AirTalk for January 22, 2013

Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s focus on Mars

opportunity rover mars

NASA/JPL

NASA's Mars Rover Opportunity’s Investigations at Endeavour Crater. Image shown during news conference by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Steve Squyres of Cornell University at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) fall meeting in San Francisco on Dec. 4, 2012.

If you’ve never heard of the MacLaughlin crater, don’t worry. It’s hard to see something that’s only visible at night and is millions of miles away on a neighboring planet. But the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is not limited by the same challenges as those of us stuck on Earth.

This satellite’s imaging system breaks up light into different colors as a means of determining what materials are present in an image. When taking photographs of the crater, the images depict clay and carbonates, indicators that point to the existence of water.

While these discoveries are nothing new, the dimensions of the crater (it is about 60 miles wide and 1.4 miles deep) mean that the crater could have retained water. So the crater might not be a crater after all, it might have been a lake. Discoveries such as this would not be possible without the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s decades-long fascination with the Red Planet.

On Wednesday, JPL will release a new documentary titled “The Changing Face of Mars.” Today on AirTalk, we invite the creator of the movie, Blaine Baggett to discuss JPL’s exploration of Mars over the years, as well as any exciting new developments being found.

What is it that’s so fascinating about this planet? Is it the mystery of life? How far have we come in understanding Mars over the past decades?  

Guest:

Blaine Baggett, Director of  the JPL Office of Communications and Education; Writer, Producer and Director of “The Changing Face of Mars”

"The Changing Face of Mars" premieres on January 23rd at 8 p.m. in Caltech's Beckman Auditorium. Click here for more infomation.


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