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  • -= Mercurious Chat =- (yingst08 Chat Log)During this online chat, 270 questions were asked by 15 schools. There were 17 adults and 84 students involved in this chat.

    Hosted by Dr. R. Aileen Yingst of The Mars Exploration Team

    Elizabeth Schmeisser - Moderator at Space Explorers, Inc. from De Pere, Wisconsin comments:
    Room opened by Moderator on 10/09/08 at 11:30.

    Elizabeth Schmeisser - Moderator at Space Explorers, Inc. from De Pere, Wisconsin comments:
    Space Explorers would like to welcome Dr. Yingst as our host today. All of your questions will be viewed by a moderator. We will try to get through as many questions as possible during the chat period. Ask away!

    Lahnie Zwiers - Chat Guest at Little Chute from Little Chute, WI asks:
    How many days has the mars rover been on Mars?

    The Mars rover Spirit has been on the surface for over 1600 martian days now, Opportunity a little less.

    Grant - Chat Guest at from , asks:
    How would we get oxygen to breathe on Mars?

    Good question. The easiest thing to do would be to find a way to make oxygen with the materials at hand - otherwise we'd have to bring it the same way we bring everything else when we go to another planet.

    Hutch - Student at Saint James Day School from Texarkana, Texas asks:
    Have you ever gotten to see something weird on mars

    Depends on what you consider weird! I've seen pictures of craters that have been filled up with layers and layers of sediment, then buried, then revealed again, leaving channels that are essentially "upside down", meaning they are higher than the stuff around them. That's pretty weird.

    Ali - Student at Saint James Day School from Texarkana, Texas asks:
    Do you program the Mars Rover every day?

    The Rover is programmed nearly every day. I'm one of about 30 scientists and engineers who work on the rovers. I work rover operations about one week out of every four.

    Meagan - Student at Saint James Day School from Texarkana, Texas asks:
    what color is mars

    Mars is sort of an orange-red.

    Chris Ausprung - Chat Guest at Jackson Elementary from Manitowoc, WI asks:
    What do we know about the ice storms on Mars?

    Not much - we know that Phoenix might have seen some precipitation that looks like snow - that's about it. We don't think actual storms are very likely - but we know a lot about the dust storms on Mars!

    Roger - Chat Guest at Straley Elem. from Priceton, WV asks:
    Dr. Yingst, Have the Rovers increased or decreased the likelihood of a manned mission in the near future?

    I'd say they have given us knowledge we need to send people there, the question is whether we want to spend the money to do it. If you are wondering if robots will ever be able to replace people - no way. The rovers have been on Mars for almost 4 years, and everything they have discovered, I could have done in a weekend with a field assistant. Rovers are awesome, but they just aren't as efficient or smart as we are.

    Garrett - Chat Guest at Ft. Greely Middle School from Ft. Greely, Ak asks:
    When was the mars rover plan started

    Wow. Back in the 1990's. It takes a lot of hard work to make a Mars rover!

    Tyler - Chat Guest at Crandon Middle School from Crandon, WI asks:
    What do you think we will need to discover on Mars to make it a place where humans could live?

    Actually, we could live there now. We do have the technology. Whether we want to invest that kind of money is another story!

    Elizabeth - Student at Saint James Day School from Texarkana, Texas asks:
    Are there Aliens on Mars?

    Nope. I wish!

    Elizabeth - Student at Saint James Day School from Texarkana, Texas asks:
    Can you eat on Mars??????!!!!!!!

    Only if you bring your own food with you.

    Chris - Chat Guest at Jackson Elementary from Manitowoc, WI asks:
    Are there many landforms on Mars, and do they go through a lot of changes?

    By landforms, I think you mean features that we would recognize. There are volcanoes, chasms, sand-covered deserts, lots of familiar landforms. Most of them are not going through a lot of changes right now.

    Garrett - Chat Guest at Ft. Greely Middle School from Ft. Greely, Ak asks:
    What precautions did you take to keep the Mars sand from getting into vital compnents of the two rovers

    Most of the vital components have dust covers - like the camera lenses - but after four years on Mars, there's still a lot of dust in everything!

