Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Today, at the Speaker’s Corner for MSL’s landing site second workshop, we have the presence of Brian Hynek, from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado.

Hynek will be, on the second day of the meeting, proposing East Meridiani as the martian region where the Mars Science Laboratory should be headed to.

Let us see why...

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In what will consist your presentation?

I'll talk about the science return from this site and also how it fits well within the engineering constraints. For science potential, the rover would land in the middle of a thick sequence of layers that are full of sulfates. This is a clear sign of water in the region in the past. It would help us understand the early history of Mars and the amount of water. More was in my abstract from last year's 1st MSL Landing Site workshop (abstract available here).


Could you point me what are the strongest aspect of East Meridiani as the landing site you are proposing? What differences it from the others?


We would land directly on the rocks of interest, and not have to drive to reach them. It is safe from the engineering standpoint too.
Safer than most that have been proposed.


What are the probabilities of getting your proposal approved having into account the announced restraints?

The site I proposed is considered a "safe haven", meaning it has passed the most rigorous safety criteria.

The study of the geological history of the red planet, the search for water signs, habitability and possible existence of life in a remote past or even in the present…this seem to be, presently the three vertices of the martian quest triangle…Do you, as a scientist, give priority to one of these in particular?

I think they are all related and cannot separate them in my work. The are on different levels though, and I think the question of life on Mars is the grand theme.


What is your opinion about the latest budget cuts? With five of the eight science instruments affected, like the ChemCam and some being removed like the Mars Descent Imaging Camera...Will they possibly reduce the scientific return?

Yes, ChemCam being cut would greatly decrease the science return.
The instrument allows sampling of rocks without having to approach them.
It would also help pick out samples for eventual return to Earth.

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