MarsFest 2013 Presentation Abstract

 

Thursday, February 28, 2013
7:00pm – 8:00pm

An Alien Environment: Are We on Another Planet? (Speaker: Carrie Hearn/NPS)
7:00pm – 8:00pm • Furnace Creek Visitor Center – Auditorium

Come and hear about Death Valley’s extremes from a fantasy and science perspective! Why would scenes from Star Wars be filmed in Death Valley? And, why exactly, is NASA/JPL/SETI so fascinated with this beautiful, yet strange environment?! Listen and see a Ranger’s perspective of an alien environment.

Furnace Creek Visitor Center – Auditorium
Friday, March 1, 2013
9:00am – 10:00am

An Alien Environment: Are We on Another Planet? (Speaker: Carrie Hearn/NPS)

Come and hear about Death Valley’s extremes from a fantasy and science perspective! Why would scenes from Star Wars be filmed in Death Valley? And, why exactly, is NASA/JPL/SETI so fascinated with this beautiful, yet strange environment?! Listen and see a Ranger’s perspective of an alien environment.

Furnace Creek Visitor Center – Auditorium
11:00am – 12:00pm

Lunch at the Crater: Studying Mars from Earth at the Ubehebe Volcanic Field (Field Trip Leaders: Dr. Rosalba Bonaccorsi/NASA Ames and SETI Institute, Dr. Robert Haberle/NASA Ames)

The Ubehebe Volcanic Field includes a dozen craters formed during hydro-magmatic explosions during the last few thousand years. The craters can serve as analogs for upcoming astrobiology-driven missions at several Martian sites, including the Gale Crate, where Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity rover landed in August 2012. The terrain of the Ubehebe Volcanic Field presents a variety of geologic environments, from volcanic ashes to coarse-grained river deposits, and clay-bearing lake deposits (sandstone and claystone) similar to those being investigated by Curiosity at Gale Crater. With precipitation patterns in Death Valley similar to a “warmer and wetter” early Mars, and a similar variety of minerals present, the Ubehebe Volcanic Field offers an ideal test site for formulating hypotheses about the potential of minerals, rocks, and sediment to support microbial life in dry, hot deserts on Earth, and possibly, on Mars.

Ubehebe Crater
1:00pm – 2:00pm

Mesquite Sand Dunes: Curiosity Rover Site Analog (Field Trip Leader: Dr. Aaron Zent/NASA Ames)

The Mars Science Laboratory, Curiosity, landed in Gale Crater in late 2012, and began exploring an environment that has been shaped by constant wind, and very occasional water. Likewise areas of the Mesquite dunes show evidence of occasional deposition by flash flood deposits from Grotto Canyon. We will explore some of the similar deposits, as well as distinct differences, resulting from the interaction of wind and water in Gale Crater and the Mesquite Dunes.

Mesquite Sand Dunes

1:00pm – 2:00pm

Badwater: The Life and Times of Badwater Microbes (Field Trip Leader: Dr. Susanne Douglas/PSI)

Many areas of Death Valley have groundwater springs which rise at the edges of the salt pan. The resulting salts which form are called evaporites and these evaporites are inhabited by a variety of different microbial communities. Within these evaporites, the communities find protection from harsh light and fluctuating water levels and, in turn, affect the mineralogy of the salts they inhabit. These endoevaporitic microbial communities are analogues for possible life forms in the evaporites of Mars, and are being studied in order to define what needs life has in an evaporate environment. We will be touring a number of pools at Badwater. These pools are within hundreds of meters of each other yet have differing chemical compositions. We will see different types of microbial communities in these pools and the minerals they produce. If you have a magnifying glass, you may wish to bring it.

Badwater Boardwalk
2:30pm – 3:00pm

Badwater: Badwater and Climate Change on Mars (Field Trip Leaders: Dr. Rosalba Bonaccorsi/NASA Ames and SETI Institute, Dr. Robert Haberle/NASA Ames)

Climate change research by NASA has occurred at Badwater basin for decades. This extreme environment, along with other research locations, helps provide scientific evidence of climate change. During this trip, we will visit the NASA Ames weather stations at Badwater basin. The discussion will cover what the implications and applications of this research are for environmental and planetary studies.