    Lahnie Zwiers - Chat Guest at Little Chute from Little Chute, WI asks:
    What type of rocks are on Mars, what material is the "soil"?

    Mars is mostly made up of basalt, some of which has been weathered. The soil is just broken down and weathered basalt (the same kind of rock that makes up the island of Hawai'i).

    Charlie - Student at Saint James Day School from Texarkana, Texas asks:
    How is the weather on Mars

    Cold. Really, really cold. Like minus 150 degrees F cold.

    Annakate - Student at Saint James Day School from Texarkana, Texas asks:
    Exactly how big is Mars?

    Mars is about two thirds the size of Earth.

    Lahnie Zwiers - Chat Guest at Little Chute from Little Chute, WI asks:
    How long did it take to make the rover? What technology did you use?

    I wasn't directly involved in building the rover, but we used the technology of the time, back in the 90s. It took about 10 years from concept to landing on the surface.

    Jackson - Chat Guest at Jackson Elementary from Manitowoc, Wisconsin asks:
    How long is a Marcian day?

    About 24 hours and 30-some minutes.

    Garrett - Chat Guest at Ft. Greely Middle School from Ft. Greely, Ak asks:
    What did you expact would have difficulties on the Mars rovers mission

    We expected dust would be a problem, but because the mission has gone on so long, it has become THE problem. Dust covers the solar panels and keeps the battery from charging as much as it could. If too much dust gets on the panels the rover won't be able to charge up and we'll lose her.

    Charlie - Student at Saint James Day School from Texarkana, Texas asks:
    Have you ever seen Olympus Monds ?

    I've seen pictures, from orbit. Both rovers are far away from that mountain, though.

    Jackson - Chat Guest at Jackson Elementary from Manitowoc, Wisconsin asks:
    Have you encountered any dust storms on Mars?

    A global dust storm nearly killed both rovers because of lack of power last year.

    Chris - Chat Guest at Jackson Elementary from Manitowoc, WI asks:
    Has Mars ever had water on it?

    Yes, probably lots of water. We can still see the river channels and beds - some scientists even think they see shorelines from an old ocean.

    Annakate - Student at Saint James Day School from Texarkana, Texas asks:
    What is basalt?

    Basalt is a volcanic rock that has a lot of iron in it.

    Meagan - Student at Saint James Day School from Texarkana, Texas asks:
    How many years did you go to school to learn about Mars

    I went to college for 4 years, then graduate school for 5.

    Chris - Chat Guest at Jackson Elementary from Manitowoc, WI asks:
    How many moons does Mars have?

    Two - Phobos and Deimos

    Annakate - Student at Saint James Day School from Texarkana, Texas asks:
    What kinds of water did you find on Mars?

    The kind of water you can drink is probably the kind that used to be on Mars, and still is, frozen under the surface and at the poles.

    Jackson - Chat Guest at Jackson Elementary from Manitowoc, Wisconsin asks:
    Have you found any lakes on Mars?

    No, but we've seen evidence that there might once have been lakes on Mars, inside some craters.

    Ali - Student at Saint James Day School from Texarkana, Texas asks:
    How long have you worked at Nasa?

    I don't actually work *AT* NASA. NASA isn't a place, it's an organization, like the Boy Scouts. You don't work *at* the Boy Scouts, you work *for* the Boy Scouts. I've been working with NASA since I was in graduate school, back in 1995.

    Ali - Student at Saint James Day School from Texarkana, Texas asks:
    Do you think your job is worth nine years of college?

    I'm one of only 50 people in the entire history of the world who can say she commands cameras on Mars. I have been the first person in history to see some places on Mars, and better yet, they PAY me to do it! Yes, I think that's worth nine years of school. I have the coolest job in the world.

    Garrett - Chat Guest at Ft. Greely Middle School from Ft. Greely, Ak asks:
    When are you planning to send a manned mission to Mars

    Me personally? I'd go tomorrow. But when are we as a country going to send a human mission to Mars? Good question. That depends on whether we want to pay for it or not. Right now, NASA hopes to send a human mission to Mars around 2025.

