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The Mars MAVEN Mission and "Dreams of Other Worlds" author Chris Impey - SA Hangout #7

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    JM: Hi everybody! This is Joanne Manaster,
    a blogger with Scientific American
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    and I'd like you to welcome to this
    very special Scientific American chat
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    that we are airing on the heels
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    of NASA's press conference yesterday
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    about NASA's MAVEN space orbiter
    that is expected to launch
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    mid-November to head to Mars
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    to look at the non-existent
    atmosphere of Mars
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    and wonder, where did it go?
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    So I'm joined today by two special guests
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    who can enlighten us about
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    both what's going on with the orbiter
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    and about unmanned or robotic
    space exploration in general.
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    So first, I'd like to introduce you
    to a NASA space scientist,
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    one of the MAVEN scientists,
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    Nick Schneider, from the
    University of Colorado in Boulder.
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    He's with the Laboratory for
    Atmospheric and Space Physics.
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    That's a mouthful.
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    And he's one of the members
    of the Science Team.
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    I'm actually going to pull up…
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    He's an Associates Professor
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    in the Department of Astrophysical
    and Planetary Sciences
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    at the University of Colorado.
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    He received his PhD in Planetary Science
    from the University of Arizona.
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    His research interests include
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    planetary atmospheres
    and planetary astronomy
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    with one focus on the odd case
    of Jupiter's moon, Io.
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    He is also the lead on the
    Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph
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    on the upcoming MAVEN mission to Mars.
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    He enjoys teaching at all levels
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    and is active in efforts to improve
    undergraduate astronomy education.
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    I'd go for that.
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    Off the job, he enjoys
    exploring the outdoors
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    with his family
    and figuring out how things work.
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    What I have here?
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    I'd like to show up something you've done.
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    You are one of the authors on this book
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    which I hear is in 7th edition.
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    NS: That's right.
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    JM: The Cosmic Perspective
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    This is a beginning astronomy textbook.
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    NS: Exactly.
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    JM: Welcome Nick.
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    I'm going to introduce Chris right now.
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    Chris Impey is a
    university distinguished Professor
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    at the University of Arizona.
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    So you guys have a connection.
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    And he's Deputy Head
    of the Astronomy Department.
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    His research interests include
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    observational cosmology,
    quasars, and distant galaxies.
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    He has written 160 research papers
    and two astronomy textbooks
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    but you say those are online, right?
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    CI: Yeah, the one's repurposed.
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    It's called Teach Astronomy
    so it's up there and free.
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    JM: Oh, great. He has won
    11 teaching awards
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    has served as a National Science
    Foundation distinguished teaching scholar
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    a Phi Beta Kappa visiting scholar
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    and the Carnegie Council's
    Arizona Professor of the Year.
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    He is former Vice President of
    the American Astronomical Society
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    and Fellow of the AAAS.
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    He has four popular books
    actually now five:
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    The Living Cosmos,
    How It Ends, Talking About Life,
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    and the one that we are referencing today
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    called Dreams of Other Worlds
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    which is the Amazing Story of
    Unmanned Space Exploration
    .
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    So welcome, Chris.
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    CI: Thank you.
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    JM: It's great to have you both here.
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    Before we go forward
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    in News of Space today,
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    Chris Hatfield, Col. Chris Hatfield
    from the Canadian Space Agency
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    who was on the ISS and returned recently.
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    As we know he made
    a big splash on social media
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    with his images, and singing,
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    and his videos explaining his music.
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    He has published a book
    It is out today.
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    So if you haven't gotten
    you haven't heard of it, it's called
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    An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth:
    What Going to Space
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    Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination,
    and Being Prepared for Anything
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    And we at Scientific American
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    will have him as a guest
    on November 14th at noon.
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    So mark that on your calendars
    and join us if you can for that.
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    So, let's talk a little bit about MAVEN
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    before we talk about un-manned
    space exploration in general
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    or robotic space exploration in general.
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    There's a lot of interest,
    so why don't we do some of the details?
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    When is this expected to launch?
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    NS: MAVEN is slated to launch
    in the afternoon of November 18th.
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    It's a short period every afternoon
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    for a couple of weeks
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    when all the planets are aligned,
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    because we have to have the Earth
    in the right position relative to Mars
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    and the right rotation of the Earth
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    so that the spacecraft will actually
    get to Mars on time.
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    If you ever wanted to know somebody
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    whose life was controlled
    by the positions of the planets
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    well, that's anybody trying to launch
    a spacecraft to another planet.
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    JM: But not the rest of us.
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    So what's in paper is not relevant at all.
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    But actually there are several days
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    so you have a window
    of several days during this time.
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    NS: That's right, it's a couple of weeks
    and the main thing that happens
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    if the planets go out of alignment
    it just takes a little bit extra fuel.
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    And fuel is precious,
    it's our ability to maneuver
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    when we get to Mars.
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    So we really want to launch
    at that sweet spot
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    early in the launch window.
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    JM: That's fantastic.
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    I'm excited because I'm going down
    for the launch, myself.
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    The only other launch I've seen
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    is the last space shuttle launch.
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    I'm glad I got to see that one.
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    So, I'm looking forward
    to watching an Atlis-5 go off.
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    NS: Me too.
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    JM: I'm really quite excited about this.
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    So, as far as…
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    We're wondering, for those of who did
    not catch the press conference yesterday.
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    What is MAVEN going to do?
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    NS: Sure, I'm happy to explain that.
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    I'm pretty sure that
    the members of the hangout
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    are going to be pretty familiar
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    with the basics on Mars.
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    A hundred years ago or more
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    anybody who looked through
    the telescope on Mars
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    really wondered what was going on
    with the change of the seasons.
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    There was actually a suspicion
    that there was life on Mars,
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    water on Mars,
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    but by the time
    the first NASA probes got to Mars
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    what they discovered instead
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    is that the atmosphere now
    is next to nothing.
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    There's no flowing water or evidence
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    of abundant water on the surface
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    and instead it's this really cold
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    really dry planet.
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    And yet, you look at those images
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    and what you see from the spacecraft
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    are dried up river beds
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    river deltas filing up craters.
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    There must have been
    a warmer wetter environment
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    billions of years ago.
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    And the only way that's possible
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    is for there to have been
    a huge greenhouse effect
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    with lots more atmosphere.
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    Everybody's best guess
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    is that Mars has lost
    80, 90, 99% of the atmosphere
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    over billions of years.
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    We used to think that
    the atmosphere on Mars
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    might have combined with the surface.
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    That's actually where limestone
    comes from on the Earth.
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    It's carbon-dioxide being
    sucked into the surface.
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    But the missions sent to Mars so far
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    can't find enough evidence
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    that the atmosphere
    re-combined with the surface.
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    So we're left with the other possibility
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    that the atmosphere escaped away to space.
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    And so that's what MAVEN
    is going to go check.
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    Is it possible
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    that through the host of processes
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    we understand that the escape rate
    of the atmosphere to space
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    is large enough to explain
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    where almost all the early
    Mars atmosphere went?
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    And I can get into more detail
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    about how we make
    those measurements, if you want,
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    but I just wanted you
    to get the basic idea
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    about what MAVEN's about,
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    JM: That's interesting.
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    So part of my interest in this
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    is I was invited to come
    to a New Media workshop
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    out there at the University of Colorado
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    and to listen to you scientists talk about
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    what MAVEN was all about.
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    So I'm happy to follow up
    with this hangout
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    for the Scientific American audience.
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    One thing that was interesting was
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    Why didn't we send a probe to Venus?
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    We've sent probes elsewhere
    to look at the atmosphere.
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    But why not Venus?
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    I mean that's so obvious
    it's so close, but…
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    I'll actually ask Chris
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    to weigh in on this because
    you've just written a book
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    about almost every single
    unmanned exploration craft
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    that's been sent out.
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    CI: I think that the trouble with
    planetary science now
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    is there's so many good ideas to pursue,
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    and so few new starts possible
    in the budget.
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    You can't do everything.
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    I was hanging out at JPL
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    lecturing to engineers there
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    and one of them was the lead
    on a Venus mission,
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    a Venus lander,
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    which got deselected at the last stage.
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    When it got down to the final four
    it wasn't picked.
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    And it was really challenging
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    because, you know, Venus
    is a pretty nasty place
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    and they had a mission
    that was going to land there
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    take data for ten days
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    before it got baked out and died
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    and learn an enormous amount about Venus.
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    So, you know, there are missions
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    sitting there on the shelf
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    from NASA people
    and people who work with NASA
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    to do almost everything you could imagine
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    whether it's Hydrobot
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    melting through the European ice pack
    and looking for life
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    or going back to Titan with dirigibles
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    and sampling all the lakes
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    or the more advanced Mars concepts
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    that would actually look for life
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    by drilling down to what we think
    might be aquifers underneath.
