Month: September 2015

Quit your day job and go to Mars and drink the water.


NASA Confirms Evidence That Liquid Water Flows on Today’s Mars
by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (JPL) Sep 29, 2015

Dark, narrow streaks on Martian slopes such as these at Hale Crater are inferred to be formed by seasonal flow of water on contemporary Mars. The streaks are roughly the length of a football field. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona 

New findings from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) provide the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars.

Using an imaging spectrometer on MRO, researchers detected signatures of hydrated minerals on slopes where mysterious streaks are seen on the Red Planet. These darkish streaks appear to ebb and flow over time. They darken and appear to flow down steep slopes during warm seasons, and then fade in cooler seasons. They appear in several locations on Mars when temperatures are above minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 23 Celsius), and disappear at colder times.

“Our quest on Mars has been to ‘follow the water,’ in our search for life in the universe, and now we have convincing science that validates what we’ve long suspected,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “This is a significant development, as it appears to confirm that water – albeit briny – is flowing today on the surface of Mars.”

These downhill flows, known as recurring slope lineae (RSL), often have been described as possibly related to liquid water. The new findings of hydrated salts on the slopes point to what that relationship may be to these dark features.

The hydrated salts would lower the freezing point of a liquid brine, just as salt on roads here on Earth causes ice and snow to melt more rapidly. Scientists say it’s likely a shallow subsurface flow, with enough water wicking to the surface to explain the darkening.

“We found the hydrated salts only when the seasonal features were widest, which suggests that either the dark streaks themselves or a process that forms them is the source of the hydration. In either case, the detection of hydrated salts on these slopes means that water plays a vital role in the formation of these streaks,” said Lujendra Ojha of the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) in Atlanta, lead author of a report on these findings published Sept. 28 by Nature Geoscience.

Ojha first noticed these puzzling features as a University of Arizona undergraduate student in 2010, using images from the MRO’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE). HiRISE observations now have documented RSL at dozens of sites on Mars. The new study pairs HiRISE observations with mineral mapping by MRO’s Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM).

The spectrometer observations show signatures of hydrated salts at multiple RSL locations, but only when the dark features were relatively wide. When the researchers looked at the same locations and RSL weren’t as extensive, they detected no hydrated salt.

Ojha and his co-authors interpret the spectral signatures as caused by hydrated minerals called perchlorates. The hydrated salts most consistent with the chemical signatures are likely a mixture of magnesium perchlorate, magnesium chlorate and sodium perchlorate.

Some perchlorates have been shown to keep liquids from freezing even when conditions are as cold as minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 70 Celsius). On Earth, naturally produced perchlorates are concentrated in deserts, and some types of perchlorates can be used as rocket propellant.

Perchlorates have previously been seen on Mars. NASA’s Phoenix lander and Curiosity rover both found them in the planet’s soil, and some scientists believe that the Viking missions in the 1970s measured signatures of these salts. However, this study of RSL detected perchlorates, now in hydrated form, in different areas than those explored by the landers. This also is the first time perchlorates have been identified from orbit.

MRO has been examining Mars since 2006 with its six science instruments.
“The ability of MRO to observe for multiple Mars years with a payload able to see the fine detail of these features has enabled findings such as these: first identifying the puzzling seasonal streaks and now making a big step towards explaining what they are,” said Rich Zurek, MRO project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

For Ojha, the new findings are more proof that the mysterious lines he first saw darkening Martian slopes five years ago are, indeed, present-day water.

“When most people talk about water on Mars, they’re usually talking about ancient water or frozen water,” he said. “Now we know there’s more to the story. This is the first spectral detection that unambiguously supports our liquid water-formation hypotheses for RSL.”

The discovery is the latest of many breakthroughs by NASA’s Mars missions.
“It took multiple spacecraft over several years to solve this mystery, and now we know there is liquid water on the surface of this cold, desert planet,” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “It seems that the more we study Mars, the more we learn how life could be supported and where there are resources to support life in the future.”

There are eight co-authors of the Nature Geoscience paper, including Mary Beth Wilhelm at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California and Georgia Tech; CRISM Principal Investigator Scott Murchie of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland; and HiRISE Principal Investigator Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tucson, Arizona. Others are at Georgia Tech, the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and Laboratoire de Planetologie et Geodynamique in Nantes, France.

I want to learn how to be a geologist working on the Occupy Mars Learning Adventures

Geologist’s Toolkits

Our students are getting excited about studying geology, astronomy and chemistry. We are learning how to become geologists on a simulated Mars mission. One of our projects involves putting our geologist’s lab kits together. Students are getting individualized help by working with three professional geologists. Each student will have access to our new geologist’s library, STEM Lab software and the Geologist Toolkit with “The Geoscience Handbook.”

One of our goals is to provide fifty geologists tool kits to the students that are recruited into the 2015-2016 Occupy Mars Learning Adventure’s programs. We want to do what we can to get students excited about studying STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).   Consider sponsoring a STEM Geologist Toolkit.   Contact:

Did you know?

Planetary science is a dynamic and diverse discipline. Typically, research scientists earn a PhD in a field such as geology, chemistry, astronomy, physics, etc. while focusing their research in that area to planetary or solar system oriented topics.

My STEM Astronomy classroom will be at 49,000 feet (STAR Party with NASA)

Kids Talk Radio STEM STAR Party

Kids Talk Radio Logo JPEG

Our NASA STEM Classroom at 49,000 Feet

Bob Barboza and Kids Talk Radio Science is Hosting A NASA SOFIA STEM STAR Party

Tuesday, September 15 6:30 p.m. in the Los Altos United Methodist Church Lounge

Astronomer Jerry Larsen and space science and robotic’s educator Bob Barboza will co-host a live teleconversation with two unique astronauts riding NASA’s 747 jumbo jet to the edge of space. On board will be Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols and Traveling Space Museum’s Ivor Dawson, peering through NASA’s stratospheric observatory for infrared astronomy (SOFIA). Once we connect with them, we will be able to see into areas of the cosmos where new stars are being born. Astronauts of all ages, as well as curious onlookers are encouraged to attend. For more information visit Bob Barboza websites:

Bring your laptops and connect to our NASA 747.  We have free WiFi at the church.