    Elizabeth - Student at Saint James Day School from Texarkana, Texas asks:
    Have you seen any black holes on Mars?

    Nope. A black hole is a huge, collapsed star - Mars is way too small for that!

    Curtis - Student at Saint James Day School from Texarkana, Texas asks:
    Is there rocks on Mars that aren't on earth?

    Hm. Generally, no. The rocks we've found on Mars are all familiar to us, though they are much drier than Earth rocks. Most Earth rocks have at least a little water in them - for Mars that isn't really true.

    Annakate - Student at Saint James Day School from Texarkana, Texas asks:
    What do you mean "a global dust storm nearly killed both rovers"?

    I mean that the rovers are powered by the Sun - solar panels provide power to the batteries that run the rover (like the battery in your car). If there's lots of dust in the air the sky gets really dark, the Sunlight can't get through, the batteries don't charge up and the rover could die.

    Chris - Chat Guest at Jackson Elementary from Manitowoc, WI asks:
    How many water bodies are on Mars?

    None. But there are two ice caps.

    Jackson - Chat Guest at Jackson Elementary from Manitowoc, Wisconsin asks:
    What will happen to the rover when you are finished using it?

    The rover will stay on Mars. We hope to use it until it breaks or it can't retain power anymore - then it will stay where it is. Don't feel too bad, though. The rovers were designed to be at home on Mars. Earth has never been their home.

    Chris - Chat Guest at Jackson Elementary from Manitowoc, WI asks:
    How long has Mars been a planet?

    Mars has been a planet since it formed, 4 and a half billion years ago. That's a long time!

    Jackson - Chat Guest at Jackson Elementary from Manitowoc, Wisconsin asks:
    What is the most interesting thing you've found so far?

    So far the thing I find most interesting is the fact that Mars has rocks on the surface that require water to form. It must have been a very wet place at one point!

    Chris - Chat Guest at Jackson Elementary from Manitowoc, WI asks:
    Is Mars the planet, other than Earth, that we know the most about?

    No, I'd say we know more about the Moon than Mars.

    Thea - Chat Guest at Fort Greely Middle School from Delta Juntion, AK asks:
    Do you think someday people will live in space?

    Yes, I do. I don't know when, but I think people will live there someday.

    Chris - Chat Guest at Jackson Elementary from Manitowoc, WI asks:
    Why did you want this job?

    Because I get to learn about such cool, cool stuff!

    Jackson - Chat Guest at Jackson Elementary from Manitowoc, Wisconsin asks:
    What are the 2 moons like the orbit Mars?

    They are about the size and shape of asteroids - maybe 20-30 miles across.

    Chris - Chat Guest at Jackson Elementary from Manitowoc, WI asks:
    How long did it take the rovers to reach Mars?

    It took the rovers about 10 months, if I remember.

    Roland - Student at Saint James Day School from Texarkana, Texas asks:
    Are there caves on mars

    I don't know - we haven't gotten under the surface yet, to look. That would be neat if there were.

    Lahnie Zwiers - Chat Guest at Little Chute from Little Chute, WI asks:
    Have you found signs of life on Mars?

    Nope, none.

    Benjamin - Chat Guest at Fort Greely from Fort Greely, Aaska asks:
    What type of design will the mars probes be?

    The next Mars rover will be much bigger than the current rovers - about the size of a VW Beetle.

    Jackson - Chat Guest at Jackson Elementary from Manitowoc, Wisconsin asks:
    Does Mars have a core like Earth?

    Yes, though it probably isn't a liquid like ours is.

    Ali - Student at Saint James Day School from Texarkana, Texas asks:
    In Greek mythology who was Mars named after?

    Mars was the god of war - the Greeks called him Ares, the Romans called him Mars.

    Chris - Chat Guest at Jackson Elementary from Manitowoc, WI asks:
    Have you found any fossils on Mars?