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    There are all these concepts out there
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    and not enough coin to do most of them.
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    JM: Yeah,
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    with the number of things we've sent out
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    and we've learned a lot,
    it just seems infinite
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    what else we could possibly learn
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    if we could send every dream
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    of explorers out there.
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    Actually before we get back to
    the Mars atmosphere and MAVEN
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    I was interested,
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    when I first mentioned to my editor,
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    I want to talk about this book
    and the MAVEN thing.
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    Your subtitle is The Amazing Story of
    Unmanned Space Exploration
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    and I was immediately countered with
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    "Oh, that's not the correct term
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    "the politically correct term
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    "to use the word 'unmanned' ".
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    And I inquired of you about that.
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    So do you want to explain why you chose
    "unmanned" versus "robotic"
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    despite the fact "unmanned"
    might upset people?
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    CI: To be honest, that was
    a publisher decision actually
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    They published a book
    and they get the deciding vote on that.
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    "Robotic" would have been
    a better choice, I agree.
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    And, we've had to take
    the various languages…
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    Look at the evolution of the Star Trek
    the famous Star Trek line,
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    "where no man has gone before" to
    "where no one has gone before"
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    So there's been
    suitable and appropriate evolution
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    of some of these iconic phrases
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    JM: So, would both of you agree that
    "robotic" is probably
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    just a better term, or a perfect term
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    or is there an even better term?
    'Cause we've sent out telescopes…?
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    And when I think of "robotic"
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    I think of lots of moving arms
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    and things that are grabbing things
    to bring back to analyze
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    and less so just
    analytical equipment or optics.
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    But, I guess, my expansion of "robotics"
    might need to expand.
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    NS: I use "robotic exploration".
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    CI: They do feel quite different.
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    Orbiting telescopes
    or telescopes at the LaGrange Point
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    they're just the technology
    we use on Earth to observe
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    transplanted into space.
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    And we remote observe on the Earth
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    I don't have to go to
    Chili or Hawaii anymore
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    because I can remote observe
    from my office.
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    But I think "robotic" is appropriate
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    for the planetary missions
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    because they're literally
    like sense extenders.
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    They're our eyes and our ears
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    on another world, and we often
    operate them that way.
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    JM: I'll have Chris give sort of
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    a history of robotic exploration
    on Mars for us
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    and then we'll go back and talk a
    little bit more about the MAVEN mission.
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    So, think back to your book,
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    what you've talked about
    the different explorers
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    that have goneto Mars
    and what they've accomplished.
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    Maybe their drawbacks
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    and how we're improving on that?
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    CI: Right, why I was interested in that book
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    is that I think that some people
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    just underestimate how fantastic
    these technologies really are.
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    Just setting Mars aside for a minute,
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    the Huygens probe to soft-land on a world
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    nearly a billion miles away
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    and then inspect it
    and find that it has
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    this bizarre Earth-like lakes,
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    and weather and cryovolcanism,
    and all this cool stuff.
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    That's an amazing achievement
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    and to go back to the beginning
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    the Viking missions, long forgotten now
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    most Americans were not alive
    when those missions were designed.
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    They were 1960s technology
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    Think of computers then,
    think of electronics then.
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    And those two landers and two orbiters
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    did amazing things.
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    They did life-detection experiments
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    that have not been surpassed since
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    and one of which at least
    led to an ambiguous result.
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    So, the Vikings were amazing missions
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    for that time, 40 years ago
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    and we've just continued
    the progression with rovers.
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    Then NASA having gone for the
    bouncing bag landing mechanism
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    which is kind of safe, very forgiving
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    upped the degree of difficulty hugely
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    with Curiosity and the Skycrane.
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    So again, amazing technologies
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    really high risk
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    and high reward
    and high payoff activities.
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    These types of missions
    absolutely push our technology.
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    Now a geologist would tell you
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    there is no substitute
    for bringing back Mars rocks.
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    On Earth you could examine them
    molecule by molecule.
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    But what you can compress into
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    something that you can launch
    and will survive the passage
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    and the launch, and the entry into Mars
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    is still pretty amazing technology.
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    The instruments on Curiosity,
    for instance,
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    I think we absolutely push the envelope
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    of almost everything
    we can do in technology
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    when we design these kind of missions.
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    NS: Yeah, Chris, if I can jump in here
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    and add onto this
    you talk about high technology
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    high performance, high capability.
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    But part of the message
    that sometimes gets lost
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    is that this is also low cost.
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    If you think about every image
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    ever returned by Cassini spacecraft
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    or every rock ever picked up
    by a Mars rover
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    the sum total of all this
    robotic exploration
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    is less than half of NASA's budget.
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    It's a small fraction.
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    Putting humans in space
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    as dramatic and as forward moving as it is
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    and as much as I love that, too
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    that's more expensive.
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    What we can do with robots
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    being so much more affordable
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    we can go everywhere
    and we can go there now.
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    So, it was really the immediacy
    of robotic exploration
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    and our pervasive presence in space
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    that makes it such
    a compelling subject for me.
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    CI: And, of course, that advantage
    will just continue to grow
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    because the robotic missions
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    will become more miniaturized.
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    They will benefit from Moore's Law
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    and humans are always going to be tricky
  • 16:08 - 16:10
    and difficult to sustain in space.
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    Space is not a natural place for humans.
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    We're sort of shading into a huge debate
  • 16:15 - 16:19
    that plays out in our various communities
  • 16:19 - 16:23
    of man versus unmanned
    or human versus non-human or robotic
  • 16:23 - 16:25
    and it doesn't have to be either or.
  • 16:25 - 16:27
    You're going to be talking
    to Chris Hatfield
  • 16:27 - 16:29
    and when the astronauts
    like him or John Grunsfeld
  • 16:29 - 16:32
    who we've had here a number of times
    and who's a hero.
  • 16:33 - 16:35
    He walks into the auditorium
    and he gets a standing ovation
  • 16:35 - 16:39
    from 200 astronomers
    the guy who fixed Hubble three times.
  • 16:39 - 16:42
    So, there's no substitute for that either.
  • 16:42 - 16:43
    But it's expensive.
  • 16:43 - 16:45
    The space shuttle real cost
  • 16:46 - 16:47
    was half a billion dollars a launch
  • 16:47 - 16:50
    and a couple of shuttle launches
  • 16:50 - 16:52
    buys you a really cool planetary probe
  • 16:52 - 16:55
    so that's a hard trade-off.
  • 16:57 - 17:00
    JM: I actually really liked
    your recap of the Hubble
  • 17:00 - 17:05
    the entire Hubble
    building, launching, and repair
  • 17:05 - 17:07
    in your book.
  • 17:07 - 17:09
    It's worth visiting the book just for that.
  • 17:09 - 17:12
    But I did really like that retelling.
  • 17:13 - 17:15
    What I wanted to say
  • 17:15 - 17:17
    now that Chris has
    talked about the different
  • 17:17 - 17:20
    probes that are there
    that we sent there.
  • 17:21 - 17:24
    Of course, we know
    we just had a government shutdown
  • 17:24 - 17:29
    and this probably had you guys
    at MAVEN sweating... a lot
  • 17:30 - 17:34
    but you got a bit of a reprieve
  • 17:35 - 17:38
    and they allowed you to continue the work.
  • 17:39 - 17:43
    Do you want to explain why you guys
    were allowed to get that exemption?
  • 17:44 - 17:46
    - Sure
    - But the NAH couldn't?
  • 17:47 - 17:51
    NS: So, the MAVEN project did stand down
  • 17:51 - 17:52
    for a couple of days
  • 17:52 - 17:55
    under the government shutdown.
  • 17:57 - 18:00
    We were all very anxious
    and frustrated by this.
  • 18:01 - 18:03
    This mission is ready to go
  • 18:03 - 18:05
    and it's got great science
  • 18:05 - 18:08
    but under the terms of the shutdown
  • 18:08 - 18:12
    that's not enough to get the exemption.
  • 18:13 - 18:17
    And even the fact that missing this launch
    window that I talked about
  • 18:17 - 18:21
    and waiting in cold storage
    for a couple of years
  • 18:21 - 18:24
    for the next chance would cost
    a couple hundred million dollars
  • 18:24 - 18:27
    even that was not enough.
  • 18:27 - 18:30
    But, what really mattered is the fact that
  • 18:30 - 18:36
    built into MAVEN is a relay capability
    for radio transmission
  • 18:36 - 18:39
    with the rovers on the surface
  • 18:39 - 18:42
    and so it's really these ongoing missions
  • 18:42 - 18:46
    that we need to preserve
    the capability for communication.
  • 18:46 - 18:50
    That was the primary justification
    for MAVEN getting
  • 18:50 - 18:53
    exempted from the shutdown.
  • 18:53 - 18:55
    There are a couple of satellites
    around Mars
  • 18:55 - 18:57
    that are capable of performing
    that relay function
  • 18:57 - 19:00
    but they're getting
    a little long in the tooth
  • 19:00 - 19:04
    and we needed to make sure that MAVEN
    would get there in this launch window
  • 19:05 - 19:08
    to be able to fulfill that role as needed.
  • 19:08 - 19:11
    Now we hope those other missions survive
  • 19:11 - 19:12
    but the last thing you want
  • 19:12 - 19:15
    is Curiosity, on the surface
    making great discoveries
  • 19:15 - 19:18
    and no capability for
    the high data rate back to Earth.
  • 19:19 - 19:22
    So that was what got MAVEN back on track.
  • 19:22 - 19:26
    And we are on track
    for the launch on November 18th.
  • 19:26 - 19:27
    Did I say November 18th?
  • 19:27 - 19:28
    JM: Yes.
  • 19:29 - 19:31
    CI: I can't resist commenting that.
  • 19:31 - 19:34
    We're talking about how high-tech
    space exploration is.
  • 19:34 - 19:38
    One of the areas where it's really
    behind the curve is communication.
  • 19:39 - 19:42
    Probably some of your viewers may know
  • 19:42 - 19:46
    that Vincent Serf, who is the architect
    of the original internet
  • 19:45 - 19:48
    is now working with NASA
    on an interplanetary internet,
  • 19:48 - 19:51
    because there are real problems
  • 19:51 - 19:54
    with operating the internet
    beyond the Earth
  • 19:54 - 19:58
    because you have missions
    with hour-long transmission times
  • 19:58 - 20:01
    and they have to look up IP addresses
  • 20:01 - 20:04
    and they have to get hooked
  • 20:04 - 20:07
    into the patchwork quilt
    that is the internet
  • 20:07 - 20:09
    and the protocols that go with it.
  • 20:09 - 20:10
    There's no way to do that right now.
  • 20:11 - 20:15
    So, we actually have to design
    an entirely new architecture
  • 20:15 - 20:17
    for interplanetary internet
  • 20:16 - 20:19
    on which all of these
    space missions will depend.
  • 20:20 - 20:22
    JM: That's really interesting.
  • 20:22 - 20:26
    CI: It's been pioneered by the mission
    that's just gone to the moon, actually.
  • 20:27 - 20:29
    JM: Bellary.
  • 20:28 - 20:31
    CI: Bellary has been just pioneering
  • 20:30 - 20:33
    some of the first transmission protocols
    under this new internet
  • 20:33 - 20:36
    a protocol for planetary explor…
  • 20:36 - 20:39
    JM: Is that built into the MAVEN, too then?
  • 20:39 - 20:43
    NS: No, we don't have
    that advanced technology.
  • 20:45 - 20:49
    JM: You have a picture
    of MAVEN behind you
  • 20:49 - 20:51
    and you also have a model.
  • 20:51 - 20:54
    Why don't you pull that forward
    and sort of explain
  • 20:55 - 20:57
    what we've got going on
  • 20:57 - 20:59
    so people have a…
  • 20:59 - 21:01
    Because everyone's got this idea
  • 21:01 - 21:03
    of what Curiosity looks like, right?
  • 21:04 - 21:06
    Because there are just images all the time
  • 21:06 - 21:09
    of the rovers displayed on the internet
    and everything.
  • 21:09 - 21:12
    So, I thought we could get an idea
    of what an orbiter this type
  • 21:12 - 21:14
    is going to look like and do.
  • 21:15 - 21:18
    NS: Sure, and I'm glad you emphasized
    the word "orbiter".
  • 21:18 - 21:21
    This spacecraft doesn't land
    on the surface.
  • 21:21 - 21:25
    We just orbit the planet
    over and over again
  • 21:25 - 21:27
    about every five hours, or so
  • 21:27 - 21:29
    studying the different ways
  • 21:29 - 21:31
    that the atmosphere
    can escape away to space
  • 21:31 - 21:34
    and even what the atmosphere properties
  • 21:34 - 21:37
    are high up in the atmosphere.
  • 21:37 - 21:40
    But to give you a bit of a tour
  • 21:40 - 21:42
    this is a 1/30th scale model.
  • 21:42 - 21:44
    So the actual MAVEN spacecraft
  • 21:44 - 21:48
    from tip to tip is about the size
    of a school bus.
  • 21:48 - 21:50
    And everything that you see out here
  • 21:50 - 21:52
    all this real estate, is the solar arrays.
  • 21:52 - 21:55
    So we gather enough solar power
  • 21:55 - 21:59
    to fuel all of our instruments
    all of our controlled electronics.
  • 22:01 - 22:05
    Right here is where
    we keep the explosives.
  • 22:05 - 22:07
    This is the fuel that we fire
  • 22:07 - 22:10
    as we enter Mars' orbit.
  • 22:10 - 22:12
    It has to slow us down
    all the excess energy
  • 22:12 - 22:14
    that we arrive there with.
  • 22:15 - 22:19
    And, so the actual
    rocket nozzles are down here.
  • 22:20 - 22:24
    And this is our relay antenna
  • 22:24 - 22:26
    by which we send
    our own data back to Earth
  • 22:26 - 22:30
    and also any data from the rovers
  • 22:30 - 22:32
    when they need us
    to perform that function.
  • 22:33 - 22:36
    And when we talk about robotic exploration
  • 22:36 - 22:40
    we might say that humans
    have five senses
  • 22:40 - 22:44
    Well, I have to say that
    spacecraft can have dozens
  • 22:44 - 22:48
    or you can choose from dozens
    of different kinds of senses
  • 22:48 - 22:51
    when you're designing
    your robotic explorer.
  • 22:52 - 22:55
    And Chris has already talked about
  • 22:56 - 22:59
    how robots can be the eyes and ears
    and those analogies are really quite good.
  • 23:00 - 23:03
    So, for example, you can see
    we've got these antennas here
  • 23:03 - 23:07
    and we've got some
    devices out on the end here.
  • 23:07 - 23:09
    These are like the ears of the spacecraft
  • 23:09 - 23:12
    listening to the magnetic and electric fields
  • 23:12 - 23:15
    as they change in the vicinity
    of the spacecraft.
  • 23:16 - 23:18
    One of the things our spacecraft does
  • 23:18 - 23:21
    is it actually flies
    through the atmosphere
  • 23:21 - 23:23
    actually it flies this way.
  • 23:23 - 23:27
    That's why the solar arrays
    are angled like that.
  • 23:28 - 23:30
    As we fly through the atmosphere
  • 23:30 - 23:32
    we have a handful of instruments
  • 23:32 - 23:34
    that it's like smelling
    or tasting the atmosphere.
  • 23:35 - 23:38
    Particle by particle they can see
    what the atmosphere is made out of
  • 23:38 - 23:40
    and even how fast
    those particles are going
  • 23:40 - 23:43
    and if they'll escape away.
  • 23:44 - 23:47
    My baby is this instrument, right here.
  • 23:47 - 23:49
    It's the Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph.
  • 23:49 - 23:51
    It's the eyes of MAVEN.
  • 23:51 - 23:53
    You might not know it
  • 23:53 - 23:55
    but every atmosphere in the solar system
  • 23:55 - 23:58
    is glowing like crazy in the ultraviolet.
  • 23:59 - 24:02
    We have this instrument
    that can spread the spectrum apart
  • 24:02 - 24:05
    and see how much carbon dioxide is,
  • 24:05 - 24:08
    how much hydrogen, how much oxygen,
  • 24:09 - 24:10
    all those different ingredients
  • 24:11 - 24:13
    how they're distributed
    through the atmosphere
  • 24:13 - 24:16
    and even, again,
    their chances of escaping.
  • 24:16 - 24:18
    So this spacecraft is perfectly designed
  • 24:18 - 24:21
    with every instrument onboard
    that's necessary
  • 24:21 - 24:23
    to track all the different ways
  • 24:23 - 24:26
    that the atoms and molecules
    of the Mars atmosphere
  • 24:26 - 24:28
    can escape away to space.
  • 24:29 - 24:31
    Did I leave anything out?
    Did you have any questions?
  • 24:31 - 24:35
    JM: When you're saying it's going
    through the atmosphere
  • 24:35 - 24:38
    were you saying that's towards the planet
    or away from the planet?