Password: SOFIAParty2015

Location On Line and in the City of Long Beach, Califonria:

Los Altos Methodist Church

5950 East Willow Street

Long Beach, CA 90815

Time: 6:30 PM. to 8:00 PM.



  • NASA SOFIA: Photo Essay
  • Space Robots and the Occupy Mars Learning Adventures
  • International Dot Day
  • Astronomy in the Community
  • Hands On Space Telescope Workshop

* STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics)

** STEAM++ (science, technology, engineering, visual and performing arts, mathematics, computer languages and foreign languages).

Who wants to join the Occupy Mars Learning Adventure’s Team?


We have a team of scientists, engineers and STEAM++ (science, technology, engineering, visual and performing arts, mathematics, computer languages and foreign languages) educators.  We are searching for others to help answer the questions that our students have about STEM, STEAM and STEAM++.  Can you help?   We will send you the question and you help to provide the answers.   We are looking very hard for electrical engineers, physic teachers, biologists, chemists, astronomers, mathematics educators or even math lovers.   We are trying to have fun with our students as we study space science.  Who wants to help us with space mathematics?

We invite your to visit our project website at:

Contact Bob Barboza at

Nichelle Nichols (Original Star Trek Crew) Honored at Shades of Blue Gala

Nichelle Nichols Honored at Shades of Blue Gala

Photos courtesy of Shades of Blue

How much would you pay to have breakfast with Tiffany actress, Nichelle Nichols? One of the many highlights of the Shades of Blue Gala in Denver on Saturday was a live auction where bitters fought for the right to break bread with a living legend! It finally came down to two contenders in a battle royale—both determined to spend as much as $2,000 to best the other. In a surprise move, the clever auctioneer doubled down on the combatants allowing both the opportunity of victory—with each paying $1750! One of the two victors was Dr. Bernard Harris, the first black man to walk in space. Did I mention that the Gala was a first-ever black astronaut reunion?  Of course, by now we should all know that it was Nichelle Nichols who made Bernard Harris’ feat possible; she was the one who broke the ‘color line’ for astronauts.

Yes Virginia, there really was a time when there were no minority astronauts (from 1958 to 1983) until Star Trek actress, Nichelle Nichols publicly admonishes NASA for not having minority astronauts and NASA shamefully agreed.  In 1977, NASA hires Nichelle to recruit minority astronauts but she had a few conditions: she had to be on her on, she didn’t want NASA handlers and she wanted to be able to recruit anywhere she wanted including inside the military. Almost immediately she is invited to a meeting at the Pentagon where she is told, “The Armed Services are off limits!” Of course, that’s exactly where she goes first!

Her first recruits from the military were Guy Bluford and Fred Gregory. She  tries to recruit Charles Bolden (the current NASA Administrator) but he has reservations. He finally applies and becomes an astronaut two years later. Not surprisingly, some had applied as military astronauts and were rejected! Nichelle also personally recruits Dr. Ron McNair, Judith Resnik, the first Jewish woman astronaut and Ellison Onizuka, America’s first Asian astronaut. Nichelle’s 1978 recruitment yields ten new astronauts and literally changes the face of NASA!

A United Airlines Captain, Willie Daniels had a dream to have as many black astronauts as possible together in one place—something that had never been tried before. On Saturday August 29th, 14 of the 17 surviving black astronauts attend his first-ever black astronaut reunion and Gala in Denver CO sponsored by Daniels’ nonprofit, Shades of Blue making the event an unqualified success. Guy Bluford, Fred Gregory and Cheryl McNair widow of Ron McNair were on hand representing Nichelle’s black recruits.  Also present was Ed Dwight, the first black astronaut candidate recruited by President Kennedy, who still waits to be classified as a full-fledged astronaut.

Among the brothers who couldn’t make it were three who died in accidents: Robert Lawrence (in a training flight) and Ron McNair and Michael Anderson (in shuttle disasters).  NASA administrator, Charles Bolden could not attend but sent his regrets and congratulations via a video presentation.

Willie Daniels’ Shades of Blue is a nonprofit dedicated to inspiring young people by teaching them aviation science. Shades and TSM are looking to join forces with TSM adding the space education piece to Shades of Blue’s aviation curriculum.

For her success in recruiting for NASA and being an inspiration figure for 50 years, Nichelle Nichols received the magnificent (and very heavy) Ed Dwight Lifetime Achievement Award trophy from Ed Dwight himself. The trophy —an ascending shuttle Orbiter and trailing fighter jet was designed and beautifully sculpted by Ed Dwight, who reinvented himself into one of America’s most renown sculptors.

While writing this, Ed sent me the photo of the three of us (above).  Besides being my buddy and a personal hero, Ed is also a quite a mensch!


Pre-gala autograph session at Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum

Front row: Leland Melvin, Nichelle, Robert Satcher, Joan Higginbotham
Middle row: Victor Glover, Stephanie Wilson, Cheryl McNair, Fred Gregory, Jeanette Epps, Willie Daniels
Back row: Herb Jefferson and me

Front row: Jeanette Epps, Livingston Holder, Leland Melvin, Yvonne Cagle, Nichelle, Stephanie Wilson and Joan Higginbotham
Back row:  Joseph Tanner, Robert Satcher, Bernard Harris, Guy Bluford, Winston Scott and Fred Gregory