    Nope, none.

    Benjamin - Chat Guest at Fort Greely from Fort Greely, Aaska asks:
    How will the probes enter the atmosphere?

    Landers and rovers need a heat shield to protect them from the martian atmosphere. The heat shield gets jettisoned after the spacecraft slows down a bit.

    Chris - Chat Guest at Jackson Elementary from Manitowoc, WI asks:
    When the sun explodes, what will happen to Mars?

    The Sun probably won't explode - it will expand, though, and probably swallow up Earth and maybe Mars. But maybe Mars will survive. We don't know.

    Hutch - Student at Saint James Day School from Texarkana, Texas asks:
    How far is it until you get sound on mars. Is there sound on mars.

    There's an atmosphere on Mars to transmit the sound waves, so yes, there is sound on Mars. In fact, one experiment on the next rover is hopefully going to be the Mars Microphone, so we can listen to the sounds of Mars!

    Meagan - Student at Saint James Day School from Texarkana, Texas asks:
    Do you like your job i do you should be proud of your self.

    Aw, that's sweet! I LOVE my job! I think it's wicked cool.

    Jackson - Chat Guest at Jackson Elementary from Manitowoc, Wisconsin asks:
    How hot does it get on the surface of Mars?

    It can get up to 80 degrees F, but only very rarely.

    Lahnie Zwiers - Chat Guest at Little Chute from Little Chute, WI asks:
    Are they building any more rovers to send in the future?

    Yes, the Mars Science Laboratory will launch next year.

    Jackson - Chat Guest at Jackson Elementary from Manitowoc, Wisconsin asks:
    Is Mars your favorite planet? If not, which one do you like best?

    Hm. I love Mars, but I'm pretty partial to the Moon, too.

    Elizabeth - Student at Saint James Day School from Texarkana, Texas asks:
    Are the stars hot or cold? the sun is hot and the moon is cold.

    The stars are very hot. The Sun is a star, so you're right, the Sun is hot.

    Thea - Chat Guest at Fort greely Middle School from Delta Junction, AK asks:
    4. Do you think someday people will live in space?

    Yes, I do. I don't know when, but I think people will live there someday.

    Chris - Chat Guest at Jackson Elementary from Manitowoc, WI asks:
    How old is the moon?

    We think it's as old as the Earth - 4 and a half billion years.

    Roland - Student at Saint James Day School from Texarkana, Texas asks:
    is there oxygen on mars?

    No, not really, not in the atmosphere at least.

    Jake - Chat Guest at Maryland from College Park, Maryland asks:
    Do you think there is life on mars?

    No, I don't. But that doesn't mean there wasn't at one point. And who knows, I could be wrong!

    andrew - Chat Guest at ft greely from delta junction, alaska asks:
    when do expext to find another solar system and explore its planets?

    We have already found other solar systems - but I'd like to finish exploring our planets before we go to another star's planets!

    Chris - Chat Guest at Jackson Elementary from Manitowoc, WI asks:
    Why did NASA start making ships?

    NASA started launching things into space in the 1950s.

    Meagan - Student at Saint James Day School from Texarkana, Texas asks:
    do you get to sleep.

    Hah! Yes, I do. I'm a normal person just like you. I have a family, I have two kids (6 and 4 years old), I have a husband I adore and I have other things I do besides science. I sing, I do needlework, I cross-country ski, I hike a lot. And yes, I sleep.

    Chris - Chat Guest at Jackson Elementary from Manitowoc, WI asks:
    Why isn't the moon a planet?

    I think that depends on who you ask. I'd call it a planet, if we were talking about round bodies in the solar system. But because it goes around another body first, instead of the Sun, then we call it a moon, or a satellite.

    Charlie - Student at Saint James Day School from Texarkana, Texas asks:
    are there any volcanos on mars?

    Yup, there are bunches of them. Olympus Mons is the biggest volcano in the solar system. But they don't erupt anymore.

    Jackson - Chat Guest at Jackson Elementary from Manitowoc, Wisconsin asks:
    Is Mars atmosphere weaker than Earth's?