  • 24:38 - 24:40
    Because there are some dips
  • 24:40 - 24:41
    you are doing, like planned…
  • 24:41 - 24:43
    NS: That's right.
  • 24:43 - 24:46
    Let me get my other prop here.
  • 24:47 - 24:49
    JM: Which will not be to scale?
  • 24:52 - 24:55
    NS: I don't have enough hands
    to really do it right.
  • 24:55 - 24:58
    But to keep things in perspective
  • 24:58 - 25:00
    remember that a planet's atmosphere
  • 25:00 - 25:03
    is really thin on the scale of the planet.
  • 25:03 - 25:07
    Mars is considerably
    smaller than the Earth,
  • 25:08 - 25:11
    larger than the moon
    intermediate-size planet
  • 25:11 - 25:15
    but still the atmosphere
    is just about 100, 200 km down here.
  • 25:15 - 25:19
    And our spacecraft is designed
  • 25:19 - 25:22
    to swoop from high altitudes here, down
  • 25:22 - 25:26
    and fly, skim through the upper layers
  • 25:28 - 25:31
    where the air resistance
    is pretty significant
  • 25:31 - 25:33
    and then come back up again.
  • 25:33 - 25:35
    We're actually able to take
    images of the planet from up here
  • 25:35 - 25:37
    and then we'll dip back down.
  • 25:37 - 25:40
    And, every now and again
    we change our orbit,
  • 25:40 - 25:44
    so that we go even deeper
    into the atmosphere.
  • 25:44 - 25:48
    It's still far above where airplanes fly
    or anything like that
  • 25:48 - 25:50
    in terms of density in Earth's atmosphere
  • 25:50 - 25:53
    but it's a region of great interest
  • 25:53 - 25:56
    for the upper layers of the atmosphere
  • 25:56 - 25:57
    where gasses start to escape.
  • 25:57 - 25:59
    So we call those deep dips.
  • 25:59 - 26:02
    Nonetheless,
  • 26:03 - 26:08
    it's pretty I won't say hair-raising
    I'll just say unnerving
  • 26:07 - 26:10
    the sight that every orbit
    we dip down into the atmosphere
  • 26:10 - 26:13
    that's just a little bit of friction
    and we come out again.
  • 26:14 - 26:16
    It's why we need to have fuel
    so we can continue to tune the orbit
  • 26:16 - 26:20
    and not dip down any deeper
    than we need to, scientifically.
  • 26:21 - 26:23
    JM: So how long is this…
  • 26:23 - 26:27
    How long is MAVEN's,
    your science project, supposed to last?
  • 26:27 - 26:31
    And then I'll get to Chris
    about the longevity of things
  • 26:31 - 26:33
    because things have lasted
    longer than we thought.
  • 26:33 - 26:36
    So your project
    is slated to last how long?
  • 26:37 - 26:39
    You'll be collecting data officially…?
  • 26:39 - 26:41
    CI: The MAVEN primary mission
  • 26:42 - 26:43
    is one Earth year in duration.
  • 26:44 - 26:47
    We were hoping that we could
    slip in the fine print
  • 26:47 - 26:49
    change one Earth year to one Mars year
  • 26:49 - 26:52
    but it turns out they're tracking that.
  • 26:52 - 26:55
    But one Earth year is enough for us
  • 26:55 - 26:58
    to sample all the different
    conditions of the atmosphere
  • 26:58 - 27:03
    especially how the atmosphere behaves
    when the sun kind of goes kablooey.
  • 27:03 - 27:07
    I'm sure that the viewers
    are aware of solar activity
  • 27:07 - 27:09
    and the way that the sun
    can spit out
  • 27:09 - 27:12
    extra energetic photons,
    energetic particles.
  • 27:13 - 27:16
    Those are the processes that can
    strip away the Mars atmosphere.
  • 27:17 - 27:20
    And we really want to study how the
    atmosphere behaves under those conditions
  • 27:20 - 27:24
    and we should see that
    in our one Earth year primary mission.
  • 27:24 - 27:28
    JM: So there's an anticipated
    major solar activity, right?
  • 27:28 - 27:31
    That this is of concern as you guys arrive
  • 27:31 - 27:33
    if I remember correctly?
  • 27:33 - 27:35
    NS: The sun is unpredictable.
  • 27:35 - 27:39
    We don't know what the sun's going
    to do when we arrive,
  • 27:39 - 27:41
    You might be thinking about the comet
  • 27:41 - 27:44
    that gets to Mars
    around the same time that we do,
  • 27:44 - 27:47
    JM:That must be what I'm thinking of
    which is different.
  • 27:47 - 27:49
    NS: Always something going on
    in our solar system.
  • 27:51 - 27:54
    JM: Now, you will not be doing
    any sort of readings on the comet
  • 27:54 - 27:56
    unless it affects the atmosphere, right?
  • 27:56 - 27:58
    NS: That's too soon to tell.
  • 27:58 - 28:01
    We're putting all that on hold
    until we're safely launched.
  • 28:01 - 28:04
    I just needed to correct
  • 28:04 - 28:07
    something that I said a minute ago
    and that is to say
  • 28:07 - 28:09
    we are arriving at Mars
  • 28:09 - 28:12
    while the sun is
    in a statistically active period.
  • 28:13 - 28:15
    So that part was correct.
  • 28:15 - 28:17
    But whether or not there's going to be
  • 28:17 - 28:20
    a good solar storm the day we turn on
  • 28:20 - 28:22
    we wish, but we don't know.
  • 28:22 - 28:25
    JM: We don't know that for sure,
    that's one of those things.
  • 28:25 - 28:28
    I want to pop back to Chris
    because, first of all,
  • 28:28 - 28:31
    this area writing this book
  • 28:31 - 28:34
    about unmanned space exploration
    is not your original field of study.
  • 28:34 - 28:38
    This is not what you prefer to do
    but you're very interested.
  • 28:38 - 28:42
    You've been allowed a lot of insights
    by the people you know.
  • 28:42 - 28:45
    NS: Yeah, he chose the wrong field
    when he was young.
  • 28:45 - 28:48
    CI: Well, I talked to people
    like Caroline Porco
  • 28:48 - 28:50
    and she said it's like child-rearing.
  • 28:50 - 28:53
    You've got to set aside
    an 18-20 year timespan
  • 28:53 - 28:55
    to do something like Cassini
  • 28:55 - 28:58
    I'm just a bit too much of an
    instant gratification kind of person.
  • 28:59 - 29:01
    I like to go to a big telescope
    get my data, write a paper
  • 29:01 - 29:03
    and be done within six months.
  • 29:03 - 29:06
    So it's just impatience
    that's the only thing
  • 29:06 - 29:09
    I do want to echo
    one thing Nick talked about.
  • 29:09 - 29:12
    The trajectory, and the swooping
    in and out of the atmosphere.
  • 29:12 - 29:14
    That's another one of the amazing…
  • 29:14 - 29:17
    the orbital mechanics
    of the people that do this
  • 29:17 - 29:20
    in the outer solar system
    or anywhere in the solar system
  • 29:20 - 29:21
    it's pretty amazing.
  • 29:21 - 29:26
    Cassini will by the end of it's
    equinox and solstice missions
  • 29:26 - 29:28
    have done over a hundred flybys.
  • 29:28 - 29:31
    And they of course
    re-program these in real time.
  • 29:31 - 29:34
    Once you find out that ???
    is interesting you go back to it.
  • 29:34 - 29:37
    And I think the closest approach
  • 29:37 - 29:40
    was 22 km via Iapetus
    and that's incredible.
  • 29:41 - 29:44
    And that's a billion miles away
    and you're swooping your billion
  • 29:44 - 29:46
    multi-billion dollar hardware.
  • 29:47 - 29:50
    NS: And don't forget that this
    was all pre-programmed
  • 29:50 - 29:52
    weeks or months in advance
  • 29:52 - 29:54
    because there's no two-way communication.
  • 29:54 - 29:56
    No one's driving Cassini.
  • 29:56 - 29:58
    CI: That's right. So, these are really
  • 29:59 - 30:01
    remarkable feats to be doing,
  • 30:01 - 30:04
    and the people who do that,
    they must be having a hell of fun.
  • 30:04 - 30:07
    Just like the guy who was
    was the deputy PI
  • 30:07 - 30:10
    of the Deep Impact mission.
  • 30:10 - 30:12
    He was quoted afterwards saying
  • 30:12 - 30:14
    "I can't believe they're paying us
    to have this much fun".
  • 30:15 - 30:17
    NS: That's right, and every now and again
  • 30:17 - 30:19
    somebody will come up to me and say,
  • 30:19 - 30:22
    "Oh, are you a rocket scientist?"
    and you know, I get a little chuffed.