Badwater Boardwalk
7:30pm – 8:20pm

Keynote Address: The Search for Life on Other Planets – with an update from the Mars Curiosity Rover (Speaker: Dr. Chris McKay/NASA and SETI Institute)

Mars Curiosity Rover has been operating on Mars for over 200 days. I will present our current status on the search for organics in the soil and the prospects for determining the habitability of the site. If we find organics on Mars, the next challenge will be to determine if they are of biological or non-biological origin. There are other worlds in the Solar System that are also of keen interest in the search for life: my favorite is Enceladus, a small moon of Saturn.

Furnace Creek Visitor Center Auditorium
8:25pm – 8:40pm

Making Mars Work for Death Valley (Speaker: Dr. Rosalba Bonaccorsi/NASA Ames and SETI Institute)

Studies are conducted in Death Valley at a Mars-like site with fascinating geological features: the Ubehebe Volcanic Field. This sacred Timbisha Shoshone site of breath-taking beauty, includes a dozen craters formed during subsequent hydro magmatic explosions between <2,000 and 6,000 years ago. In partnership with Death Valley National Park Resource Management, we identify this site as a valuable natural laboratory where various hypotheses can be tested on the origin and distribution of sediment and mineral types also seen or expected on Mars. This research benefits the planetary sciences and also provides a better understanding of the geology of the Park. Making Mars work for Death Valley! The research provides information and leads to many cross-disciplinary applications:

  • Support of Mars Missions (Mars Science Laboratory and elements of Astrobiology Roadmap)
  • Monitoring sensitive and fragile areas
  • Monitoring environmental and weather conditions, water resources and landscape erosion for the long-term
  • Addressing ecological change of drying climate in Southwest North America
  • Increasing awareness of Native American cultural heritage and engaging local communities
  • Enhancing the overall visitor awareness and experience at Death Valley Mars-like sites
  • Supporting Park resource management decision-making and strategic plans
Furnace Creek Visitor Center Auditorium
Saturday, March 2, 2013
9:00am – 9:30am

TBD (Speaker: Dr. Jennifer Blank/SETI Institute)

Furnace Creek Visitor Center Auditorium
9:00am – 10:00am

Working the Mojave with an Eye toward Mars: Use of Analog Sites in and Near Death Valley (Speaker: Dr. Luther Beegle/JPL)

Mars is the most Earth like planet in our solar system. If Earth can be called the water planet, then Mars can be considered the "had surface water planet", as there is copious evidence that mars at one point in its past had oceans, lakes and rivers. In Death Valley and the Mojave, we see a similar environment were aqueous environments slowly dried out as the Earth emerged from the last ice age. In this presentation, Dr. Luther Beegle of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, will discuss similarities between Mars and sites within Death Valley and the Mojave, and the importance of utilizing analogs for both science and technology activities.

Furnace Creek Visitor Center Multipurpose Room
9:00am – 11:30am

Planetary Analog 101 – What?!: Intro to planetary science and environmental studies in and near Death Valley (Field Trip Leaders: Andrea Jones/NASA Goddard, Carrie Hearn/NPS)

…Information…

Begin at Furnace Creek Visitor Center – CARPOOL!
10:00am – 11:00am

What Can the Curiosity Rover Tell Us About the Climate of Mars? (Speaker: Dr. Robert Haberle/NASA Ames)

Assessing the habitability of Gale Crater is the goal of the Curiosity Rover, which has been gathering data since landing on the Red Planet last August. To meet that goal, Curiosity brought with it a suite of instruments to measure the biological potential of the landing site, the geology and chemistry of its surface, and local environmental conditions. Some of these instruments illuminate the nature of the planet’s atmosphere and climate system, both for present day conditions as well as for conditions that existed billions of years ago. For present day conditions, Curiosity has a standard meteorology package that measures pressure, temperature, winds and humidity, plus a sensor the measures the UV flux. These data confirm what we learned from previous missions namely that today Mars is a cold, dry, and barren desert-like planet. For past conditions, however, wetter and probably warmer conditions are indicated. Curiosities cameras reveal gravel beds that must have formed by flowing rivers, and sedimentary deposits of layered sand and mudstones possibly associated with lakes. An ancient aqueous environment is further supported by the presence of sulfate veins coursing through some of the rocks in Yellowknife Bay where Curiosity is planning its first drilling activity. I will discuss these results and their implications in this lecture.

Furnace Creek Visitor Center Auditorium
10:00am – 11:00am

Brunch at the Crater: Studying Mars from Earth at the Ubehebe Volcanic Field (Field Trip Leader: Dr. Rosalba Bonaccorsi/NASA Ames and SETI Institute)

The Ubehebe Volcanic Field includes a dozen craters formed during hydro-magmatic explosions during the last few thousand years. The craters can serve as analogs for upcoming astrobiology-driven missions at several Martian sites, including the Gale Crate, where Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity rover landed in August 2012. The terrain of the Ubehebe Volcanic Field presents a variety of geologic environments, from volcanic ashes to coarse-grained river deposits, and clay-bearing lake deposits (sandstone and claystone) similar to those being investigated by Curiosity at Gale Crater. With precipitation patterns in Death Valley similar to a “warmer and wetter” early Mars, and a similar variety of minerals present, the Ubehebe Volcanic Field offers an ideal test site for formulating hypotheses about the potential of minerals, rocks, and sediment to support microbial life in dry, hot deserts on Earth, and possibly, on Mars.

Ubehebe Crater
10:30am – 11:30am

Mars Hill: Mars Lander Analog (Field Trip Leader: Dr. Aaron Zent/NASA Ames)

Mars Hill has been used to test engineering solutions to entry, descent, landing and trafficability problems of scientific craft bound for the planet Mars. In practice, this means that the rocks on the surface of Mars Hill are comparable in size, shape and abundance to those at the two Mars landing sites. Mars Hill and some of the Mars landing sites, particularly during the Viking 1 and Pathfinder missions, share a similar geologic origin. For instance, the evolution of alluvial fans in windy environments, like Death Valley, has produced a very good analog to the surface roughness of the Mars landing sites. Examples of alluvial fans, desert pavement, ventifacts and sand tails almost identical to those on mars will be examined as field trip participants explore Mars Hill.

Mars Hill, Badwater Road
10:30am – 11:30am

Did the North Polar Basin of Mars Once Have an Ocean? Evidence from True Polar Wander (Speaker: Dr. Joseph Kirschvink/Caltech)

Although there is now abundant evidence that liquid water once flowed freely on the Martian surface, there remains a great debate about how much water there was, and whether it formed large standing bodies. In particular, a controversy has raged over whether the Martian north polar basin was the site of a large ocean, which left ancient shoreline features (similar to those in Death Valley) as it died. Initial claims of shoreline features were later discounted when the elevation of the shorelines were shown to change along their lengths.

During the past 20 years, my research group has studied an intriguing process on earth called True Polar Wander (TPW), in which the solid earth moves as a unit relative to the spin axis. We first recognized a large event of this sort associated with the Cambrian evolutionary explosion of life, and now know of about 5 of these large events on earth.

Recent studies have shown that true polar wander is also a characteristic feature of Mars–resulting from the emplacement of the massive Tharsis volcanic province. Correction for the crustal deformation produced by Tharsis restores these putative shorelines back to horizontality, arguing strongly that they are indeed produced by a dying ocean. Testing this hypothesis could be done by equipping the next Martian rover with laboratory instruments capable of analyzing the ancient magnetic field in the Martian volcanics.

Furnace Creek Visitor Center Multipurpose Room
11:30am – 12:15pm

Status of the Mars Desert Research Station (Speaker: Judd Reed/Mars Society)

The Mars Society operates Mars analog research stations at two locations on Earth. The Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station, in the Canadian arctic operates during summer. The Mars Desert Research Station in Southern Utah is active during winter. MDRS has a spacecraft-like crew habitat and associated structures including the Musk Astronomy Observatory. In additional, the Fisher GreenHab provides food and a token of lush earthiness in an unearthly environment. These structures, and the MDRS habitat itself, all underwent significant renovation and upgrade before this field season.

