Curious Mars

Mars: July 2010

Dear Colleague: You are invited to participate in the fourth landing site workshop for the 2011 Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover mission. The workshop will be held in the vicinity of Pasadena, California, on September 27-29, 2010. The workshop will be held at the DoubleTree Hotel in Monrovia, California, and will be just before the MEPAG meeting to be held at the same location.

This workshop is expected to focus on the outstanding science questions, surface characteristics, and relative merits of the final MSL landing sites remaining under consideration. Outcomes will include a list of testable hypotheses that can be accomplished at each site using the MSL science payload. We anticipate a final, fifth landing site workshop will be held in the early spring of 2011 that will be the final workshop prior to selection of the site by NASA Headquarters.

We are soliciting a range of presentations related to the four remaining landing sites under consideration: Eberswalde crater (23.86*S, 326.73*E), Gale crater (4.49*S, 137.42*E), Holden crater (26.37*S, 325.10*E), and Mawrth Vallis (24.01*N, 341.03*E). Presentations related to refined understanding of the geologic setting and physical nature of the surface at each site are especially welcomed. Talks should emphasize the pros and cons of the science possible at each site relative to the mission science objectives and describe testable hypotheses that can be evaluated using the MSL science payload. Talks on the characteristics of the surface should focus on aspects that are important for landing or roving. Identification of specific candidate science targets and traverses within and/or outside the ellipse (for go to sites) is encouraged. An overview of the mission science objectives, a description of the engineering constraints on surface characteristics important for landing and roving, as well as other aspects of the MSL mission, can be found at and A description of the MSL science payload may be found at

All members of the scientific community are encouraged to participate in this important activity. Persons wishing to make a presentation at the workshop should provide a title and brief (several sentence) description of the content to John Grant ( and Matt Golombek ( by August 1, 2010. The input from the science community is critical to identification and evaluation of optimal landing sites for the MSL. We look forward to your continued involvement in these activities!

Sincerely, John Grant and Matt Golombek Co-Chairs, Mars Landing Site Steering Committee

Source: NAI Newsletter

Join us for the second in a series of NASA Astrobiology Postdoctoral Program (NPP) seminars!

Date/Time: Monday, July 12th, 11am Pacific Time
Title: "Impact Bombardments on Early Earth and Mars: Implications for Habitability"
Speaker: Oleg Abramov, University of Colorado, Boulder

Abstract: Lunar rocks and impact melts, lunar and asteroidal meteorites, and an ancient martian meteorite record thermal metamorphic events with ages that group around and/or do not exceed 3.9 Gyr. That such a diverse suite of solar system materials share this feature is interpreted to be the result of a post-primary-accretion cataclysmic spike in the number of impacts commonly referred to as the late heavy bombardment (LHB). We report numerical models constructed to probe the degree of thermal metamorphism in the crust in the effort to recreate the effect of the LHB on the Earth and Mars; outputs were used to assess habitable volumes of crust for possible near-surface and subsurface primordial microbial biospheres. Our analysis shows that there is no plausible situation in which the habitable zone was fully sterilized on Earth and Mars, at least since the termination of primary accretion of the planets and the postulated impact origin of the Moon. Our results explain the root location of hyperthermophilic bacteria in the phylogenetic tree for 16S small-subunit ribosomal RNA, and bode well for the persistence of microbial biospheres even on planetary bodies strongly reworked by impacts. In fact, on Mars, the LHB may have been very beneficial for habitability by generating widespread hydrothermal activity, releasing water vapor into atmosphere, and likely temporarily changing global climate to a warmer and wetter state.

For more information and connection information:

Source: NAI Newsletter