  • 30:23 - 30:26
    But then I was put in my place recently
    when somebody said,
  • 30:26 - 30:28
    "Huh, rocket scientist. I would never get
  • 30:29 - 30:31
    into a rocket made by a scientist".
  • 30:33 - 30:37
    It's the rocket engineers
    that really deserve the credit.
  • 30:37 - 30:39
    You know, we get to go answer
    the big questions
  • 30:39 - 30:42
    and that's what we consider fun,
  • 30:42 - 30:47
    but boy, are we ever dependent
    on the ingenuity of the rocket engineers,
  • 30:47 - 30:50
    and what an amazing job they do.
  • 30:50 - 30:52
    JM: I have to interject this.
  • 30:52 - 30:55
    I met a lady, who was an engineer,
  • 30:55 - 30:57
    and she ended up writing
    a book for children
  • 30:57 - 30:59
    about engineers, what do engineers do,
  • 30:59 - 31:02
    because her own 5-year-old
    was looking at, like,
  • 31:03 - 31:05
    a shuttle launch, or something, and said,
  • 31:05 - 31:08
    "Oh, wow! Look what scientists get to do"
  • 31:08 - 31:10
    and she goes "and engineers".
  • 31:10 - 31:13
    "Engineers are the ones
    who make this actually happen"
  • 31:13 - 31:15
    so, yeah, is very important.
  • 31:16 - 31:18
    We don't have an engineer
    on the panel right now.
  • 31:18 - 31:20
    We got two scientists...
    well, three scientists.
  • 31:20 - 31:23
    But I don't do space stuff.
  • 31:23 - 31:26
    Chris, I'd like you to speak quickly
    about this thing.
  • 31:27 - 31:29
    We send… well, we've had a few
  • 31:29 - 31:32
    where things have tried to give up,
  • 31:32 - 31:34
    but then sort of revived themselves,
  • 31:34 - 31:37
    they're able to work,
    but for the most part,
  • 31:37 - 31:39
    we send these things out,
  • 31:39 - 31:41
    and they have an expected lifespan.
  • 31:41 - 31:44
    But most of the time they seem
    to be exceeding that lifespan.
  • 31:45 - 31:47
    If you could speak on that,
  • 31:47 - 31:51
    and what we can do,
    once we've gotten lucky.
  • 31:51 - 31:54
    CI: And that's natural and good engineering.
  • 31:54 - 31:57
    Of course, engineers like to have big margins,
  • 31:57 - 31:59
    and those margins are not always…
  • 31:59 - 32:02
    For a bridge, or anything,
    it's a factor of two or three.
  • 32:02 - 32:06
    I think in space sometimes it's even more,
    like an order of magnitude.
  • 32:06 - 32:08
    So, obviously the twin rovers
  • 32:08 - 32:11
    poor Steve talking about Mars time,
  • 32:11 - 32:14
    poor Steve Squires has been
    living Mars time for a decade,
  • 32:14 - 32:16
    and he was only supposed
    to do that for three months.
  • 32:17 - 32:19
    Because the second
    of his rovers is still working.
  • 32:20 - 32:22
    There is another wonderful example.
  • 32:23 - 32:28
    The Pioneers and the Voyagers
    now leaving our messages in a bottle,
  • 32:28 - 32:30
    tossed into the outer solar system.
  • 32:30 - 32:32
    They're putting out.
  • 32:32 - 32:34
    Their plans are reduced to a fraction
  • 32:34 - 32:36
    of a Watt of transmitted energy,
  • 32:36 - 32:39
    but we've got big enough
    telescopes like Arecibo
  • 32:39 - 32:42
    to detect that at a distance
    of billions of miles.
  • 32:42 - 32:45
    These again, Ed Stone, whose at JPL,
  • 32:45 - 32:50
    he's into his 80s, I think,
    and these missions
  • 32:50 - 32:54
    are outlasting all of their investigators,
    some of them.
  • 32:54 - 32:55
    And that's fine,
  • 32:55 - 32:58
    because they're still returning
    useful data, and it's great.
  • 32:59 - 33:02
    The problem, of course, is the project,
  • 33:02 - 33:04
    and the money, and the funding
  • 33:04 - 33:06
    sort of implies an ending point,
  • 33:06 - 33:09
    and so it's horrible
    when you face the prospect
  • 33:09 - 33:11
    of having to switch something off
  • 33:11 - 33:14
    that's still working,
    or just not look at the data,
  • 33:14 - 33:16
    or not run the instruments anymore.
  • 33:16 - 33:18
    And those are real situations
  • 33:18 - 33:20
    because, obviously,
    you can't start new things
  • 33:20 - 33:22
    unless you stop doing
    some of your old things.
  • 33:25 - 33:28
    JM: I'm going to move back.
    Thank you for that, Chris.
  • 33:28 - 33:31
    I'm going to move back
    over to Nick about…
  • 33:32 - 33:35
    So what will you do when you're
    past the one-year mark?
  • 33:35 - 33:37
    Will it depend on funding?
  • 33:37 - 33:40
    Will you still maintain
  • 33:40 - 33:44
    the communications
    with the rovers on the surface,
  • 33:44 - 33:49
    or pair up with ESA
    for future projects, or what?
  • 33:50 - 33:54
    NS: The one thing we know for sure
    after our first year,
  • 33:54 - 33:59
    is that MAVEN will be kept
    alive and operating
  • 33:59 - 34:02
    to serve as a relay for the rovers
  • 34:02 - 34:04
    for absolutely as long as possible.
  • 34:04 - 34:07
    And obviously, the current rovers,
  • 34:07 - 34:12
    and there's another one
    arriving in Mars 2020,
  • 34:12 - 34:15
    but whether or not MAVEN
    is also doing science
  • 34:15 - 34:17
    remains to be seen
  • 34:17 - 34:21
    Every NASA mission, whether it's
    the Hubble Space Telescope
  • 34:21 - 34:24
    or the rovers, after 90 days,
  • 34:24 - 34:27
    goes through a very careful process
  • 34:27 - 34:29
    where the team says,
    if you give us more money,
  • 34:29 - 34:32
    here's the science that we can do.
  • 34:32 - 34:35
    And so, they're thoughtful decisions,
  • 34:35 - 34:41
    albeit with a tight pocketbook
  • 34:41 - 34:45
    And so, we'll go through that process
    called "Senior Review"
  • 34:45 - 34:48
    probably a handful of months
    before the end of our first year
  • 34:48 - 34:50
    and we'll make the case saying,
  • 34:50 - 34:53
    if you allow us to keep
    making measurements
  • 34:53 - 34:56
    here's the science that we can accomplish
  • 34:56 - 34:58
    It's a fabulous spacecraft.
  • 34:58 - 35:00
    It's got excellent instrumentation on it,
  • 35:01 - 35:03
    and I'm sure we'll make a very good case,
  • 35:03 - 35:08
    but it'll be up to a bunch of people
    making these difficult choices.
  • 35:09 - 35:11
    JM: How many instruments are on MAVEN?
  • 35:11 - 35:15
    NS: You know, the truth is,
    I can't remember if it's eight or nine,
  • 35:15 - 35:16
    but it's a bunch
  • 35:16 - 35:22
    and some of them are designed
    for measuring the waves and the fields.
  • 35:22 - 35:25
    Some of them are designed
    for the charged particles.
  • 35:25 - 35:26
    Some for the neutral particles
  • 35:27 - 35:29
    We're for photons, and some have two parts
  • 35:29 - 35:32
    and some have three,
    and so that's why I can't quite keep track.
  • 35:33 - 35:35
    Basically, we have enough instruments on,
  • 35:35 - 35:39
    that an atom and molecule
    can't get away from Mars
  • 35:39 - 35:42
    without us having a handle
    on that process.
  • 35:43 - 35:44
    JM: We've noticed that.
  • 35:44 - 35:49
    Chris, so, reading your book,
    I got the sense,
  • 35:49 - 35:51
    the average seems to be a dozen.
  • 35:51 - 35:55
    There's at least a dozen
    on every probe we send out.
  • 35:55 - 35:58
    Would you say that's true?
    Did I get that right?
  • 35:58 - 36:03
    CI: Yeah, a lot of mass emissions now
    are likely Swiss army knives.
  • 36:04 - 36:08
    They have large numbers
    of instrument teams combining
  • 36:08 - 36:10
    and Cassini is a classic example
  • 36:10 - 36:12
    that these are
    multi-billion dollar missions.
  • 36:12 - 36:15
    Hubble is an example,
    great space observatories,
  • 36:15 - 36:18
    but NASA's also had enormous success
  • 36:18 - 36:21
    with more specialized
    single purpose missions.