Additionally, a prototype habitat activity logger was deployed and is being tested. This system is designed to help crews perform research, report findings, and thrive in a simulated Mars environment. It contains a growing library of support material otherwise inaccessible on site. Crews are guided to Mars analogous locations by a custom mapping and tracking components including route planning, site selection, and sample documentation support. Reporting of field work is supported by a communication system then links the habitat activity logger to mission support via satellite. Initial experiences with the recent renovations, the habitat activity logger, and the ongoing research at MDRS are reviewed. Lessons from this experience are discussed and next steps explored.

Furnace Creek Visitor Center Auditorium

12:00pm – 1:00pm

Mars Hill: Mars Lander Analog (Field Trip Leader: Dr. Aaron Zent/NASA Ames)

Mars Hill has been used to test engineering solutions to entry, descent, landing and trafficability problems of scientific craft bound for the planet Mars. In practice, this means that the rocks on the surface of Mars Hill are comparable in size, shape and abundance to those at the two Mars landing sites. Mars Hill and some of the Mars landing sites, particularly during the Viking 1 and Pathfinder missions, share a similar geologic origin. For instance, the evolution of alluvial fans in windy environments, like Death Valley, has produced a very good analog to the surface roughness of the Mars landing sites. Examples of alluvial fans, desert pavement, ventifacts and sand tails almost identical to those on mars will be examined as field trip participants explore Mars Hill.

Mars Hill, Badwater Road
12:00pm to 1:00pm

Badwater: The Life and Times of Badwater Microbes (Field Trip Leader: Dr. Susanne Douglas/PSI)

Many areas of Death Valley have groundwater springs which rise at the edges of the salt pan. The resulting salts which form are called evaporites and these evaporites are inhabited by a variety of different microbial communities. Within these evaporites, the communities find protection from harsh light and fluctuating water levels and, in turn, affect the mineralogy of the salts they inhabit. These endoevaporitic microbial communities are analogues for possible life forms in the evaporites of Mars, and are being studied in order to define what needs life has in an evaporate environment. We will be touring a number of pools at Badwater. These pools are within hundreds of meters of each other yet have differing chemical compositions. We will see different types of microbial communities in these pools and the minerals they produce. If you have a magnifying glass, you may wish to bring it.

Badwater Boardwalk
12:30pm – 1:00pm

Mars Analogs in the Australian Outback (Speaker: David Willson/NASA Ames)

Mars and the Australian outback are red because of the presence of hematite, iron oxide, on the surface. The presence of hematite in the outback landscape is the first of many striking analogs between Australia and Mars.

Australia is described as an ancient continent with a landscape with: tectonic stability, a lack of major volcanic activity, a lack of glaciation and low rainfall resulting in the preservation much of its past geological history. The oldest known land surface in the world near the Strelley Pool in the Pilbara region show 3.45 billion year old Stromatolite fossils, the first clear evidence of macro-life on Earth. Other analogs to Mars include Mesa’s (inverted channels) and extensive sand dune fields as seen in the Simpson Desert. Mars like dust storms and “dust devils” are feature in these regions.

The Mars Society Australia has led a number of planetary science expeditions to Mars analogs including NASA Spaceward Bound expeditions involving Australian/US planetary scientists and teachers to the Pilbara in Western Australia, and to Arkaroola in South Australia where the society wishes to build an MDRS type Mars habitat for school students and Mars researchers.

Furnace Creek Visitor Center Auditorium
1:00pm – 1:30pm

Social Action for a Grassroots Astrobiology Network (Speaker: Julie DeMarines/SAGAN)

S.A.G.A.N. (Social Action for a Grassroots Astrobiology Network) is a virtual hub funded by the NASA Astrobiology Institute for astrobiology social networking, scientific collaborations, and community building. It was launched on April 12, 2012, and is run by six early career astrobiologists: Zach Adam (Montana State), Julia DeMarines (Denver Museum of Nature & Science), Grasshopper Illangkoon (fFAME, FSU), Betül Kacar (Georgia Tech), Sanjoy Som (NASA Ames), and Sara Imari Walker (Beyond Center, ASU) Our virtual hub is an excellent tool for keeping up with scientific news, career opportunities and friends (via our facebook-like interface, forums and RSS feeds), as well as collaboration with breakout rooms that host a suit of collaboration tools (multi-user video chat, and document sharing). SAGANet has the capability to live-stream events, such as conferences, talks and videos, and has the ability for users to create groups and events of their own. Additionally, SAGANet is beginning a one year pilot mentoring program for virtual one-on-one mentoring as well as group mentoring. Currently we have 582 members. We welcome you to join our community; it's free and easy to sign up! Visit us at www.saganet.org!

