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Scientists Answer Kid's Mars Questions


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#1    Saru

Saru

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Posted 13 December 2002 - 06:09 PM

                    Here's something I received in my E-Mail earlier.

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The Associated Press asked fifth-graders from Stacie Kaeuper's class at Wyatt Elementary School in Plano, Texas, to pose questions about traveling to the so-called red planet and the possibility of people living there.

The answers were provided by Deborah Bass and Bob Mase, both scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, Calif. Bass is an engineer and deputy science team chief who helps ensure that rovers sent to the surface of Mars send back as much scientific data as possible. Mase is manager of the 2001 Mars Odyssey mission.

From Elaine Sun, age 10.

Q: Is it possible to create a spacecraft that can safely carry human beings to Mars?

A: Yes. It would be similar to the vehicles that carried astronauts to the moon, but would need to be much larger and stronger to endure the longer, more strenuous journey.

From Will Conklin, age 10.

Q: How long does it take to get to Mars from Earth?

A: With the today's technology, it takes anywhere from six months to about a year to get a spacecraft from the Earth to Mars. The travel time depends on when you depart and how much energy (or the size of the rocket) you have available.

There are only certain times when it's a good idea to launch a mission to Mars. Every 26 months, a launch window presents itself, and it is during this time that it is most efficient to send a spacecraft to Mars. The best upcoming opportunities are in summer 2003 and fall 2005.

It can be done at other times; it's just very inefficient, and very costly.

From Kristin Kershaw, age 11.

Q: What would you wear if you were on Mars?

A: In the current environment, you'd need a space suit like those worn by astronauts.

Mars is very cold and its atmosphere is a very thin blanket - 100 times less dense than Earth's. So it is not able to provide the same type of protection we have from high-energy radiation and the frigid vacuum of space. So you'd need to keep warm - and you'd need a pressurized environment so your body wouldn't explode.

From Dushyant Narayan, age 11.

Q: Is it possible for water to be under the surface on Mars?

A: Yes. The Odyssey spacecraft has detected large amounts of water stored just under the surface in the form of ``dirty ice,'' mostly frozen water with some rocks and minerals in it.

From David Thompson, age 10.

Q: Would it ever be possible for humans to live on Mars without some type of shelter?

A: Humans would always need some type of shelter to protect them from the elements - extreme temperatures and bad weather. However, if there were a way that we could generate an atmosphere around Mars, similar to the Earth's atmosphere, the environment could be made safer for humans. An atmosphere would filter out much of the harmful solar and cosmic radiation.

From Alyssa Heffley, age 10.

Q: How would you change the air so people could live there and plants could grow?

A: That process is called ``terraforming'' - turning a non-Earth-like planet into one more similar to Earth, or ``terra.''

Though there are many theories about how to do it, some scientists believe the same process that turned the Earth's atmosphere from mostly carbon dioxide into breathable air could be repeated on Mars.

To do so would thicken the atmosphere, heat the planet and provide a suitable living environment for plants and animals.

From Anthony Roderman, age 10.

Q: When and if we go to Mars, what will our homes look like?

A: We might start off living underground because Mars has no ozone layer to protect us from harmful radiation.

Water and breathable air would probably be recycled and conserved carefully, since they are precious resources on Mars. Any humans visiting Mars today would have to carry with them huge amounts of oxygen and nitrogen in order to survive.

Source: Ndlunks                    





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