  • 36:22 - 36:24
    My favorite two examples, of course,
  • 36:24 - 36:27
    are Keplar, as it's PI, Bill Burouki,
    famously said,
  • 36:28 - 36:31
    "it's the most boring mission
    you could possibly imagine".
  • 36:31 - 36:34
    It's designed to take a picture
    of the same piece of sky,
  • 36:34 - 36:35
    every six minutes, for years,
  • 36:35 - 36:37
    and that's all it does.
  • 36:37 - 36:38
    It's how dull?
  • 36:38 - 36:41
    And then WMAT,
    a completely different concept.
  • 36:41 - 36:44
    A sort of microwave satellite
    looking at the early universe
  • 36:44 - 36:46
    also just doing a very simple thing,
  • 36:46 - 36:50
    just scanning the sky,
    over and over and over again,
  • 36:50 - 36:53
    drilling down in the systematic
    and random errors
  • 36:53 - 36:55
    to make a microwave map,
  • 36:55 - 36:57
    and that's all it can do
    but it's incredible.
  • 36:58 - 36:59
    Those two missions hit,
  • 36:59 - 37:02
    which cost a fraction of a billion dollars,
  • 37:02 - 37:06
    more like, 100 million, say,
    which is of course not cheap.
  • 37:06 - 37:09
    They do one thing exquisitely well.
  • 37:09 - 37:12
    So there's sort of two ways to go
    with all of these missions
  • 37:13 - 37:16
    JM: Now MAVEN,
    there were a lot of questions
  • 37:17 - 37:22
    about cost in the press conference
    yesterday.
  • 37:22 - 37:25
    Do you remember some
    of those numbers, Nick?
  • 37:25 - 37:29
    NS: No, and I missed the last part
    of this press conference.
  • 37:31 - 37:35
    Scientists you'll learn remember numbers
    to a factor of two, or so.
  • 37:36 - 37:39
    But we have, of course, teams of people.
  • 37:39 - 37:42
    The engineers are
    a little more precise in that.
  • 37:42 - 37:45
    And the budgeteers more precise still.
  • 37:45 - 37:52
    All I know is that MAVEN has not
    raised the alarms of cost overruns.
  • 37:53 - 37:56
    We have a principle investigator
    who's made some hard choices,
  • 37:56 - 37:58
    especially early on
  • 37:58 - 38:02
    about how we're going
    to keep this mission from over-running.
  • 38:02 - 38:07
    This is a real… the mark of what
    are called "PI-led missions"
  • 38:07 - 38:09
    Principle Investigator Led Missions,
  • 38:09 - 38:11
    where it's really on one person's plate
  • 38:11 - 38:14
    to make sure that
    this is going to perform,
  • 38:14 - 38:17
    do the science, and not overrun in cost.
  • 38:17 - 38:20
    So the MAVEN definitely goes
    in the plus column
  • 38:20 - 38:23
    and being in the university setting
  • 38:23 - 38:25
    is one of the ways
    that we've really been able
  • 38:25 - 38:27
    to keep the cost down,
  • 38:27 - 38:29
    and we sure wish that
    more opportunities like this
  • 38:29 - 38:31
    would be coming down the pike
  • 38:31 - 38:33
    CI: These are hard tradeoffs too,
  • 38:33 - 38:36
    because sometimes an idea comes along
  • 38:36 - 38:38
    that you really want to add in
    to your instruments
  • 38:38 - 38:40
    so it gives you a new capability,
  • 38:40 - 38:43
    and you've got to fit it
    under that cost curve.
  • 38:43 - 38:44
    The famous example I like,
  • 38:44 - 38:48
    is that the Vikings were not
    originally designed with cameras.
  • 38:48 - 38:51
    And Carl Sagan argued, he said
  • 38:51 - 38:53
    "We're going to look really foolish
  • 38:53 - 38:55
    "if there are polar bears on Mars
  • 38:55 - 38:57
    "and we didn't have a camera
    to take pictures of them".
  • 38:57 - 39:00
    He was joking, but his point was taken,
  • 39:00 - 39:02
    and so the Vikings had cameras,
  • 39:02 - 39:05
    and it's the evocative image
    of the surface of Mars
  • 39:05 - 39:07
    that caught everyone's attention.
  • 39:07 - 39:10
    And then fast-forward to Curiosity,
  • 39:10 - 39:13
    and this was unfortunately a failed attempt.
  • 39:13 - 39:15
    James Cameron was part of that project,
  • 39:15 - 39:17
    and he was on the verge of having a design
  • 39:17 - 39:20
    for an HD video camera
    to be part of Curiosity.
  • 39:21 - 39:22
    It just couldn't make it under the wire
  • 39:22 - 39:27
    of getting all specified and locked down
    before the launch,
  • 39:27 - 39:31
    so Curiosity did not have
    the James Cameron connection.
  • 39:31 - 39:35
    But keeping these possibilities in play
    is really important,
  • 39:35 - 39:37
    even if it's a tough budget decision.
  • 39:37 - 39:39
    NS: So, MAVEN by the way,
  • 39:39 - 39:42
    does not have
    a visible light camera on it.
  • 39:42 - 39:45
    When you think about
    the technology that's there
  • 39:45 - 39:48
    for Mars reconnaissance orbiter,
  • 39:48 - 39:51
    every camera has to be better
    than the one before.
  • 39:51 - 39:54
    With all these other instruments
    that we have onboard,
  • 39:54 - 39:56
    we couldn't take an even better camera.
  • 39:56 - 39:57
    But we'll be sending back
  • 39:57 - 40:01
    some pretty cool images and movies
  • 40:01 - 40:03
    of the planets at the ultraviolet,
  • 40:03 - 40:06
    and that'll be a new contribution.
  • 40:06 - 40:10
    Not so many megapixels though,
    not scientifically important.
  • 40:10 - 40:13
    JM: I'm actually wearing,
    I'll have to come up closer.
  • 40:13 - 40:15
    I'm actually wearing a necklace
  • 40:15 - 40:17
    by this gal whose fascinated with Mars
  • 40:17 - 40:20
    and this is Curiosity's
    first photo on Mars.
  • 40:20 - 40:24
    So, she's taken iconic images
    that have been taken on Mars
  • 40:24 - 40:27
    by Viking and all that
    she's then turned into jewelry,
  • 40:27 - 40:30
    and I love wearing them because
    they are conversation pieces.
  • 40:30 - 40:35
    So my little contribution
    to spreading the excitement
  • 40:35 - 40:39
    of space exploration to the rest of the world.
  • 40:41 - 40:45
    Let me just… There was a question
    I wanted to ask.
  • 40:46 - 40:49
    Chris, is there anything else
    you'd like to add to this conversation
  • 40:50 - 40:55
    of the larger picture
    of space exploration?
  • 40:56 - 40:58
    CI: Well, I'll just make a guess
    for the future,
  • 40:58 - 41:02
    which is that we're at a sort
    of interesting transition point
  • 41:02 - 41:05
    in space exploration
    of the solar system or beyond
  • 41:05 - 41:07
    or even of space astronomy,
  • 41:07 - 41:13
    where we see this nascent private
    space industry, which is emerging.
  • 41:13 - 41:16
    Just as well, since America can't get
    astronauts up into orbit, anyway.
  • 41:17 - 41:18
    We depend on the Russians,
  • 41:18 - 41:20
    and now we're going to depend
    on the private sector.
  • 41:20 - 41:22
    I think that's going to start playing out
  • 41:22 - 41:24
    in the business we've been talked about.
  • 41:24 - 41:27
    Remember there are
    a thousand billionaires on the Earth,
  • 41:27 - 41:32
    and any one of them could fund
    a really cool planetary probe.
  • 41:32 - 41:36
    So if NASA gets stock on sending
    that Hydrobot to Europa,
  • 41:36 - 41:40
    or going back to Titan
    with the dirigible technology,
  • 41:40 - 41:43
    I think some billionaires might step in,
  • 41:43 - 41:46
    and I think the whole game
    is going to get more interesting.
  • 41:46 - 41:48
    It's kind of limiting
  • 41:48 - 41:50
    when only a couple
    of governments are doing it
  • 41:50 - 41:52
    and the governments
    get shutdown occasionally,
  • 41:52 - 41:54
    and they have tough budget
    choices and so on.
  • 41:54 - 41:56
    I think it will be more of a wild west,
  • 41:56 - 41:59
    but there's going to be some
    really cool things that happen
  • 41:59 - 42:02
    when the private sector and entrepreneurs
  • 42:02 - 42:04
    actually start doing this stuff.
  • 42:04 - 42:06
    JM: So, here's a question.
