March 26, 2013 (REVISED April 11, 2013) NASA Spring Lecture Series to Address Mars, Satellites and Exotic "Earths"

Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Science, Technology and Business Division (202) 707-5664 | NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (301) 614-6627
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Measuring habitability on Mars, managing a satellite going 17,000 miles per hour and exploring planets around other stars are three topics that will be addressed this spring in the NASA lecture series at the Library of Congress.

The illustrated talks—on April 16, May 22 and June 19—will take place in the Library’s James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. The events are free and open to the public. Tickets and reservations are not needed.

The lecture series, in its seventh year, is sponsored by the Library’s Science, Technology and Business Division, in collaboration with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.


On Tuesday, April 16 at 11:30 a.m., in Dining Room A, astrobiologist Pamela Conrad will present “Extraterrestrial Real Estate Assessment: Measuring Habitability on Mars with the Curiosity Rover.”

NASA’s Curiosity rover is exploring and investigating the Gale Crater on Mars. An analysis of a rock sample collected by Curiosity shows that ancient Mars could have supported living microbes. Conrad will discuss what NASA has learned so far and plans for Curiosity’s further exploration of the crater.

Conrad is deputy principal investigator and payload investigation scientist for the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) suite, which is part of the Mars Science Laboratory on the Curiosity rover. She is an astrobiologist and mineralogist working at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Her research focus is on understanding planetary habitability and on the development of approaches for its measurement.

NOTE: This event will be live-tweeted and questions may be submitted in advance via the Library's Twitter feed @librarycongress using the hashtag #LCCuriosity. More information.

On Wednesday, May 22 at 11:30 a.m. in the Pickford Theater, Steve Covington will present “How to Manage a Satellite Going 17,000 Miles per Hour.”

Sensitive and complex Landsat satellites monitor Earth’s lands as they travel at high speeds through a crowded space environment about 440 miles above Earth’s surface. Managing their positions in relation to other satellites, avoiding space debris and keeping their kinetic, chemical and electrical systems healthy and responsive requires the skill and attention of some of the best engineers in the country.

Covington—flight systems manager for Landsat 5 and 7 for the U.S. Geological Survey EROS Center in Sioux Falls, S.D., and systems director at the Aerospace Corp.—will tell the remarkable story of Landsat 5, which was launched in 1984 for a three-year lifetime and was kept alive for nearly 29 years through ingenuity and luck.

On Wednesday, June 19 at 11:30 a.m. in the Pickford Theater, astrobiologist Avi Mandell will present “Exotic Earths: Exploring Planets Around Other Stars.”

During the past 15 years, hundreds of planets have been discovered orbiting nearby stars. Mandell will describe the exciting journey from the discovery of the first planet orbiting a sun-like star up through current efforts to tease out the atmospheric structure and composition of the exotic menagerie of planets discovered to date. He will conclude by looking forward to what might be discovered in the coming decade about the origins of our own planet and the presence of other “exotic Earths.”

Mandell is a research scientist in the Planetary Systems Laboratory at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. His research focuses on the formation and evolution of planetary systems, with the specific goal of understanding the factors that determine whether a system can form habitable planets and what the characteristics of these planets will be.

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PR 13-059
ISSN 0731-3527