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SPOTLIGHT
06.30.2005

Lifting the Iron Curtain on Mars



This picture was taken from inside an airplane as it was flying over Moscow at about 4,000 feet with a few clouds in the sky. The left wing juts into view and the flaps are down. The sun is shining on the community, which is speckled with hundreds of little farm-style houses, with lush green grass and trees surrounding all the buildings in the foreground. In the distance, a wide, dark blue river snakes across the ground, with a large bridge crossing over the center of the river. A few boats are docked near a road. In the far distance, thousands of buildings seemingly go on forever.

Hello Moscow

Odyssey team member's first view of Moscow from an airplane as the international flight comes in for a landing. Image credit: NASA/JPL
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Free from the "iron curtain" that separated Americans and Russians during the Cold War, the Russian Space Agency and NASA are working together to penetrate the real iron curtain of dust covering Mars. NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter carries a Russian-built instrument called the High Energy Neutron Detector (HEND). In search of subsurface water, the detector hunts beneath the iron-mineral-bearing dust and dirt that cloaks the surface of Mars. This summer, U.S. mission team members traveled across the Atlantic for a meeting of the minds with their HEND colleagues to discuss current findings and to prepare for a new generation of collaborative research.

This image is a snapshot of Moscow from a bus on a rainy day. A large, dome-like structure with blue, red, and pink neon signs houses a casino to the left in the picture; a fast-food restaurant sign blazes through the raindrops to the right; an old green and gold church peeks through the background; and a road construction zone complete with big, yellow Earth-mover trucks sits in the foreground.
Free Market

As Moscow emerges out of socialism and into capitalism, casinos, fast-food restaurants, and construction abound around the old, beautiful
churches.
Image credit: NASA/JPL

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From the Space Race to Uniting Students Across the Globe

Flying over Moscow, the city doesn't look much different from a typical American town, and once visitors hit the ground, it's not difficult to find fast-food restaurants and the sport of bowling, which have only skyrocketed in Russia over the last decade. With barriers gone, the youth of post-perestroika are a cross-cultural generation, wearing brighter colors and higher heels. If an echo remains of the space race that was launched here with Sputnik in 1957, Odyssey scientists are silencing it with their enthusiastic plans for shared U.S.-Russian student involvement in Mars exploration.

This picture is of Igor Mitrofanov, Nora Kelly and Cindy Schulz standing in front of a quote in Russian by Tsiolokovsky, who was a pioneer of rocketry in Russia. Igor is a tall man with gray hair and glasses, wearing a grey blazer and red tie. Nora is about 5'9, has long blond hair and is wearing glasses and a royal blue sweater. Cindy is about 5'7 and wears a light blue sweater set.
Igor Mitrofanov, Nora Kelly, and Cindy Schulz

Igor Mitrofanov, host of the HEND Conference, with U.S. workshop attendees Nora Kelly and Cindy Schulz during a coffee break.
Tsiolokovsky quote translation: "Humanity will not stay on Earth forever, first it will timidly penetrate beyond the atmosphere,
and then surmount all of the near-solar space." Image credit: NASA/JPL

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"International cooperation is an important condition of the final success in space," says Igor Mitrofanov, the principal investigator for the HEND instrument and host of the workshop. "And space exploration's biggest profits to society are centuries away, so to accomplish our global efforts, we need to have young people working with us to share our heritage."

One such graduate student is Alexei Malakhov, who guided the Cyrillic-challenged American visitors through the subways of the red city to the HEND workshop. "It's interesting to work with people from the other side of the ocean, just on a level of knowing other people." When asked about his love of space exploration, Malakhov smiles, explaining that the HEND team is very busy designing detectors like HEND for the next generation of Mars missions. Quoting the American film, "Men in Black," Malakhov says, "Stars -- I never look at them anymore, but they actually are quite beautiful."

This image is of four young Russian engineers (each between 20 -25 years old) huddling together, intently looking at a laptop screen, discussing their next space mission. Projected on a large screen behind the team is a picture of the space shuttle docked with the International Space Station orbiting the blue skies and oceans of Earth.
HEND Instrument Team

The next generation of Russian scientists discusses the next generation of HEND instruments.
From left to right: Alexei Malakhov, Anton Sanin, Maxim Mokrousov, Andrew Vostrukhin
Image credit: NASA/JPL

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Passing on knowledge to students is important to Mitrofanov. "Students run fast. We professors know where to run." After meticulously presenting data at the HEND conference that showed locations of subsurface water on Mars, Mitrofanov urged his graduate students to act as interpreters among members of Odyssey's U.S. education team, the Moscow Astronomy Club, and Moscow State Palace of Children's and Youth Creative Work.