  • 42:06 - 42:10
    Any idea how many project ideas
    are out there,
  • 42:10 - 42:13
    and what percent actually happen?
  • 42:16 - 42:17
    NS: It's a small fraction.
  • 42:17 - 42:23
    Every time NASA has an announcement
    of opportunity with open categories,
  • 42:23 - 42:26
    there tend to be dozens of missions
  • 42:26 - 42:29
    for every one or two that are selected.
  • 42:29 - 42:32
    And it's a different set of dozens
    for every opportunity.
  • 42:32 - 42:35
    So, pretty soon, that's going to be
  • 42:35 - 42:38
    hundreds of ideas that we're not doing.
  • 42:38 - 42:41
    And I can't promise that
    they're all good or feasible
  • 42:41 - 42:43
    with the current technology,
  • 42:43 - 42:49
    but far more good and practical missions
    are not chosen
  • 42:49 - 42:52
    because a nation hasn't found
    the will to fund it.
  • 42:54 - 42:57
    CI: I agree. I mean, in some competitions
  • 42:57 - 43:00
    you go down from 100 to 25 to 4 to 1,
  • 43:00 - 43:03
    and the engineering,
    we've talked about the engineering,
  • 43:03 - 43:06
    which is exquisite, and these
    are technically feasible.
  • 43:06 - 43:09
    That almost never is the issue
    of why they weren't chosen.
  • 43:10 - 43:13
    So, it really is more the will
  • 43:13 - 43:15
    the money, the priorities and so on,
  • 43:15 - 43:18
    which is why I think
    if there are more players
  • 43:18 - 43:21
    some of these things
    that are sitting there on the shelf,
  • 43:21 - 43:23
    NASA has the designs on the shelf,
  • 43:23 - 43:24
    will actually happen.
  • 43:24 - 43:28
    NS: Let me change from the billionaires
  • 43:28 - 43:33
    that Chris talks about
    to the billion kids on the planet,
  • 43:33 - 43:38
    almost all of whom are excited about space.
  • 43:39 - 43:45
    And space is really the gateway,
  • 43:45 - 43:48
    I think the best gateway
    to stem education.
  • 43:49 - 43:52
    It's really important that we keep
    this space program going.
  • 43:52 - 43:54
    It's now an international effort,
  • 43:54 - 43:58
    so many nations participating to have this
  • 43:58 - 44:01
    really excite the next generation.
  • 44:02 - 44:06
    And before the viewers get discouraged
    about the state of affairs
  • 44:06 - 44:08
    where we can't do
    everything that we want to,
  • 44:08 - 44:12
    I want everybody to realize that everybody
    can play a part in this.
  • 44:12 - 44:15
    And I think spreading the word about
  • 44:15 - 44:20
    what NASA's big handful
    of operating missions are doing,
  • 44:20 - 44:23
    if you have access to…
  • 44:24 - 44:27
    If you are comfortable go out
    and volunteer in a classroom.
  • 44:28 - 44:31
    Go make sure your taxi driver
  • 44:31 - 44:34
    or your waiter or waitress
  • 44:34 - 44:37
    know what's going on in space.
  • 44:37 - 44:39
    Make this part of everyday conversation
  • 44:39 - 44:41
    so people want to know what's next.
  • 44:41 - 44:43
    What are we doing?
  • 44:43 - 44:45
    Because in the big picture
    of the federal budget,
  • 44:45 - 44:48
    this is not an expensive proposition
    that we're talking about.
  • 44:48 - 44:51
    We just need to raise everybody's awareness
  • 44:51 - 44:53
    that this is affordable and exciting
  • 44:53 - 44:55
    and it paves the way for the next generation.
  • 44:55 - 44:58
    JM: So actually, you guys
    will be happy to hear
  • 44:58 - 45:01
    that I have feedback from my twitter feed
  • 45:01 - 45:04
    and from my Google+ that we have
    a couple classrooms
  • 45:04 - 45:06
    watching us right now.
  • 45:06 - 45:09
    I'm so happy that teachers
    saw this and said,
  • 45:09 - 45:12
    let's just share about this.
  • 45:13 - 45:15
    The other thing… I do remember a question,
  • 45:16 - 45:18
    and to me the answer seems obvious,
  • 45:18 - 45:21
    but here's a question someone
    on my twitter feed asked yesterday.
  • 45:21 - 45:25
    "So why are we going back to Mars?
  • 45:25 - 45:30
    "Why not set our sights on an already
    predetermined Earth-like planet
  • 45:30 - 45:32
    "that is way out there, an exoplanet?"
  • 45:32 - 45:34
    So why Mars?
  • 45:35 - 45:38
    NS: I'll do the "Why Mars?" again,
  • 45:38 - 45:43
    and then I'll let Chris talk
    about the next exoplanet.
  • 45:44 - 45:46
    We're doing Mars again because
  • 45:46 - 45:49
    what MAVEN is doing there
    has never been done before.
  • 45:49 - 45:51
    There's never been a mission
  • 45:51 - 45:54
    that's basically looking at
    where the atmosphere goes.
  • 45:54 - 45:57
    We've sent a large number of missions
  • 45:57 - 46:00
    that figured out that there was
    a greater atmosphere in the past,
  • 46:00 - 46:03
    but this is just about the biggest
    mystery on Mars, nowadays.
  • 46:03 - 46:05
    Where did the atmosphere go?
  • 46:05 - 46:08
    And none of the operating
    missions can do that.
  • 46:08 - 46:09
    We've got to go back.
  • 46:09 - 46:12
    CI: And I would also,
    just to echo and Segway,
  • 46:12 - 46:16
    I would say that there's so much
    still to learn on Mars,
  • 46:16 - 46:19
    and Mars is indeed potentially
    a habitable planet under the surface,
  • 46:19 - 46:21
    so we need to figure that out.
  • 46:21 - 46:24
    And we will always learn so much more
  • 46:24 - 46:26
    about a planet in the solar system,
  • 46:26 - 46:29
    than any exoplanet, however nearby.
  • 46:29 - 46:31
    It's just there's no comparison.
  • 46:31 - 46:37
    However, what happens to a planet,
    because planets evolve and change
  • 46:37 - 46:39
    and Mars is the great example
  • 46:39 - 46:41
    is going to be true elsewhere too.
  • 46:41 - 46:44
    And so, as we start looking at our bodycount
  • 46:44 - 46:46
    of habitable and Earth-like planets
  • 46:46 - 46:48
    from Kepler and other missions,
  • 46:48 - 46:50
    the context for understanding them
  • 46:50 - 46:53
    when we have very little data,
    really we just have a size or a mass,
  • 46:53 - 46:55
    and almost no other information
  • 46:55 - 46:58
    our context for understanding them
    is still the solar system,
  • 46:58 - 47:01
    is still the terrestrial planets,
    much closer to us
  • 47:02 - 47:04
    NS: We must develop the capability
  • 47:04 - 47:07
    to characterize those planets in greater detail.
  • 47:07 - 47:10
    James Webb's space telescope
    will start to do that,
  • 47:10 - 47:13
    but it's a big technological challenge.
  • 47:13 - 47:17
    And, lot's of our favorite
    engineers and designers
  • 47:17 - 47:18
    are working on it,
  • 47:18 - 47:21
    but at present it's a pretty
    expensive proposition.
  • 47:21 - 47:26
    It's actually considerably cheaper
    to continue learning more
  • 47:26 - 47:28
    within our own solar system
  • 47:28 - 47:30
    than it is to learn in great detail
  • 47:30 - 47:34
    about the wealth of worlds
    that we now know are out there.
  • 47:36 - 47:41
    JM: So, we've been talking,
    a little over 45 minutes.
  • 47:41 - 47:45
    I would like to give both of you
    an opportunity
  • 47:45 - 47:47
    to express anything else
  • 47:47 - 47:49
    you'd like to express to our audience
  • 47:49 - 47:51
    or maybe something
    I completely forgot to ask,
  • 47:51 - 47:53
    and then we will wrap things up.
  • 47:53 - 47:55
    So why don't we start with Nick?
  • 47:55 - 47:57
    NS: No, no, go to Chris
    while I'm trying to…
  • 47:57 - 47:58
    JM: Go to Chris.
  • 47:59 - 48:02
    CI: Well, I just want to echo something
  • 48:02 - 48:05
    that we've touched on a few times,
    which is, it feels like
  • 48:05 - 48:09
    solar system exploration,
    study of planets nearby,
  • 48:09 - 48:11
    is a mature subject
  • 48:11 - 48:14
    that we've learned most
    of what we might want to learn,
  • 48:14 - 48:16
    and that just simply isn't the case.