Furnace Creek Visitor Center Multipurpose Room

 

1:30pm – 2:00pm

Badwater: Badwater and Climate Change on Mars (Speaker: Dr. Rosalba Bonaccorsi/NASA Ames and SETI Institute)

Climate change research by NASA has occurred at Badwater basin for decades. This extreme environment, along with other research locations, helps provide scientific evidence of climate change. During this trip, we will visit the NASA Ames weather stations at Badwater basin. The discussion will cover what the implications and applications of this research are for environmental and planetary studies.

Badwater Boardwalk
1:30pm – 2:30pm

Update on the Mars Rover Curiosity (with connections to Death Valley) (Speaker: Dr. Luther Beegle/JPL)

In August of 2012, NASA landed on Mars the most ambitious rover mission ever: the Curiosity Rover. In the 6 months of operations on the red planet, the rover has explored nearly ½ km of the martian surface from the Bradbury landing site to its current position within “Yellow Knife Bay”. An over view of the mission to date will be given with specific description of the sampling hardware including the drill. How Death Valley and the surrounding Mojave Desert played in the testing of hardware will be discussed.

Furnace Creek Visitor Center Auditorium

 

2:00pm – 3:00pm

Environmental Protection for the Solar System—Taking care of ALL the planets (Speaker: Dr. Margaret Race/SETI Institute)

Robotic spacecraft launched to Mars and other places in the solar system are required by a UN Treaty to avoid cross-contamination during their missions. You’ll be surprised how clean spacecraft are before they’re launched. Hitchhiking microbes beware!

Furnace Creek Visitor Center Multipurpose Room

 

3:00pm – 4:00pm

Curiosity Hour (Speakers: Dr. Rosalba Bonaccorsi/NASA Ames and SETI Institute, Dr. Robert Haberle/NASA Ames, Sarah Marcotte/JPL and Florence Tan/SAM)

In “Curiosity Hour” we’ll give you the latest breaking news on the Curiosity rover which landed on Mars on August 5, 2012. We’ll cover where we’ve been, what we’ve done, where we’re going and what we have learned!

Furnace Creek Visitor Center Auditorium
4:15pm – 5:45pm

Panel: The Future of Planetary Analog and Society (Moderator: Andrea Jones/NASA Goddard; Tentative Speakers: Dr. Rosalba Bonaccorsi/NASA Ames and SETI Institute, Julia DeMarines/SAGAN, Dr. Robert Haberle/NASA Ames, Dr. Margaret Race/SETI Institute and Planetary Protection, David Willson/Mars Society, and Dr. Aaron Zent/NASA AMES)

The panel, moderated by NASA Goddard Outreach Specialist, Andrea Jones, will pose questions to scientists and engineers. The questions will target the research being done on Mars and its usefulness as a means of planetary protection, environmental stewardship, educating and involving future generations with diverse backgrounds and implications of changing environments. All of these topics are important not only in the research being done here on Earth and on Mars, but are also important as we further explore our vast solar system.

Furnace Creek Visitor Center Auditorium

The panel,

7:00pm – 7:30pm

Go Green on Earth and Beyond: Research, Conservation and Education at Mars-like Ubehebe Crater (Speaker: Dr. Rosalba Bonaccorsi/NASA Ames and SETI Institute)

Over the past three years, Astrobiology Field Analog research at the Ubehebe Volcanic Field (UVH) in Death Valley National Park has led to cross-disciplinary and multi-component investigations into themes such as climate change and water resource monitoring, environmental sustainability, and preservation of cultural and natural heritage values. Partnerships between NASA and Death Valley National Park have arisen in the form of education and outreach programs, as well as increased researcher and visitor interactions. “Go Green on Earth and Beyond” highlights the work being done, the relevance of synergistic and inclusive interactions that help to raise visitor awareness, and the real world examples of cohesive partnerships, which allow this project to be possible. The ultimate goal of these partnerships and this research is to provide a better and brighter future for individuals, society, our planet and our solar system.