Through NASA's Mars Student Imaging Project, led by master teacher Sheri Klug at Arizona State University, students in Russia are partnering with American classes to take their own pictures of Mars using a camera on the Odyssey spacecraft. "The teams must jointly come up with a plan for their experiment, study the image when it comes back to Earth, and write a report explaining what they discovered -- with one voice, but in two languages," says Klug.

This picture is of six people smiling and standing in front of an old Venus spacecraft model that has been painted white and light blue. They are in a green room full of large plants. Vladislav wears a light grey oxford shirt with blue jeans and glasses, and has a crew-cut. Elena has long brown hair and wears a large blue and black medallion necklace and a black suit. Andrew O. wears glasses, a blue shirt and grey tie. Serjey is about 5'5 and wears a light grey suit with a dark grey tie. He has white hair and a white beard. Andrew V. is about 6'1, has blond hair, wears glasses and a white shirt. Sheri has short, light brown hair, and wears a dark silver, long jacket over black pants.
International Education Team

Education experts from Russia and the United States in front of an old Venus spacecraft in a former space lab now converted to a green room.
From left to right: Vlad Tret'yakov, Elena Bashlij, Andrew Ostapenko, Sergey Yatsenko, Andrew Vostrukhin, Sheri Klug.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/IKI

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Building Long-Lasting Partnerships for Long-Duration Human Flight

This kind of early collaboration among young U.S. and Russian students is important because this is the generation who might share the daunting challenges and unimaginable triumph of walking on Mars for the first time. Passing through the Russian Space Agency's hallways filled with black, white, and red pictures of Americans and Russians joined in fighting the Holocaust during World War II, the educators and grad students speak about effective international collaboration. Sergey Yatsenko, who researched cosmonauts living in simulated martian habitats for 40 years at the Moscow Institute of Medical and Biological Problems before becoming an educator, says the best teams are built on emotional connections made up of people who have "worked together for years and have a love for each other."

This picture is of fourteen adults smiling and huddling together in front of buildings in Red Square in Moscow. The sky is grey and most people wear jackets. In the background is a colorful church with eight onion-shaped domes called St. Basil's. A large red brick building with a black and gold clock is to the right with a tall tower and a star on top. To the left is an enormous white building that spans the width of the town square (about 200 feet) with scaffolding in front.
Odyssey Team Members in Russia

Gaylon McSmith (front right) and U.S. HEND Workshop participants with their tour guide in Red Square on the day before the conference begins.
Before its association with communism, the Russian word "krasnaya" could mean either "red" or "beautiful," and the square was associated with
the "beautiful" meaning. Image credit: NASA/JPL

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This is the fourth HEND conference, and camaraderie among participating scientists is what Gaylon McSmith, Odyssey Science Manager, calls "team building at the highest level." It was McSmith's idea to invite U.S. and Russian educators to participate in this year's workshop. "It's up to the students we're ultimately trying to reach to sustain this friendship and carry it forward," says McSmith.

Traveling on a bus, exploring Russia for the first time, Odyssey Project Scientist Jeff Plaut looks out on spiral-domed churches and gingerbread-style houses along the route. Plaut reflects on what many U.S. team members had discussed on the trip, "The exploration of space and Mars is for humankind, not for any one country, institute, or laboratory. Collaboration between countries is more rewarding than what any one country could do alone."

This picture of Jeff Plaut was taken inside a bus. Jeff is in his late-thirties, has brown hair and a beard, and wears a red, short-sleeved, button-up shirt. He's looking directly into the camera, slightly smiling, and holding up a portable music player to show the digital display, which says, 'Back in the U.S.S.R. The Beatles. White Album.' Small white headphones are in Jeff's ears and attach by a chord to the music player.
Jeff Plaut

Jeff Plaut, Odyssey Project Scientist, listening to the Beatles song, "Back in the U.S.S.R.," as he
travels by bus to meetings in Russia.
Image credit: NASA/JPL

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With the next generation already collaborating, it's not hard to imagine the day when a crew of international explorers will travel across the ocean of interplanetary space and look out the window together as their landing craft lifts the rusty, iron-rich dust off the martian surface. Perhaps even a technological "descendent" or "cousin" of HEND will help them find buried water resources necessary to survival or fuel for an Earth return...or maybe even a habitat for martian life.


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