2004 Denver Annual Meeting (November 7–10, 2004)

Paper No. 1
Presentation Time: 8:15 AM


DE PAOR, Declan G., Department of Earth Sciences, Boston Univ, 685 Commonwealth Av, Boston, MA 02215, ddepaor@bu.edu

In Spring of 2004, NASA's "Opportunity" rover landed in Eagle Crater in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars and began to transmit the first close-up photographs of an outcrop on another planet.

Using the educational outreach resources on NASA's web site, students of the author's undergraduate structural analysis class at Boston University (ES 301) mapped the outcrop and analyzed its structural features. New data became available each Martian day (sol) which suited our Mon-Wed-Fri lecture schedule. The realization that they were among the first to study these images generated much excitement and enthusiasm among students. Laboratory exercises and class projects were replaced by equivalent exercises using Martian data as the class morphed into a fully-fledged undergraduate research opportunity. Students overcame a number of obstacles in data interpretation by interacting among themselves, although they required their professor's assistance with the problem of interpreting oblique panorama photography using new techniques of stereographic projection.

In view of the fact that several of our structural observations had not been previously made by NASA mission scientists, we decided to publish the results of our class project. Every member of the class was assigned data to analyze, so that all became co-authors. Results were published electronically in the Journal of the Virtual Explorer and are already available on line: http: www.virtualexplorer.com.au/2004/15. Hard copy publication will follow in the near future.

Our experience may be of interest to the pedagogical community as opportunities for extraterrestrial mapping arise from future NASA and ESA missions.