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UTD Geoscientist Appointed to Steering Group
RICHARDSON, Texas (Dec. 1, 2003) — A member of the Geosciences Department faculty at The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) has been selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to help develop a science plan for a mission in 2013 to search for life on Mars.
Associate Professor Dr. Janok P. Bhattacharya was appointed a member of the Mars Astrobiology Field Lab Mission Definition Science Steering Group. The panel is co-chaired by Dave Beaty of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Dr. Andrew Steele of the Carnegie Institution.
The steering group is composed of 21 engineers, astrobiologists and geologists whose mandate is to define key scientific objectives, methods and logistics for the mission, which will investigate evidence of present or past life on Mars. The group will conduct regularly scheduled meetings or teleconferences, the first of which took place last week.
"Evidence for life is thought to occur either around active or ancient hydrothermal vents or in standing bodies of water," said Bhattacharya. "Recent images from Mars prove that standing bodies of water – lakes or seas – existed in the distant past and these may represent areas for discovery of fossilized aquatic life."
Bhattacharya is an expert in the study of terrestrial sediments associated with lakes and seas that may contain a record of life — features that might be analogous to recent Martian discoveries.
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