Astronaut to Bring Topic Down to Earth in Talk

Alumnus to Discuss Chances of Life on Mars for High-Schoolers in Clark Lecture

March 27, 2008

More than 1,000 area high school students will have the opportunity to hear astronaut and UT Dallas alumnus James F. Reilly II deliver the University’s 2008 Anson L. Clark Memorial Lecture on Thursday, April 3. The subject of Reilly’s talk, which is free and open to the public, is “Search for Extraterrestrials: Can Life Exist on Mars?”

In his address, Reilly will discuss what conditions would be like on Mars for supporting life, including how the Martian atmosphere compares to that of Earth and whether or not humans would recognize life on Mars.

With three space missions under his belt, Reilly is a veteran explorer. He has logged more than 853 hours in space, including five spacewalks. He is currently assigned to NASA’s exploration branch as the lead for crew systems and landing operations. His missions include STS-89 in 1998, STS-104 in 2001 and STS-117 in 2007.

Reilly has explored Earth’s far reaches as well. In 1977 and 1978, he took part in a scientific expedition to Antarctica. In the 1980s, his work as a geologist sent him on the equivalent of 22 days in deep-submergence vehicles during studies of imaging technology used in deep-water engineering projects and biological research.

He holds three degrees from UT Dallas: a bachelor’s (1977), master’s (1987) and doctorate (1995), all in geosciences. He was born in Idaho but now calls the Dallas suburb of Mesquite his home.

Reilly pointed out that it’s possible other life forms could have existed on Mars, based on what scientists know about the planet.

“With our understanding of the Red Planet, we can put together a pretty good picture of the geologic history of Mars,” Reilly explained. “From what we can see of that geology, the conditions could have been good for life to have begun on both Earth and Mars at about the same time.”

Reilly’s address is 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in UT Dallas’ Activity Center. The students expected to attend the event come from a number of Metroplex-area school districts.

At 10 a.m. the following day, Friday, April 4, Reilly will present another talk, “New Footprints on the Moon and First Footprints on Mars: The Humanistic Approach to Space Exploration.” The talk will address a permanent human presence on the Moon and the case for putting human footprints on Mars. The second lecture is also open to the public. Seating for both events is limited and will be available on a first come, first served basis.

For additional information about either event, contact UT Dallas’ Diana Wilson-Willis at 972-883-4153 or [email protected].

The Anson L. Clark Memorial Lecture began in 1970 and has drawn distinguished speakers to the UT Dallas campus every year since. The lecture honors the memory of a remarkable individual who amassed a sizable fortune throughout a highly unusual and successful career — first, as an engineer, then as a physician at the Mayo Clinic and finally as a businessman in the oil and banking industries. Clark’s philanthropic activities have for many decades supported scholarly endeavors at a number of Texas colleges and universities, including the Clark Summer Research Program and the Clark Presidential Scholarship at UT Dallas.

Media contacts: Jenni Huffenberger, UT Dallas, (972) 883-4431, [email protected]
Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected]

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Astronaut Jim Reilly
UT Dallas alumnus Jim Reilly has logged more than 853 hours in space, including five spacewalks.

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January 22, 2019