The following letter was sent out by "snail mail"
to educators on our current mailing list in February 1994.
Mars K-12 Education Program
ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY
Department of Geology, Box 876305
TEMPE, ARIZONA 85287 USA
(602) 965-1790; FAX (602) 965-1787
22 February 1994
Dear Educators and Friends of TES,
The Mars Thermal Emission Spectrometer (TES) project at Arizona State
University is moving forward. As you probably know, the NASA Mars
Observer spacecraft carried TES out to Mars. TES operations were
conducted from the campus of Arizona State University. In addition to
the science TES would facilitate, we also have a vigorous
outreach program for the K-12 community in Arizona.
Communications with Mars Observer were lost just 2 hours after
we concluded our second K-12 educator's workshop on August 21, 1993.
Mars Observer is now lost forever. You can read more about this
in the enclosed TES News issues we printed after the spacecraft was lost.
The TES project received sufficient funding from NASA to continue
operations through 1994, although we did have to lay off several
staff members. The purpose of the continued funding is to prepare for
building a new TES for a new mission to Mars.
The uncertainty in our lives at the ASU TES facility has begun to clear
up a bit. On Monday, February 7, 1994, just 2 days after our third K-12
educator's workshop, President Clinton's Fiscal Year 1995 budget proposal
was released. NASA held a press conference and outlined its portion of the
FY '95 budget. In this request, there are funds to begin building a new
orbiter for launch to Mars in 1996.
(See NASA/JPL Press Release
information). The 1996 orbiter is hoped to be the start of a new
Mars exploration program, Mars Surveyor, which would send a lander
and an orbiter during every launch opportunity in the next decade (1996,
1998, 2001, 2003). A lander, Pathfinder, is already funded and
being constructed for the 1996 launch window.
The 1996 orbiter and all of the proposed 1998-2003 missions are not
currently funded. When the new orbiter was announced on February 7th,
we at the ASU TES facility were excited. We had cleared the first hurdle.
The second hurdle-- would TES be an instrument selected to fly on the
On Thursday, February 10, Philip Christensen, professor of geology at
ASU and the TES principal investigator, went to a meeting at the Jet
Propulsion Lab (JPL) in Pasadena, California. All of the principal
investigators from the original Mars Observer instruments and
experiments gathered to present the case for inclusion of their
instrument on the 1996 mission. The new orbiter will be considerably
smaller and less expensive than Mars Observer. Unfortunately,
this means that not all of the original contingent of Mars Observer
instruments will go on this mission.
Late on Friday, February 11th, we received a fax from JPL announcing
that TES would be one of the instruments recommended to NASA for
inclusion on the 1996 orbiter. NASA needed to know what instruments
to include so that by February 16th they could announce to the
aerospace industries an opportunity to bid on building the spacecraft.
The next hurdle for TES and the 1996 Mars orbiter: Congress.
While Fiscal Year 1995 begins on October 1, 1994, it is common that
Congress will not have completed its budget package until after that date.
It may not be until late October or November before we know for sure
whether the new mission is funded. NASA is facing a tough year in
Congress and much attention is focused on the Space Station program.
Considering the scientific and educational value of Mars exploration,
we hope the new orbiter will be funded. Meanwhile, some parts for the
new TES will be purchased this year, but actual assembly at the Santa
Barbara Research Center in Goleta, California, will not begin until
If all goes well, the new Mars orbiter will launch in November 1996,
reaching Mars in September 1997. It will take about four months to
circularize the orbit, then it will begin mapping the Red Planet in
As the TES team gears up to build and calibrate a new TES, the education
outreach program is also continuing. The post-Mars Observer situation
offers teachers and their students a chance to see something they don't
usually get to witness- the process of preparing a mission to another
planet. The process of acquiring funding, choosing instruments, building
instruments, building a spacecraft, integrating the various components,
and launching the spacecraft, are activities that occur all the time in
the space business. The TES project provides an opportunity for people
in Arizona to have a local window into this process and the people
involved. It likewise can serve as an example of teamwork and science
investigation for K-12 students.
Here are some additional things regarding education that we'd
like to draw to your attention:
- Our World Wide Web home
page is up and running on the Internet-- we hope you can bug the
appropriate people to hook up your school or business and get
Mosaic running. Open URL: "http://tes.asu.edu/" to get to us.
We have a lot of our
reproduced there, including our
newsletters and a pictorial tour of the
- Visits! Your class can still come visit us at the TES
Facility. Visits are arranged by calling the ASU Undergraduate
Admissions Office at (602) 965-2622. Also you can call the TES
project office at (602) 965-1790.
- On Monday, February 21st, we welcomed Deb Wakefield on board!
Deb is a science education major at ASU and she will be handling most
of the student visits to our facility. Steve Schmidt is still
with us, he will be working more with the computer education
materials available through the Internet.
- NSTA Convention in Anaheim! If you are attending the
NSTA meeting in Anaheim this Spring, check out the session on Mars
Ken Edgett of
ASU on March 30 at 11:00 a.m. Ken will be at the meeting from
March 30 to April 2 and is hoping to see some of you there.
- Our next K-12 Educators Workshop will be announced by
Director, ASU Mars K-12 Education Program
This on-line version: 22 February 1994