Exploring Mars: The Next Ten Years
Jack Farmer, Arizona State University, member of the National Academies Space Studies Board and leading astrobiologist for the Mars Exploration Rovers science team
Steve Ruff, Arizona State University, thermal emission spectroscopist for Mars Global Surveyor (TES), the Mars Exploration Rovers (Mini-TES), and Mars Odyssey (THEMIS)
Albert Haldeman, Mars Exploration Rovers Deputy Project Scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, USA
Jeffrey S. Kargel, Author of "Mars - A Warmer, Wetter Planet", U.S. Geological Survey, Flagstaff, Arizona, USA
Álvaro Giménez Cañete, Head of Research and Scientific Support, European Space Agency, Noordwijk, The Netherlands
Wednesday, July 4
Questions such as "What is life?", "Is life an expected consequence of the evolution of the Universe?", and "Can we determine general principles for the origin and evolution of life?" have puzzled humans for a long time. We now know that the evolution of the Universe and of the only example of life we know so far, life on Earth, share many aspects, although we know very little of the specifics.
The answers to the above questions cannot come from any single discipline, but from the joint perspectives on evolution and life provided by many disciplines. Astrobiology is a trans-disciplinary field in which physics, geology, chemistry, biology, engineering, etc. interact in order to answer core questions about the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the Universe.
This year's program is devoted to unraveling the exploration of planet Mars for next decade. Recent discoveries from space missions have confirmed that the ancient Mars was wetter and hotter. But even more interesting, is the observation of the current Martian dynamics, with meteorological cycles determining the modification of the surface, for instance, eroding ancient terrains, dragging particles, forming dune fields, condensing and sublimating ice caps, or even showing traces of the presence of water. Robotic exploration has already started with the MER mission, and it has proven very fertile for obtaining localized, high-detail, in-situ information. This, together with the large member of results emerging from remote in-orbit observations is changing our view of the Red planet in deep ways. The Science and the Technology necessary for missions that NASA and ESA will fly in the next ten years is now being discussed and formulated. The groups and partnerships, which will carry out the explorations necessary to understand the evolution of Mars, and search for the possibility of extant or extinct life, are now being formed. During this school we will have world's leaders in Mars exploration discussing the situation, the strategies and the opportunities for Science, and for new instrumentation as well as ground-truth validation.
This school is for people of all ages (students, postdoctoral scholars, established scientists) who are interested in broadening their scientific perspective, and who are concerned with both the fundamental research aimed at understanding these deep questions, and the means to obtain new knowledge through experiments, observations, numerical methods, and instrument design and construction. The course will be a mixture of lectures, round table discussions and field observations aimed at stimulating new approaches for future flight missions. Weather permitting, it will include an evening of astronomical observations carried out with members of the Santander Amateur Astronomical Association. There will also be an evening public lecture associated with the school.