Preparation for Class Discussion on Mars Exploration: The Infamous ALH Meteorite, Pathfinder/Sojourner and Mars Global Surveyor

The hottest "current events" stream in planetary science for the past several years has certainly been the near daily reports about the ALH84001 meteorite, and/or the Mars Pathfinder and its Sojourner probe, and now the Mars Global Surveyor orbiter, which began its scientific mission this March.

In our next class we'll have a participatory event in which we go through aspects of the recent Mars exploration initiative, and what the Mars Pathfinder and Global Sojourner have found thus far, largely working from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory websites devoted to the program. We'll also look at the "meteorite" angle on Mars, focusing on the work since 1996 to understand what it is that these "carbonate globules" in the ALH84001 meteorite are all about anyway.

Sites to start with: (Mars Meteorite Home Page) (Mars Pathfinder Archival Pages) (Mars Global Surveyor Home Page)

Additional Web-Based information for you to peruse:

Shergottite EET79001 Image Gallery

ALH84001 Image Gallery

Images from the Mars Pathfinder Landing site, excerpted from the Science special issue on Pathfinder results.

An overview of the Mars Meteorite vital information, and the Mars Pathfinder and Global Surveyor missions

A recent research abstract on the ALH84001 meteorite, based on work done here (in part by undergraduates!) at USF

Some descriptive text on the ALH meteorite, the Mars Pathfinder and Global Surveyor, and the question of life on Mars!

Bring your notes (and Web addresses) with you to our next class session, in a format that you can hand into me at the end.

1) Tell me about the meteorite ALH84001: where was it found, what is it made of, and what is in it (or might be in it) that gets scientists all hot and bothered about life on Mars. If there was life on Mars, based on the meteorite, WHEN did it exist?

2)Tell me about the makeup of the Mars Pathfinder/Sojourner probe and rover - size, weight, etc. - and about when it was launched, and when it arrived on the Martian surface. What sorts of measurement devices were sent up with the Mars Pathfinder/Sojourner? What do these devices do, in fact?

3)Tell us about the Are Vallis landing site: where is it (geographically, geologically, and with respect to past Mars landings) and why was it chosen? What sorts of rocks and soil did they discover at Are Vallis? And what was the weather like?.

4) Give me the vital statistics on Mars Global Surveyor: when was it launched, how big is it, what sorts of scientific instrumentation is it carrying, and what do we intend to do with it once it gets to Mars?

5) Is Global Surveyor running on schedule, or did they have to reschedule mission events? If they did reschedule, why did they have to do it, and when will it begin its primary mission?

6) What has Global Surveyor found out about the following:
a) The Martian North Pole.
b) The Valles Marineris?
c) The origins of Martian channels?

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