Ohio Scientist’s Proposal Is Out of This World
Dr. Geoffrey A. Landis, an aerospace engineer at NASA’s Glenn Research
Center, Cleveland, thinks he knows what it takes to explore Mars. And
the Agency believes him. Landis’ proposal, "Study of Solar Energy and
Dust Accumulation on the Rovers," was one of 28 scientific studies of
Mars recently selected by NASA for the 2003 Mars Exploration Rover

His proposal calls for the use of Mars Exploration Rover (MER)
instrumentation to study the intensity, spatial and spectral
distribution of solar energy on the Mars surface, and to compare the
measured values with various models of solar distribution. Landis will
measure three additional properties: the rate of deposition and
removal of atmospheric dust on the rover’s solar arrays; the operating
temperature of the solar arrays on Mars; and the degradation (if any)
of the solar power system in the Martian environment. Finally, data
derived from these measurements will be used to determine the optical
properties of atmospheric and deposited dust.

"I’m really looking forward to working on this mission," says Landis.
"The two MER vehicles are going to be much larger and more capable
than the Sojourner rover. They can traverse longer distances and make
better measurements. This is an exciting mission-I expect that we’ll
learn a lot about what the surface of Mars is like."

Landis, who resides in Berea, Ohio, has previous Mars mission
experience working on 1997’s successful Mars Pathfinder expedition as
a science investigator of the rover, Sojourner. He and a team of Glenn
engineers built a miniature instrument to look for dust accumulation
on the rover’s solar panels. Giant storms raise large amounts of dust
into the Mars atmosphere, and dust settling can degrade solar arrays.
Landis’ experiment showed almost 20% loss of solar array power during
two months on Mars. While not detrimental to the Sojourner mission,
such a trend poses a concern for longer missions. Understanding solar
power on Mars is important to future exploration, including possible
human missions.

The selected proposals were judged to have the best science value
among 84 proposals submitted to NASA last December in response to the
Mars Exploration Rover Announcement of Opportunity. Each selected
investigation will work with the Mars Exploration Rover Program Office
at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and will become
full mission science-team members, joining previously selected
scientists as part of the Athena payload science team.

The MER rover mission will send twin rovers to the surface of Mars,
landing in January and February 2004. The rover mission science
objectives include: (1) study rocks and soils for clues to past water
activity; (2) investigate landing sites that have a high probability
of containing evidence of the action of liquid water; (3) determine
the distribution and composition of minerals, rocks and soils
surrounding the landing sites; (4) determine the nature of local
surface geologic processes; (5) calibrate and validate data from
orbiting missions at each landing site; and (6) study the geologic
processes for clues about the environmental conditions that existed
when liquid water was present and whether those environments were
conducive for life.

A print quality photo of Landis is available online:

A full list of selected investigators can be found in the official
NASA HQ announcement:

More information on the 2003 MER rover mission is available online: