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Spectrometer Data Provides Comparison Of Earth and Mars

Arizona State University

Dennis Durband, (602) 965-7209

Philip Christensen, (602) 965-7105
Arden Albee, (818) 395-6140
Tom Thorpe, (818) 354-3611

Sept. 11, 1997

ASU spectrometer data provides comparison of Earth and Mars

Arizona State University's Thermal Emission Spectrometer (TES) isn't
taking a mere joyride on board the Mars Global Surveyor, presently speeding
toward Mars at the rate of 240,000 kilometers per day.

TES has discovered evidence of life on a planet in our solar system.

TES also revealed that a second planet is much less hospitable to life.

The first planet is Earth, the other Mars.

During the flight to Mars, the spacecraft's computer activated the Thermal
Emission Spectrometer to transmit flight software modifications, aimed it at
Mars and recorded an infrared scan of the planet from a distance of 3.3
million miles.

Earlier in the journey -- 17 days after the Nov. 7, 1996 launch -- the TES
conducted an infrared scan of Earth from a distance of 3 million miles.

ASU geology professor Philip Christensen, principal scientist for the
Thermal Emission Spectrometer, said the Earth spectrum revealed "a thick
carbon dioxide atmosphere, a lot of ozone, and a tremendous amount of
water vapor."

It confirmed the presence of ingredients necessary for life that are present
within Earth's atmosphere.

After receiving data on the Mars spectrum, Christensen charted a
comparison graph of the spectrums for the two planets and found striking

The spectrum graph of Mars indicates the presence of a thin atmosphere
mostly consisting of carbon dioxide. The density of air at the martian
surface is thinner than the air at 100,000 feet of elevation above Earth.

Christensen pointed out that at 3.3 million miles, the Red Planet appeared
to TES as only a small dot and the early data on the martian atmosphere is
only a harbinger of the more highly detailed data to follow in upcoming

Additional infrared scans of the planet will help scientists determine its
general mineral composition, and scans of the Mars atmosphere will
provide data for the study of clouds, weather and polar ice caps.

Mars Global Surveyor will enter Mars orbit Sept. 11. The satellite will then
begin an aerobraking sequence that will tighten up the orbit over a
four-month period and lower it to within 250 miles of the surface of Mars.
Mapping will begin in March 1998 and conclude in January 2000.

After the end of surveying in 2000, the satellite will function as a
communications relay for surface landers in future Mars missions.

Mars Global Surveyor is operated by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
in Pasadena, Calif. It was built by Lockheed-Martin. TES was built by
Hughes Santa Barbara Remote Sensing.