Tuesday, September 18, 2007



ber /December 2004 in Orbit

In November 2001, I registered with

NASA to take part in the ‘SEND YOUR NAME TO MARS’ project. When the Mars Exploration Rover

2003 mission finally landed its two space probes on the surface of Mars, I knew then that my name and the names of 4 million other

people from around the world had also landed on the red planet. I have been following the progress of the mission since and I came across

another interactive project connected with the Mars mission. The venture is called ‘Rock Around the World’ and it calls on interested people to take part in a symbiotic and simultaneous experiment involving the analysis of rocks on Mars and on Earth.

This is an invitation from NASA to take part in a geological experiment where you literally send your rock to Arizona for NASA to analysis. You may think what is so special about that? well the equipment used to drill and analyse your rock is the same equipment used on Mars in the Mars Exploration Rover 2003 Mission.

I posted my rock to Arizona
in February 2004 and only recently I checked the Rock Around the World web site and got a nice surprise to discover my rock displayed on screen. A map of the World is presented on the page peppered with red dots; e

ach of the dots represents a rock received. On the map of Ireland there was only one red dot that day, I clicked on it and there was my rock from Ireland the spectra analysis was not completed as yet. The Rock Around the World project drills and analysis rocks from all over the World with the same newly developed drills (Rat’s) that are carried on board the Mars Rover

Explorers Spirit and Opportunity. In order to look at the interior of rocks, a field geologist on Earth uses a rock hammer. On the Mars Rovers, the job of a rock hammer is done by the RAT — the Rock Abrasion Tool. The RAT is positioned against a rock by the rover's instrument arm,

and uses a grinding wheel to remove dust and we

athered rock, exposing fresh rock underneath. The

RAT exposes an area nearly 5 cm (2 inches) in diameter, and grinds down to a depth of about 5 mm (0.2 inches).

The rock particles are then brought inside the Rover and analysis by the Mössbauer Spectrometer. The Mössbauer Spectrometer sensor head is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. It is one of four instruments mounted on the turret at the end of the rover arm. Its electronics are housed inside the body of the Rover (in the Warm Electronics Box, or WEB). Measurements are taken by placing the instrument's sensor head directly against a rock or soil sample. One Mössbauer measurement takes about 12 hours.

The Rock around the World project gives the scientists the ability
to compare rock profiles on Mars with rock profiles on Earth. It tests these instruments capability and endurance. It develops a worldwide profile of rock samples. A database of interested people to perhaps get involved in future experiments this is a real time working study of these special drills (Rat’s) and the analysis of the data produced. The study would also help anticipate and problems that might occur with the drilling and the analysis of material focused on by Spirit and Opportunity as they go about their mission on the surface of Mars.

The Mars Rover Exploration Mission has been a resounding success and so far the rovers Spirit and Opportunity have surpassed their anticipated lifespan and are still being directed to different locations in the Gustav and
Meridiani area’s on Mars. The rovers have completed their primary requirements and are continuing their work on the red planet.

The rovers were designed to discover evidence of liquid water in Mar’s past, and they did so in dramatic fashion. Both rovers have had their missions officially extended by NASA to at least September, and will continue for as long as possible after that. People taking part in the Rock Around the World project will get:

§ A certificate of participation from NASA

§ Your rock will be

analyzed by space technology

§ An analysis of your rock

§ Your rock will be presented on the Rock Around the World website

§ Your rock will be placed in a museum of special rocks for study

§ The fun of taking part no matter what age you are

To take part in the Rock pr

oject you must send a rock to Arizona and fulfill certain requirements (Detailed below)

Minimum requirements

Optional requirements

A rock – Minimu

m 2/ Maximum 6”

(I sent a 2”X 4” rock)

Latitude /Longitude of location where rock was found

This can be achieved precisely by logging on to www.heavansabove.com


Name of geographic feature where rock was collected


Copy of map with location

Marked where rock was collected

Full Address

Photo of rock beside ruler for scale

Clean rock

Photo of location where rock was collected

I wrapped my rock in bubble

wrap and then in a jiffy bag. It cost € 10 to se

nd it.

Short paragraph describing area

where rock was found

Send your rock to:

Dr Phil Christensen

Mars Space Flight Facil


Arizona State University

PO Box 876305

Temple, AZ 85287 – 6305



This is the photograph of my rock as it appears on the website and beside it one of the analyses, this rock is mostly quartz but interestingly has a reading of 6%Opal and is a common rock in the Bray area. My rock also had a general analysis and a metamorphic analysis available on the website my rock number is RAT W00520. Spirit and Opportunity have now spent over one year on the surface of Mars, the anniversary was on January 3rd 2005 and both rovers have worked so well for over 380 Sol (a sol is a day on Mars).Both rovers have been covered in a thin layer of Martian dust but are still moving around well and still drilling rocks and sending back extraordinary photographs of the Martian surface. Check out the gallery which is updated regularly http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/press/spirit/.

The next major step in Mars Exploration is taking shape with preparation of NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for launch in just seven months. This spacecraft is scheduled for launch on August 10th 2005 and will in less than two years from now, will begin a series of global mapping, regional survey and targeted observations from a near-polar, low-altitude Mars orbit. These observations will be unprecedented in terms of the spatial resolution and coverage achieved by the orbiter's instruments as they observe the atmosphere and surface of Mars while probing its shallow subsurface as part of a "follow the water" strategy.

Image of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter being fitted with science instrumentsBelow the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in preparation.

This extraordinary picture of a meteorite

found by Opportunity on the surface of

Mars the first time a meteorite of any kind

has been found on another Planet!

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