Press Release

Public Gets a Chance to Use Instrument Similar to One Headed for Mars University Of Arizona

By SpaceRef Editor
June 4, 2001
Filed under , ,

What: MarsQuest

When: From June 1

through Aug. 31, 2001

Where: Park Place
shopping center, west
end, next to Macy’s
Department Store

Contact Information

Heather Enos


Heather Enos

The UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory’s Gamma Ray Spectrometer Team has
created an exhibit that describes the Gamma Ray Spectrometer (GRS)
Instrument, part of the 2001 Mars Odyssey mission now on its way to Mars.
The Mars Odyssey was launched on April 7, 2001 and is expected to arrive at
Mars on Oct. 24 of this year.

The Park Place exhibit allows participants to use and understand
spectrometers, a key technology used in the GRS instrument. At the exhibit,
spectrometer is used to view different kinds of lights. The spectrometer
breaks the light into its individual colors and allows the chemicals in each
bulb to be identified because of their unique, beautiful color patterns.

The Gamma Ray Spectrometer also uses the unique pattern of energies emitted
by each element to determine how much of each of them is present on Mars.
While it orbits the planet, it will record the gamma rays emitted by the
different elements. By matching the “fingerprints” of what it sees to the
fingerprints of known elements it will be able to tell us about the
composition of the Martian soil.

The GRS instrument on the 2001 Mars Odyssey spacecraft will measure energies
of gamma rays produced when cosmic rays hit the Martian surface, allowing us
to map the elemental composition of Mars. The data collected by the GRS
instrument will allow us to answer an age-old question: “Is there water on
Mars?” The GRS will play a key role in determining if oceans existed in the
past on Mars, and if so, what happened to them. If oceans did exist, did
life form there and perhaps go underground at a later time?

The gamma rays detected by the instrument are over a million times more
energetic than the visible light rays detected by the eye. However, because
of the spacecraft’s distance from Mars and the weakness of the signals
coming from the surface of Mars, the GRS instrument will have to look at
each part of the surface of Mars for several months to record its elemental

The Gamma Ray Spectrometer was designed and built by a team led by William
Boynton of the UA’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.

SpaceRef staff editor.