RICHARDSON, Texas (March 4, 2005) – NASA astronaut and University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) alumnus Dr. James F. Reilly, II, will discuss the history and the future of the exploration of the planet Mars in a presentation at UTD March 18 aimed at both the university community and the general public.
Reilly’s talk, titled “Mars Exploration: Rovers to Human Geophysical Crews – A (Fun) Work in Progress,” will be held from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the School of Management building, Room 1.118, on the university’s campus in Richardson. The lecture will be free.
Reilly, who earned three degrees (B.S., M.S. and Ph.D) in Geosciences from UTD before becoming an astronaut, will provide a retrospective on efforts to learn more about the Red Planet over the last three decades – from the early Viking landers in the 1970’s to the “wildly successful” Spirit and Opportunity rovers still collecting scientific data on the Martian surface.
Perhaps the biggest find to date, Reilly said, is fairly strong evidence of the presence on the planet of liquid water sometime in the past – and with the water, the possibility that early forms life once existed here.
While he has great admiration for the abilities of the rovers and their mechanical predecessors, Reilly will discuss why he believes humans must one day travel to Mars in order to fully explore the planet.
“Although robotic missions have proven to be astoundingly capable in many areas, the best explorer still remains the human examiner,” he said. “With the ability to adaptively reason at relatively high speed, a human explorer on the surface of Mars will give us the best capability to rapidly examine, theorize, re-examine and refine the theory to best fit the available data, then respond to the next decision, which is, ‘What is next?’”
Reilly, who has logged more than 500 hours in space on two Space Shuttle missions, will discuss the formidable challenges of a manned Mars mission, including how to outfit the explorers and how to deal with long-term isolation that crew members would experience on such a trip. He will explain how NASA is beginning to gear up now for possible future voyages to Mars, and provide details of a field exercise in which he participated last fall outside Flagstaff, Arizona, whose purpose was, in part, to develop training protocol for such missions.
“Jim Reilly is one of UTD’s most distinguished graduates, and his appearances here always draw large numbers of students, faculty and staff,” said Dr. Robert J. Stern, head of the Geosciences Department. “However, his upcoming topic – the exploration of Mars – should have appeal well beyond our campus, to include members of the community and students at all levels, from elementary school through high school. Naturally, all are welcome to attend.”
For additional information about the presentation, please call UTD’s Geosciences Department at 972-883-2401. Directions to UTD are available at http://www.utdallas.edu/directions.html and a campus map may be found at http://www.utdallas.edu/campusmap.html.
For more information about Reilly, you may view his biography on the NASA web site, http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/reilly.html.
The University of Texas at Dallas, located at the convergence of Richardson, Plano and Dallas in the heart of the complex of major multinational technology corporations known as the Telecom Corridor®, enrolls more than 14,000 students. The school’s freshman class traditionally stands at the forefront of Texas state universities in terms of average SAT scores. The university offers a broad assortment of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs. For additional information about UTD, please visit the university’s web site at www.utdallas.edu.