - Chat Guest at Memorial Middle School from , asks:
    do all Saturns moons look llike titain?

    No, Titan is a VERY SPECIAL Moon. It is the ONLY moon in our solar system with an atmoshpere. That means that it is the ony one where liquids on the surface are possible. The only one where wind and rain can shape the surface more than meteorites and volcanoes!

    Elizabeth - Chat Guest at Memorial Middle School from , asks:
    I'm doing a science experiments on crystals. Are there any crystals on Saturn or Titan?

    There are probably many crystals on Titan, but we will not see them until later missions go to Titan's surface. Saturn does not have a surface in the conventional sense, and so may not have any crytals.

    Chelsie - Chat Guest at Memorial Middle School from , asks:
    Do you know how someone would go about working for NASA or ESA?

    Start working on what you enjoy. If you are good at it, other people will want to join YOU, and eventually big organizations will want you t be a part of their team!

    Chelsie - Chat Guest at Memorial Middle School from , asks:
    Do you think poeple will ever go back to the moon?

    I hope so. But, it lost public popularity very quickly the first time, and it is both expensive and dangerous, so there is not guarantee.

    ashley - Chat Guest at st. johns lutheran from , asks:
    is satern the only planet with rings.

    No. most of the gas giants have rings, but all the rest are so thin and tiny they are almost imposible to see.

    Debbie Soltis - Teacher at Chugiak High School from Eagle River, Alaska asks:
    Do you think it may actually be warmer below the surface of Titan?

    It is likely that Titan, like the earth, has radioactive elements in its' rocky core, and that they give of heat. it may even be possible that Titan has volcanoes and perhaps plate techtonics. Hopefully, the Cassini spacecraft will see enough to help us tell.

    Debbie Soltis - Teacher at Chugiak High School from Eagle River, Alaska asks:
    What could you hope to find if you could explore below the surface of Titan? (Like they want to do on Europa)

    The most esciting part of Titan is more likely to be the surfae and atmosphere. That is where the complex chemistry is going on. But, it is possible that Titan's interior may have liquid water/amonia 'lava', which might have its' own surprises!

    Karen Bell - Chat Guest at from Anoka, Minnesota asks:
    How long do you expect to be analyzing the data Huygens returned?

    We have funding for only 1 1/2 years, but they are still analyizing the original Mars Viking data! The huygens data will likely be re-examined and processed for decades!

    Chelsie - Chat Guest at Memorial Middle School from , asks:
    How many moons does Saturn have?

    We have found over 31 moons so far. Cassini will likely find many more

    Shelly - Chat Guest at East High School from Madison, WI asks:
    What are your cats names?

    Merlin is the oldest, Bailey is the mother of Cindy and Tigger, and Crispin is the other one I rescued when my mother died.

    Malcolm - Chat Guest at Elmore Elementary School from Green Bay, WI asks:
    Was earth that cold at one time too?

    It is unlikely that the earth was ever that cold. It has always been too close to the sun.

    Malcolm - Chat Guest at Elmore Elementary School from Green Bay, WI asks:
    How long before the Cassini comes home?

    Cassini will never leave the Saturn system. it does not have enough rocket power to ever do that. it will orbit for many years, and then perhaps be crashed like they did with Galileio to prevent contaiminating the moons.

    Ariana - Chat Guest at from , Maine asks:
    How long did it take Huygens to reach Titan?

    From the Earth to Saturn orbit took 7 years, from release from Cassini tot he top of Titans atmosphere took 21 days. From when the atmosphere first started to tug on the heat shield to hitting the ground took about 2 3/4 hours.

    Dillon - Chat Guest at Jackson Middle School from San Antonio, TX asks:
    how many images did cassini take of titam?

    Cassini has taken very many images of Titan, and will continue to take many many more. I have no idea how large the number is, but many thousands, at least!

    Mrs. Van Den Heuvel - Chat Guest at Franklin Elementary from , North Dakota asks:
    How do engineers and scientist differ?

    I have always felt that engineers designt hings and make tools to help others do what they want to do. Scientist ask questions that no one knows the answers to, and then try to figure out what tools they need to find the answers. Some people can do both. I hope to write a science paper and be published, as well!

    Kerrie Brandt - Moderator at Space Explorers, Inc. from De Pere, Wisconsin comments:
    The chat room will be closing in approximately five minutes. At this time, we would like to thank everyone for joining us for this special event. We would especially like to thank Michael Bushroe for being our chat host today.

    Dillon - Chat Guest at Jackson Middle School from San Antonio, TX asks:
    what is the hardest class you ever took?

    I think that quantum mechanics was the hardest class I ever took. I never felt I understood it at all, but I got an A, and so decided to callit good :)! Calculus was also hard to believe that I uderstood, and took again several times.

    Mrs. Van Den Heuvel - Chat Guest at Franklin Elementary from , North Dakota asks:
    What will the Phoenix mission study?

    The Phoenix mission will examine Mars soil to see how it was created, how much water played a part it the soils past, and what are the chances that liquid water still exists there today.

    Mrs. Van Den Heuvel - Chat Guest at Franklin Elementary from , North Dakota asks:
    My class would like to thank you for answering our questions - good luck with the mission!

    Thank you very much! It has been VERY exciting place to work!

    Mrs. Johnson - Chat Guest at Lincolm Memorial from Denver, CO asks:
    What would you consider the biggest difference between Earth and Saturn?

    Since Saturn is a gas giant, it has tremendously high air pressure, and no realy surfae. The earth has a much thinner atmosphere, but a rocky surface that we can live on and not sinkall the way in to the center!

    Shelly - Chat Guest at East High School from Madison, WI asks:
    how long does it take to send a message to Cassini?

    Cassini is about 67 light minutes away, so it takes 2 and a quater hours to send a message there and get a response back.

    Mrs. Johnson - Chat Guest at Lincolm Memorial from Denver, CO asks:
    How much does it cost to send a spacecraft into space?

    Space craft missions a very expensive. The Cassini mission, which is one of the biggest non maned missions, costs about 3 billion dollars from planning, to building, to launching, to operating, and paying the scientists to process the data.

    Kerrie Brandt - Moderator at Space Explorers, Inc. from De Pere, Wisconsin comments:
    Please join us again next month for a chat with Former Astronaut Dr. Edward Gibson. For the most up to date listing of future chat events, please visit http://www.space-explorers.com/internal/events/chats.html . We look forward to seeing you all again!

    Kerrie Brandt - Moderator at Space Explorers, Inc. from De Pere, Wisconsin comments:
    Thank you again, Michael Bushroe.

    Kerrie Brandt - Moderator at Space Explorers, Inc. from De Pere, Wisconsin comments:
    3/10/2005 4:02:00 PM - Room closed by Moderator. Thank you for your participation.

     
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