ASU instrument takes better look at Mars minerals

June 23, 2009

A slow drift in the orbit of NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft that mission controllers started nine months ago is now giving an ASU instrument on the spacecraft a better and more sensitive view of minerals on the surface of Mars. The instrument is the" target="_blank">Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS), an infrared and visual camera operated by ASU's Mars Space Flight Facility.

The maneuver to change Odyssey's orbit began Sept. 30, 2008, and ended June 9, 2009, with a five-and-a-half-minute thruster firing. The rocket burn fixed the spacecraft's track so that THEMIS looks down on the planet at an earlier time of day, 3:45 in the afternoon instead of 5 p.m.

Odyssey's two-hour orbit is synchronized with the Sun, so that the local solar time on the ground remains the same whatever part of Mars the spacecraft is flying over. As Odyssey travels on its north-to-south leg over the day side, the local time below the spacecraft is now 3:45 pm; similarly, the local time is 3:45 a.m. under the spacecraft as it flies the south-to-north leg of each orbit on the night side.

Warmer ground means better data

"The new orbit means we can now get the type of high-quality data for the rest of Mars that we got for 10 or 20 percent of the planet during the early months of the mission," says Philip Christensen of ASU's School of Earth and Space Exploration, part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Christensen designed THEMIS and is the instrument's principal investigator.

One important finding based on early-mission THEMIS data was the discovery of chloride mineral deposits in the ancient southern highlands. These salt beds are possible relics of a warmer and wetter epoch on Mars and may have something to tell scientists about a Martian biosphere, past or present.

"Imaging Mars earlier in the afternoon means that THEMIS sees a warmer surface," explains Christensen. "And this makes a greater temperature difference with the nighttime measurements. The stronger contrast brings out more clearly the composition variations in the surface rocks."

In another operational change, Odyssey has begun in recent weeks to make observations other than straight downward-looking. This more-flexible targeting allows THEMIS to image some latitudes near the poles that never pass directly underneath the orbiter. In addition, the sideways views let THEMIS fill in more quickly gaps in coverage left by previous imaging, and they will also permit stereoscopic, three-dimensional images.

"At visual wavelengths, THEMIS has photographed about half the Martian surface," says Christensen. "We're really looking forward to filling the holes in the coverage." Download Full Image

Robert Burnham

Science writer, School of Earth and Space Exploration


Summer law camp introduces 60 youngsters to legal profession

June 23, 2009

While many high school students are lounging by the pool or sitting in front of the TV playing video games, 15-year-old Myleena Torres has been studying a future as a lawyer.

Torres was one of 60 high school and undergraduate students attending Summer Law Camp at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law on June 16-17. The students toured the law school, learned how to brief a case, presented arguments during a mock trial, learned about the law school application process and chatted with law students. Download Full Image

The incoming sophomore at Avondale's La Joya Community High School enjoyed learning the details about how to become a lawyer and gaining the exposure to college life.

"I thought it would be a good opportunity to explore new things," Torres said.

Students came from all over Arizona including Phoenix, Tucson, and the Navajo Nation. A few others came from New Mexico, Minnesota, and South Dakota for the free introduction to the legal profession sponsored by the State Bar of Arizona and the law school's Indian Legal Program.

The camp was part of the State Bar's diversity pipeline and outreach programs. The idea was to encourage people who have been historically underrepresented to start preparing for a career as a lawyer while at a young age.

"It really has the students thinking," said Kate">">Kate Rosier, director of the Indian Legal Program at the law school.

Xenia Velasco, a senior at Trevor Browne High in Phoenix, said a law degree would help her make needed changes to the world.

"I see a lot of discrepancies, a lot of flaws in the system, and I think if I could get to a position where I'm making the laws, I would be able to fix those discrepancies and make it fairer for people," Velasco said.

After the first day of the camp, she told her mother, "Yes, it looks hard, but it's motivating me. I want to be a law student."

Fernanda Muñoz, a junior at San Tan Foothills High in Queen Creek, said she especially enjoyed a mock trial with Rebecca">">Rebecca Tsosie, the ILP's Executive Director and a professor at the College of Law. "I understood everything she was saying, and it was a really interesting class," Muñoz said.

During a lunchtime conversation with State Bar CEO/Executive Director John Phelps, the students asked questions like, "Why is the Bar exam so hard?" and, "Can a lawyer represent himself?"

State Bar Diversity Director I. Godwin Otu encouraged the students to pepper the presenters with questions.

"They have really taken advantage of the opportunity which makes me very happy," he said.

Otu said the State Bar and the law school are considering holding the program again next year since the student interest was so high.

"It's a very rewarding, collaborative effort," he said.

The Indian Legal Program and the State Bar are involved in many other programs to increase diversity in the legal profession.

Rosier is involved with programs focusing on mentoring, recruitment and retention.

Otu also coordinates the Bar Leadership Institute, a nine-month State Bar of Arizona program designed to foster the professional development and leadership skills of lawyers from diverse backgrounds.

For Chudy Nwachukwu, the law camp helped him gain insight on specializing in a practice area. He will soon graduate from St. Cloud State University with a master's degree in electrical engineering. While at the camp, he received some contact information for local patent lawyers to discuss the ins and the outs of the specialty.

Nwachukwu, who heard about the camp through a friend, is glad he had a chance to participate in the intensive workshops.

"It has helped with my decision making," Nwachukwu, 23, said.

The Minnesota student is considering applying to law school at ASU, Harvard and universities in California.

For more information on the Summer Law Camp and other State Bar diversity programs, contact Rosie Figueroa at 602-340-7393.
E-mail State Bar Communications Coordinator Rachael Myer at Rachael.myer">">

By Rachael Myer
State Bar of Arizona Communications Coordinator

Edited by Janie Magruder
(480) 727-9052
Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law