  • 48:16 - 48:18
    Even with our close neighbour Mars,
  • 48:18 - 48:20
    there're just a ton
    of questions and mysteries.
  • 48:20 - 48:22
    And when we get to all those others,
  • 48:22 - 48:24
    the best guest is there're probably
  • 48:24 - 48:26
    a dozen habitable spots
    in the solar system,
  • 48:26 - 48:28
    mostly in the outer solar sysem.
  • 48:28 - 48:30
    And we're almost
    completely ignorant of those.
  • 48:30 - 48:33
    And so when it comes to going
    to Titan or Europa
  • 48:33 - 48:35
    or these really fascinating destinations,
  • 48:35 - 48:39
    our level of ignorance
    is still almost complete.
  • 48:39 - 48:42
    So it's still early days, actually,
    for solar system exploration,
  • 48:42 - 48:45
    and especially in the context of biology,
  • 48:45 - 48:48
    and where we might find it
    in the universe.
  • 48:50 - 48:53
    NS: And if I could just step back
    for a broad perspective,
  • 48:54 - 48:56
    Carl Sagan said,
  • 48:56 - 48:58
    "There's one generation that gets
  • 48:58 - 49:01
    "to experience this transition of planets
  • 49:01 - 49:04
    "as points of light,
    to worlds in their own right".
  • 49:04 - 49:07
    And men are ever getting a close look
  • 49:07 - 49:11
    at these worlds with the latest
    generation of spacecraft.
  • 49:11 - 49:14
    My brother's a political scientist,
  • 49:14 - 49:16
    and he once said to me that
  • 49:16 - 49:19
    "Everything that I said
    is going to be forgotten
  • 49:19 - 49:21
    "in decades or 100 years,
  • 49:21 - 49:26
    "but this transition of humans
    becoming spacefaring,
  • 49:26 - 49:29
    "this is going to be remembered
    for 1000 years."
  • 49:30 - 49:32
    People will talk about this age,
  • 49:32 - 49:34
    and so for all of us
  • 49:34 - 49:38
    to appreciate this incredible time
    that we live in,
  • 49:38 - 49:41
    and this opportunity
    that we are given to participate.
  • 49:42 - 49:44
    Get everybody onboard.
  • 49:44 - 49:45
    Spread the word.
  • 49:45 - 49:49
    This is a real halmark of the age
  • 49:49 - 49:51
    that we have the privilege of living in.
  • 49:51 - 49:54
    JM: That's amazing. My final question:
  • 49:55 - 49:57
    When are we sending humans to Mars?
  • 49:58 - 50:03
    NS: When I was growing up
    I said I wanted to go to Mars
  • 50:03 - 50:05
    and raise chickens to find out
  • 50:05 - 50:07
    if they would grow larger in low-gravity.
  • 50:08 - 50:13
    It's become clear to me
    that I won't have that opportunity.
  • 50:13 - 50:17
    I would love it, if one of my kids
    had that chance.
  • 50:17 - 50:20
    I sure hope it doesn't go down
    to the generation beyond that.
  • 50:21 - 50:24
    It's sometimes said that it's too expensive
  • 50:24 - 50:26
    to send humans to Mars,
  • 50:26 - 50:29
    but our nation has
    apparently found the will
  • 50:29 - 50:31
    to spend that much money
    on other projects
  • 50:31 - 50:34
    that I think, will not be remembered
    in a thousand years,
  • 50:34 - 50:39
    and I would love for this effort
    to change the focus of our nation,
  • 50:39 - 50:41
    and even the efforts of the world
  • 50:41 - 50:43
    to make that next grand step
  • 50:43 - 50:46
    because I think that it is human destiny.
  • 50:46 - 50:50
    Robots lead the way, but humans
    can and must follow.
  • 50:51 - 50:55
    CI: And to answer your question directly
    we're talking 20+ years.
  • 50:55 - 50:57
    And then again I think the private sector
  • 50:57 - 51:00
    is already starting to step up
    and make ideas.
  • 51:00 - 51:02
    For instance,
    there's a well-publisized idea
  • 51:02 - 51:05
    for a one-way trip,
    which'd obviously save some money.
  • 51:05 - 51:07
    NASA first was outed on having
  • 51:07 - 51:09
    a very similar idea
    sitting on their shelf,
  • 51:09 - 51:12
    but it's not good PR for NASA
  • 51:13 - 51:15
    to send astronauts of to die on a…
  • 51:15 - 51:18
    NS: Yeah, I actually think that the space frontier
  • 51:18 - 51:21
    will be conquered by humans,
  • 51:21 - 51:23
    when humans are allowed
    to take the same kinds of risks
  • 51:23 - 51:27
    that they took when moving
    to Colorado and California,
  • 51:27 - 51:29
    when coming to the American west.
  • 51:29 - 51:31
    Individuals took risks.
  • 51:31 - 51:33
    Many of them lost their lives doing it
  • 51:33 - 51:37
    but the way that they opened
    for the rest of us
  • 51:37 - 51:39
    we'll remember forever.
  • 51:40 - 51:42
    I think it's like Chris says.
  • 51:42 - 51:45
    It's going to be the private sector
    and individuals taking risks
  • 51:45 - 51:48
    that will allow us to cross that frontier.
  • 51:48 - 51:51
    IC: And if you want to evoke
    the multi-generational future,
  • 51:51 - 51:55
    I recommend Kim Stanley Robinson's
    Mars trilogy,
  • 51:55 - 51:57
    Mars: Red, Green, and Blue.
  • 51:57 - 52:00
    Amazing evocations,
    not just of people on Mars,
  • 52:00 - 52:03
    but of the geology
    and the atmosphere, and so on.
  • 52:03 - 52:05
    They are mesmerizing books.
  • 52:05 - 52:07
    JM: Thanks for the book recommendation
  • 52:07 - 52:10
    because that's one of my platforms.
  • 52:10 - 52:12
    I love to get people to read.
  • 52:13 - 52:17
    Thank you gentlemen for your input today.
  • 52:17 - 52:20
    And thanks to the MAVEN team.
  • 52:20 - 52:22
    We will wait for the anticipated launch.
  • 52:22 - 52:24
    But thank you guys for a project
  • 52:24 - 52:27
    that's on budget, or under budget,
  • 52:27 - 52:29
    and on time, or under time,
  • 52:29 - 52:31
    and you guys are just meeting
    all these hallmarks
  • 52:31 - 52:33
    and making people happy.
  • 52:33 - 52:35
    They'll want to hire you again
  • 52:35 - 52:38
    NS: That's right. And let's go answer
    some more big questions.
  • 52:39 - 52:41
    JM: Well, thank you very much,
  • 52:41 - 52:43
    all of you out there
    in the audience for joining us
  • 52:43 - 52:47
    for this very enlightening
    discussion about MAVEN.
  • 52:47 - 52:51
    And don't forget, we're looking out
    towards November 14th
  • 52:51 - 52:54
    for Chris Hatfield to join us.
  • 52:54 - 52:56
    So, if you didn't hear,
    his book is out today.
  • 52:57 - 52:59
    So, if you want to pick that up
    and join us here
  • 52:59 - 53:02
    November 14th at noon
    for a Scientific American chat with Chris.
  • 53:02 - 53:05
    We'll get more of the human side
    of space travel,
  • 53:05 - 53:07
    and today, of course,
    we were just talking
  • 53:07 - 53:09
    about unmanned, or robotic, space travel.
  • 53:09 - 53:12
    So, thank you, Chris, and thank you, Nick
  • 53:13 - 53:15
    NS: So long, everybody.
  • 53:15 - 53:16
    CI: Bye.
Titel:
The Mars MAVEN Mission and "Dreams of Other Worlds" author Chris Impey - SA Hangout #7
Beschreibung:

Robotic exploration of space is fascinating, complex, and quite important to our understanding of the universe. Join us as we speak to Chris Impey astronomer and author of "Dreams of Other Worlds: The Amazing Story of Unmanned Space Exploration" and Nick Schneider, planetary atmospheric scientist a member of the NASA MAVEN Mission Science Team (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission), about how scientists and engineers overcome challenges of robotic space exploration for successful data collection.

We also learn more details about the upcoming MAVEN orbiter mission to Mars, set to launch November 18, as we seek to answer, "Where did Mars' atmosphere go?" SA blogger Joanne Manaster hosts this hangout.

--

WATCH more 'SA Hangouts': http://goo.gl/N79uRB
SUBSCRIBE to our channel: http://goo.gl/fmoXZ
VISIT ScientificAmerican.com for the latest science news: http://goo.gl/lHq0CH

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Video Language:
English
Team:
Scientific American
Projekt:
SA Hangout
Duration:
53:20

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