Above: photos of Mars taken by the Hubble Space Telescope
Four spacecraft are travelling to Mars this month, as the red planet moves the closest it has been to Earth in 60 millennia.
Right: Simulation of Beagle 2, with solar panels deployed, on Mars
Japan’s first Mars probe, Nozomi, is already in space and on trajectory with navigational support from York’s CRESS (Centre for Research in Earth and Space Science). The European Space Agency on June 2 launched Mars Express with the Beagle 2 lander, and NASA scheduled the launch of two orbiters on June 8 and June 25.
A number of leading Martian scientists at CRESS are members of teams that are the finalists in the competition for a NASA-led 2007 scout mission. This August NASA will choose the winning proposal for the scout mission. Currently only four proposals out of 25 remain in the running: Phoenix and Marvel, both of which involve York scientists, and SCIM and ARES.
Given the concentration of knowledge at York about Mars, the University has provided the news media with a formidable list of experts who can comment as the missions proceed. Here’s the list:
John Caldwell, professor of astronomy, with expertise in space and planetary astronomy and extra-solar planets, has served at NASA’s Ames Research Centre, working with a team of scientists to develop the Kepler mission to discover Earth-like planets around other stars. He has also made observations of Mars in the past with the Hubble Space Telescope and is currently searching for possible volcanic emissions with his students and collaborators.
Wayne Cannon, York professor of physics, works primarily with the technique and instrumentation of Very Long Baseline Interferometry. VLBI is a radio astronomical technique to observe quasars, but can also be used to study planetary phenomena and communications. Cannon’s research group at York developed a world standard for VLBI data storage and handling that is now used in more than a dozen countries around the world, including Japan. He recently assisted Japan’s space program in their efforts to get the Nozomi Mars probe back on track (see May 22 YFile at http://www.yorku.ca/yfile/archive/index.asp?Article=1314.)
Allan Carswell, York professor emeritus and founder of Optech Inc., is the lead Canadian researcher in the Phoenix project, funded by the Canadian Space Agency. Carswell is known for developing and extending the application of laser radar technology, known as lidar (light detecting and ranging), used to measure atmospheric pollution.
John McConnell, York professor of atmospheric science and an eminent atmospheric modeller, is internationally recognized for his contributions to knowledge of the processes taking place in the atmospheres of the Earth, as well as Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus. He is also a participant in the MICA project, which is Canada’s contribution to the Marvel proposal.
Diane Michelangeli, York professor of atmospheric science, is a member of the Phoenix team and is working on the development of Canadian models of the dynamical and microphysical properties of the Martian boundary layer in support of a possible planetary lidar proposed by Optech to detect and characterize dust devils and the background dust so prevalent in the Martian atmosphere.
Peter Taylor, York professor of atmospheric science, is an applied mathematician and a member of the Phoenix team. He is also working on the development of Canadian models of the dynamical and microphysical properties of the Martian boundary layer in support of a possible planetary lidar proposed by Optech to detect and characterize dust devils and the background dust so prevalent in the Martian atmosphere.
Brendan Quine, York professor of physics and astronomy, is a planetary physicist and space science entrepreneur, and a co-founder of the space technology company, Thoth Technology Inc. Thoth is developing an all-Canadian Mars lander and rover called Northern Light, and has assembled a team of more than 50 scientists at 10 universities across Canada to work on the project, backed by an industrial consortium comprising many of Canada’s space companies.