Furnace Creek Visitor Center Multipurpose Room
7:00pm – 8:00pm

The Importance of Dark Skies (Speaker: Teresa Jiles/NPS)

Starry night skies and natural darkness are important components of the special places the National Park Service protects. National parks hold some of the last remaining harbors of darkness and provide an excellent opportunity for the public to experience this endangered resource. The NPS is dedicated to protecting and sharing this resource for the enjoyment of current and future generations.

The NPS uses the term "natural lightscape" to describe resources and values that exist in the absence of human-caused light at night. Natural lightscapes are critical for nighttime scenery, such as viewing a starry sky, but are also critical for maintaining nocturnal habitat. Many wildlife species rely on natural patterns of light and dark for navigation, to cue behaviors, or hide from predators. Lightscapes can be cultural as well, and may be integral to the historical fabric of a place. Human-caused light may be obtrusive in the same manner that noise can disrupt a contemplative or peaceful scene. Light that is undesirable in a natural or cultural landscape is often called "light pollution."

Furnace Creek Visitor Center Auditorium
7:00pm to 9:00pm

Telescope Viewing of Night Sky

Join Death Valley National Park and its partners in a viewing of the night sky through telescopes. Multiple telescopes will be set up at Furnace Creek Airport for convenient viewing. Please CARPOOL to reduce traffic congestion and light pollution at the airport. If you plan to walk, bring a flashlight and reflective gear to ensure cars can see you. The viewing will take place over 2 hours. Long lines at 7pm and again at 8pm are anticipated. In order to avoid a long wait to check out the night sky, try to stagger your arrival apart from these popular times.

Furnace Creek Airport

 

7:30pm – 8:00pm

Safeguarding Special Places on Earth and Beyond: How to preserve, protect and study environmentally and culturally important sites (Speaker: Dr. Margaret Race/SETI Institute)

Centuries ago, explorers and adventurers didn't think twice about desecrating a sacred or historical site-- and artifacts of all types were routinely removed as souvenirs or museum pieces. In contrast, today's visitors are reminded about the importance of preserving and protecting special environments, locations and cultural sites. What can we learn from current approaches for safeguarding special places on Earth-- and how do we apply them to locations on other planetary surfaces? Compare your ideas with a recently published NASA report on how to preserve and protect human heritage sites on the Moon. The suggested guidelines may surprise you.

Furnace Creek Visitor Center Multipurpose Room
Sunday, March 3, 2013
9:00am – 9:30am

Surviving High Radiation Environments – Bacterial Spores redefine the Limits of Life on Earth (Speaker: Dr. Madhan R. Tirumalai/University of Houston)

Did you know that radiation-resistant extremophiles are repeatedly found to be contaminating the ultra-sterile environments of spacecraft assembly facility?

Or that, the use of UV radiation, peroxide treatment and desiccation (very low water activity) in the nutrient-deprived (oligotrophic) environments of the assembly facility almost mimic the “extreme” conditions found in a desert environment or on the Mars!

Such radiation resistant microorganisms found in the inhospitable “Mars-like” conditions of clean-room environments of the spacecraft assembly facility of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have the potential to survive interplanetary transport. This raises planetary protection concerns because with some shielding from surface UV they might survive and cause contamination of extraterrestrial environments such as Mars. Time to ponder then – “Are we exploring or invading Mars?”

Furnace Creek Visitor Center Multipurpose Room
10:00am – 11:00am

Planning for Human Missions to Mars (Speaker: Dr. Margaret Race/SETI Institute)

Plans for human missions to Mars involve more than just rocket science and astronauts. Everything from space suits, rovers, habitats and science instruments must be designed to minimize or avoid cross contamination between human associated microbes and possible martian life. And the return trip to Earth presents really unusual challenges—for both decision makers and the crew!

Furnace Creek Visitor Center Auditorium