A Trip to Mars

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An actual piece of Mars rests on my lap during a visit to the UW-Madison Geology Museum. I was so nervous someone had to hold me!

Could their be a more exciting way to kick off my new collaboration with the Astro Babes than to bring you photos of an actual piece of Mars?!

On Sept. 24, I accompanied the Astro Babes to a lecture in Madison that was part of the “Biosignatures: What Does Life Leave Behind?” exhibit that hopes to excite public curiosity about astrobiology research at UW-Madison. A presentation entitled “How to build an Astrobiology Exhibit in 1,272 Easy Steps” was followed by a reception in the museum that not only featured a piece of Mars, but a rare opportunity to hold a piece of it in your hands.

The main attraction for this event was a viewed fall of the Tissint meteorite that is thought to have broken off the Red Planet around 700,000 years ago and witnessed landing in Morocco in 2011.

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Here I’m looking at the 700,000-year-old piece of Mars that the museum recently acquired. This is one of the five rare observed falls from Mars.

The collector that sold this piece to the museum also lent a piece to the museum that lecture attendees could hold in their hand. Unlike most meteorites found on Earth, this piece was very light and had no real fusion crust. It was identified Martian by testing the “atmosphere” that was trapped inside air pockets in the rock.

NASA funds the Wisconsin Astrobiology Research Consortium and other teams to develop new tools and methods for detecting evidence of past life on Earth. This research will then help scientists recognize signs of life in other places such as Mars or Titan because we won’t find any dinosaur bones there.

Martian rocks are a rarity here on Earth today, but I plan to personally bring back many more rocks for research on my first round-trip mission to Mars.

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By Barbara Millicent Roberts
Astro Babe Mars Correspondent

New Member of the Team

barbie-head-shotThe Astro Babes want to welcome a new guest correspondent to our team! Barbara Millicent Roberts, an astronaut and notable Martian expert from Willows, Wisconsin, will be sharing her expertise in future blogs on our website.

Often referred to as “Mars Explorer Barbie,” Ms. Roberts officially began her assignment in collaboration with NASA in August. Her assignment coincided with the first anniversary of NASA’s Curiosity rover landing on Mars.

The Astro Babes want to express their gratitude to Ms. Roberts for agreeing to act as our official Mars Correspondent, and we look forward to her contributions in the near future.

Solar System Ambassador

Amy by Stu CroppedIn January of this year I became a Solar System Ambassador for NASA/JPL! This is a volunteer position who’s function is public outreach. This last Monday I gave a 2 hour presentation for our local LIR (Learning in Retirement) group. See – I can look professional if I want! No tin foil hats here!

What a fun group of adults who asked lots of great questions. I must be honest, I was a bit intimidated by these folks, they are very informed! We talked about asteroids and comets since this year has been a whirlwind of activity in both of those areas. I was a bit nervous at first, but I think things went well. I learned a lot about presenting in that venue! I wasn’t used to using a microphone (I forgot to turn it on twice!). Hearing me is usually not a problem! I only had one technical problem but I worked that out too!

Thank you LIR for letting me have the opportunity to talk with your members! I hope to see you again next year!

If you want to find a Solar System Ambassador in your area please follow the link above. There’s an interactive map for you to find someone in your state!

Amy

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Sputnikfest 2013

IMG_3718Last year we were only participants, but this year, the Astro Babes brought solar telescopes to Sputnikfest in Manitowoc.

Once the 3 p.m. Alien Drop crowd cleared out, we set up just a few steps away from the ring where the chunk of Sputnik IV landed in 1962 at the intersection of Eighth and Park streets.

The crowd was non-stop to take a peak at Venus or the sun through the three solar telescopes and the three projections that we set up. Tom from Appleton and Jim from Manitowoc brought their scopes and a sunspotter – thanks for your help guys! The rest of the equipment we borrowed from NPMAS.

Although there weren’t any sunspots to see, Tom’s Coronado revealed several CME’s that really impressed the crowd.

 

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A Whole Different World

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1962 NASA rejection to Miss Kelly. No girls allowed.

Back in the early 60’s when I was a little girl, I would lie on the grass for hours and watch the clouds and planes and commercial jets fly over my head on their way to some place much more exotic than my front lawn in Sheboygan. It was there on that lawn that I decided I would be a pilot when I grew up. But the world was a different place in the 60’s.

A few weeks ago, I read about a rejection letter that a woman, identified as Miss Kelly, received from NASA in 1962. She had applied to be an astronaut but was turned down simply because she was a girl.

That story actually didn’t surprise me at all, but later, it occurred to me that most of the young women of today probably would not believe it was true.

I was 11-years-old when Miss Kelly received her rejection letter. It was right around that time that I told my Mom and my aunt that I wanted to be a pilot when I grew up. With all-knowing snickers and smirks on their faces, they explained to me that there was no way that was going to happen. Girls were not allowed to be pilots. Only boys could be pilots. I could become a stewardess if I was tall enough and pretty enough, but that didn’t interest me at all.

Little did my Mom or my aunt know that that conversation not only ended my dreams of becoming a pilot, it ended a career path that would have led me to sending in my own application to NASA to become an astronaut some 30 years later.

It was only 21 years after Miss Kelly received that letter that Sally Ride took her first ride into space, and last month, NASA announced their newest group of eight astronauts – half of them are women. Things have sure changed since I was a kid.

Lynn

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