One of the world’s leading experts on the planet Mars will be speaking in downtown Pensacola and on the University of West Florida campus this week. Dr. Nadine Barlow is a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Northern Arizona University. She’s coming to Pensacola for a pair of lectures on the search for water on Mars. She spoke to WUWF's Bob Barrett about her passion for Mars.
- She first became interested in Mars when the first probes landed on the planet and started sending pictures back. She says it became real then, no longer just "a red dot in the sky".
- Given the climate on Mars there cannot be any liquid water on the surface. Any water would either freeze or quickly evaporate in the thin atmosphere. There is evidence that there were large bodies of liquid water on the surface in the past. "In fact we think Mars may have been very Earth-like in its early history".
- Scientists would like to learn what happened on mars and could it possible happen on Earth, or could we prevent it from happening on Earth. The study of Mars is helping understand climate change here on Earth.
- Most scientists who study the planet feel there is liquid water on the planet, perhaps a mile below the surface.
- There is a lot of functioning technology on and above Mars to help study the planet. "There are, or course, two rovers that are operating on the surface of mars. We have the Opportunity Rover which is our little 'Energizer Bunny' (which has) been going and going and going since 2004. And we also have the Curiosity Rover which has been on the surface of the planet since 2012". There are also a number of orbiting mission above the planet such as the Odyssey which has been orbiting Mars since 2001. The Mars Reconnaissance orbiter and the Maven Mission are also sending information back from above the planet.
- There are more missions planned to explore the surface of Mars. One is called Mars 2020. Manned missions are also on the drawing board for the 2030s.
- Yes, the movie "The Martian" was pretty scientifically accurate. The atmosphere is probably too think to tip over spacecraft in a dust storm, but other than that the writers and producers got it right.
Dr. Nadine Barlow will present “The Search for Water on Mars,” at 6 p.m. on Thursday at the Museum of Commerce, in downtown Pensacola. On Friday she’ll discuss “How Understanding Water on Mars Informs our Understanding of the Martian (and Earth) Climate,” at 1 p.m. on the UWF campus. Both eventare open to the public.