Jan. 21, 2004 | KU Radio News Line

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Contact: Frank Barthell, University Relations, (785) 864-8869.

Radio News Line text:
KU researcher applauds NASA successes

MORE GOOD NEWS FOR NASA THIS WEEK.

ON JANUARY 14, PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH PROPOSED AN AMBITIOUS PLAN THAT, IF PASSED BY CONGRESS, WILL PUT MAN BACK ON THE MOON BY 2015 AND BE THE FIRST STEP TOWARD HUMAN EXPLORATION OF MARS.

THE ANNOUNCEMENT COMES AS NASA PREPARES FOR THE SECOND OF TWO ROBOTIC EXPLORATION ROVERS TO LAND ON MARS. THE SPIRIT ROVER IS CURRENTLY ON MARS AND SENDING BACK IMAGES OF THE PLANET'S SURFACE. THE SECOND ROVER, OPPORTUNITY, IS EXPECTED TO LAND SATURDAY, JANUARY 24.

TOM CRAVENS IS A PROFESSOR OF PHYSICS AND ASTRONOMY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS. CRAVENS HAS BEEN INVOLVED WITH NASA PROJECTS FOR MANY YEARS, INCLUDING THE VIKING AND I.C.E. COMET MISSIONS.

CRAVENS IS INVOLVED WITH NASA-FUNDED RESEARCH OF SATURN USING DATA FROM THE UNMANNED SPACE CRAFT CASSINI. THIS SPACECRAFT WILL BEGIN AN ORBIT OF SATURN IN JULY.

CRAVENS SAYS THE UNMANNED SPACE PROGRAM SHOULD NOT TAKE A BACK SEAT TO PRESIDENT BUSH'S PROPOSED MANNED FLIGHTS.
Cravens: "Pretty much everything we've learned about our solar system has come from the unmanned space program. So if you want to know that stuff, you have to support the unmanned program. Compared to the overall part of NASA, it's relatively inexpensive." (12 sec.)

CRAVENS SAYS PRESIDENT BUSH'S PROPOSAL GIVES NASA A NEW SET OF GOALS.
Cravens: "The manned space flight part of NASA has lacked direction. There has to be some new objectives, some new infrastructure, and I'm glad to see someone call for it." (8 sec.)

THE SPIRIT AND OPPORTUNITY MISSIONS ALLOW NASA TO CLOSELY EXAMINE THE GEOLOGY ON MARS. CRAVENS SAYS THAT NONETHELESS, PUTTING HUMANS ON MARS ALLOWS SCIENTISTS MORE FLEXIBILITY TO STUDY THE "RED PLANET."
Cravens: "Another advantage of having people on Mars is that what you can do with one robotic thing, even though it's fairly cheap compared to man, is limited. If you get a person there, they're really a lot more mobile, and a lot less rigid in what they do." (12 sec.)

NASA SCIENTISTS HAVE FOUND ICE AT THE POLAR CAPS OF MARS, BUT CRAVENS SAYS FROZEN WATER DOES NOT SUPPORT LIFE.
Cravens: "There is not really flowing water on Mars that we know of. To have life you need liquid water. Mars at the moment is too cold and dry to sustain liquid water. It doesn't mean it was always that way." (13 sec.)

THE ATMOSPHERIC PRESSURE ON MARS IS 3 PERCENT OF THAT ON EARTH, WITH TEMPERATURES AS LOW AS 100 DEGREES BELOW ZERO. CRAVENS SAYS THESE ARE SOME OF THE OBSTACLES THAT MUST BE OVERCOME TO PUT A HUMAN PRESENCE ON MARS.
Cravens: "So this is an inhospitable environment. But on the other hand, if we can keep people in orbit we can keep them on the surface of Mars. It's doable." (8 sec.)

CRAVENS SAYS THERE'S A LIST OF REQUIREMENTS TO SUSTAIN A HUMAN PRESENCE ON THE MOON, AS WELL.
Cravens: "Radiation protection, the fact that you need oxygen. You need to sustain a pressure in your environment. You need a water supply, and obviously food. And you need to get it all there." (9 sec.)

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