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Mars Lecture


"Return to Mars: Twenty Years After Viking"
Dr. Arden Albee
Watson Caltech Lecture
Wednesday, February 19, at 8 p.m.
Beckman Auditorium
Admission: FREE

Shortly after Election Day two spacecraft embarked on return missions to Mars--the first since Viking 20 years ago and the first in a decade long program of robotic exploration of Mars. Only a few months earlier scientists had announced the possible discovery of fossil life in a meteorite recovered from the Antarctic. These events have once again focused popular attention on Mars.

Mars is an extremely rich mission target because the scientific questions it poses touch on geology, geophysics, geochemistry, atmospheric physics, climatology, biology, and most of all, comparative planetology and the evolution of life. Mars Global Surveyor will carry out an extensive orbital study of Mars using its suite of sophisticated remote-sensing instruments. Mars Pathfinder will be the first mission to land on the Red Planet since Viking and will carry an autonomous rover to explore the surface. Neither mission will directly address the question of life on Mars, but they will provide a rich storehouse of information for scientists to study, leading to still more directed questions about the planet. Subsequent missions in 1998, 2001, 2003, and 2005 will address fundamental questions about the evolution of Mars and in particular whether life ever evolved on Mars.

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