    Yes, by a lot.

    Chris - Chat Guest at Jackson Elementary from Manitowoc, WI asks:
    How many people work for NASA

    I have no idea, but it's in the thousands.

    Garrett - Chat Guest at Ft. Greely from Ft. Greely, Alaska asks:
    Do you think there will ever be a human colony on Mars?

    Yes. I think we'll colonize Mars, and then, as Carl Sagan once said, the martians will be us. Maybe you'll be a martian someday!

    Nick - Chat Guest at Ft. Greely Middle School from Ft. Greely, Alaska asks:
    What is the oldest planet in our solar system

    They all formed at about the same time, so none of them are really the "oldest".

    Thea - Chat Guest at Fort greely Middle School from Delta Junction, AK asks:
    When did you first get interested in working with NASA?

    I've always been interested to work in space, ever since I was three years old.

    Hutch - Student at Saint James Day School from Texarkana, Texas asks:
    Can you land on Saturn even known its made of gas.

    No, not really, there'd be nowhere to "land", but we can orbit Saturn. The Cassini spacecraft is doing that right now.

    Charlie - Student at Saint James Day School from Texarkana, Texas asks:
    Can anyonne live on Mars

    Not yet. But maybe someday we'll set things up so people can live there.

    Roland - Student at Saint James Day School from Texarkana, Texas asks:
    how do you get a job working on the Mars Rover

    You get a college degree in some math or science subject, then you get your PhD. Or you spend about 5 years getting your engineering degree. It depends on what you want to do, build rovers or work on the data that rovers collect.

    Benjamin - Chat Guest at Fort Greely from Fort Greely, Aaska asks:
    How will NASA cope with the fuel prices ?

    Well, luckily rockets don't run on gasoline, they run on liquified gases like oxygen. So the Space Shuttle is probably ok.

    Elizabeth - Student at Saint James Day School from Texarkana, Texas asks:
    Is somebody watching over the Mars Rover so somebody does not steal it from Mars??

    No - but man, that would be a lot of work to go all the way to Mars just to steal a rover!

    Ali - Student at Saint James Day School from Texarkana, Texas asks:
    Why is the sun hotter than all the other stars?

    The Sun isn't hotter, in fact, it's cooler than a lot of stars. The next time you look up and see the constellation Orion, you'll see at least four stars there hotter than the Sun.

    Annakate - Student at Saint James Day School from Texarkana, Texas asks:
    I'm confused. What's the Cassini?

    Cassini is a spacecraft we sent to Saturn and its moon Titan.

    Chris - Chat Guest at Jackson Elementary from Manitowoc, WI asks:
    Could you land on Saturn's rings?

    No, the rings are made up of tiny rock and dust particles. They aren't solid enough to land on.

    Chris - Chat Guest at Jackson Elementary from Manitowoc, WI asks:
    Could you land on Pluto?

    Sure.

    Meagan - Student at Saint James Day School from Texarkana, Texas asks:
    Do you wont to live on mars.

    Not if my family couldn't come along.

    Jackson - Chat Guest at Jackson Elementary from Manitowoc, Wisconsin asks:
    How much does it cost to build a rover?

    It depends on the size of the rover! A little rover costs less than a big rover. The two Mars rovers that are running now cost about $1 billion. That's less than Americans pay for doughnuts each year.

    summit - Chat Guest at delta school from delta, alaska asks:
    how long have you been is space exploration??

    I've been doing this since my first year in graduate school, so that would be 14 years.

    Chris - Chat Guest at Jackson Elementary from Manitowoc, WI asks:
    If people did live there, how would we have electricity?

    We would have to generate it somehow, maybe with solar panels.

    Meagan - Student at Saint James Day School from Texarkana, Texas asks:
    why isn't the sun a planet

    Anything as hot as the Sun, that shines with its own power, is considered a star. Cold little bodies that go around stars are planets.

    Thea - Chat Guest at Fort greely Middle School from Delta Junction, AK asks:
    How will NASA cope with the falling economy?

    Good question. That depends on whether the taxpayers decide that moving out into space is still an important and exciting thing to do.

    Garrett - Chat Guest at Ft. Greely from Ft. Greely, Alaska asks:
    If there was a colony on mars how would they get oxygen

    They would have to bring it, or make it from the materials on Mars.

    Jackson - Chat Guest at Jackson Elementary from Manitowoc, Wisconsin asks:
    Is there wind on Mars?

    Yes, and it can get very high. But since the atmosphere is so thin, the wind doesn't have a lot of power behind it. So it can't really blow the rover over.

    Chris - Chat Guest at Jackson Elementary from Manitowoc, WI asks:
    Is it possible to lift an elephant in space, if we could get an elephant into space?

    Sure. It would just require a LOT of fuel to do it.

    Lahnie - Chat Guest at Little Chute from Little Chute, WI asks:
    can you send a bigger rover?

    Yes, the next rover we send will be about twice as big.

    Chris - Chat Guest at Jackson Elementary from Manitowoc, WI asks:
    Would you float on Mars?

    No, Mars has gravity, just like the Moon does.

    Jackson - Chat Guest at Jackson Elementary from Manitowoc, Wisconsin asks:
    Have other countries sent rovers to Mars or other planets?

    Yes. The Soviet Union sent a rover to the Moon - I've worked with one of the scientists in charge of driving that rover.

    Thea - Chat Guest at Fort greely Middle School from Delta Junction, AK asks:
    Could it ever snow in space?

    In space? No, but it probably snows on other planets besides Earth.

    Benjamin - Chat Guest at Fort Greely from Fort Greely, Aaska asks:
    How many minerals on mars can we harvest?

    We're not sure, but it's one of the reasons we've been sending rovers and landers to Mars - to find out.

    Elizabeth Schmeisser - 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 Dr. Yingst for hosting our chat today.

    Garrett - Chat Guest at Ft. Greely from Ft. Greely, Alaska asks:
    Do you think that there will be colonies on other planets

    Yes, someday.

    Bryson - Student at Saint James Day School from Texarkana, Texas asks:
    thank you for answering our questions. Guess what, I want to be an astronaut

    Guess what, me too! I hope you make it!

    andrew - Chat Guest at ft greely from delta junction, alaska asks:
    why is your key interest in mars?

    I want to know how the surface got to look the way it does.

    Chris - Chat Guest at Jackson Elementary from Manitowoc, WI asks:
    Thank you Dr. Yingst!!!!!!!!!

    You're welcome!!!

    Annakate - Student at Saint James Day School from Texarkana, Texas asks:
    Thank you for spending all this time with us.

    I enjoyed it very much.

    summit - Chat Guest at from , asks:
    if we are at 9:00 here what time is it on mars?

    It depends on where you are on Mars, just like it's a different time somewhere else on Earth!

    Garrett - Chat Guest at Ft. Greely from Ft. Greely, Alaska asks:
    What is the best way to get into NASA

    You should take as much math and science as you can, then when you're in high school you should try to get some experience with a real scientist or engineer.

    Garrett - Chat Guest at Ft. Greely from Ft. Greely, Alaska asks:
    is it possible to break down water and get oxygen out of t5555

    Yes, but it's really expensive to do.

    Thea - Chat Guest at Fort greely Middle School from Delta Junction, AK asks:
    Thanks for answering my questions, I enjoyed reading your answers!!!

    You're welcome.

    summit - Chat Guest at from , asks:
    thank you!!!

    You're welcome!!!

    Elizabeth Schmeisser - Moderator at Space Explorers, Inc. from De Pere, Wisconsin comments:
    For the most up-to-date and complete listing of future chat events, please check out http://www.space-explorers.com/internal/events/chats.html. We look forward to chatting with you again!

    Elizabeth Schmeisser - Moderator at Space Explorers, Inc. from De Pere, Wisconsin comments:
    10/9/2008 12:35:07 PM - Room closed by Moderator. Thank you for your participation.

     
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