NASA and Spanish scientists, who are developing ways to drill into Mars in search of underground life, will take part in eight worldwide, educational webcasts from their project site near Spain’s Rio Tinto River from Sept. 29 to Oct. 15.

NASA Ames Research Center scientist Carol Stoker will kick off the webcast series on Sept. 29 at 10 a.m. EDT with a talk about the Mars Analog Research and Technology Experiment (MARTE). According to Stoker, mineral deposits like the ones the MARTE project is drilling into may also be found in the Martian subsurface.

“Searching for subsurface life in the Rio Tinto system can be viewed as a learning experience to teach scientists and technologists how to search for life in the subsurface of Mars,” explained Stoker, principal investigator of the three-year experiment.

Scientists and engineers from NASA, U.S. universities and the Spanish Centro De Astrobiolog√≠a (Center for Astrobiology) hope to show how robot systems could look for life below Mars’ surface. Scientists believe liquid water may exist deep underground on Mars. “In addition to looking for evidence of subsurface life, we hope MARTE inspires students to pursue careers in science and engineering,” Stoker added.

“What’s different about this course is that it offers real-time transcription in both Spanish and English. So far, this has only been done before with the French in 1998,” said Mark Leon, deputy chief of the NASA Ames education office, which organized the programs. “Not only do we have a live webcast, but we have live captioning,” Leon said.

NASA will webcast lectures by Stoker and other scientists with subtitles in both English and Spanish. The Internet lecture series has been structured as a three-week, NASA subsidized, interactive course. The series, called NASA Robotics for Research and Exploration, is worth one unit of college credit at San Jose State University, San Jose, Calif.

San Jose State University students enrolled in the course will be able to ask questions using Internet chat technology. Members of the worldwide Internet audience may monitor the
lectures live through the program Web site.

The other lecturers and their topics are:

  • Ricardo Amils of Spain’s Centro De Astrobiolog√≠a – biology and microbiology at Rio Tinto and the role of iron in biology
  • Todd Stevens of Portland State University, Portland, Ore. – subsurface life
  • David Fernandez Remolar of Spain’s Instituto Nacional de Tecnica Aerospacial (INTA) – geology of the Rio Tinto region
  • Brian Glass of NASA Ames – issues and challenges for robotic drilling
  • Javier Gomez Elvira of INTA – down hole instrumentation for Mars and the borehole inspection system
  • Kennda Lynch of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Houston – searching for life on Mars and sample handling
  • Victor Parro of INTA – instrumentation and searching for life on Mars

NASA’s Astrobiology Science and Technology for Exploring Planets program is funding the project. The Spanish contribution to the project is supported by the Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnologia, Comunidad de Madrid and the Instituto Nacional de Tecnica Aeroespacial.

Educational webcasts enable students to watch live video courses, listen and interact in real time with experts participating in the programs. The schedule for the lectures is accessible on the Internet at: and

For information about NASA Education programs on the
Internet, visit: