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SwRI kicks off Mars initiative in support of expanding NASA program

San Antonio -- June 12, 2002 -- In late 2001, Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®) launched a major, two-year initiative to broaden its base of expertise in support of the NASA Mars program.

The SwRI Initiative for Mars (SwIM) will invest more than $2.4 million in Institute internal research funds on a variety of Mars-related efforts. SwIM activities will include sponsoring Mars research and development projects, seminars, and workshops, as well as recruiting senior Mars researchers and technologists.

SwIM Principal Investigator Dr. S. Alan Stern and Executive Vice President for Operations Walter D. Downing announced the selection of the first six projects. Representing an investment of $566,000 in Mars-related R&D, these projects and their research teams were chosen from a field of 24 concept proposals. The selected research and development topics are as follows:

  • A comparison of Mars Rover powertrain energetics

  • The identification and interpretation of martian craters and climate history

  • The development of an SwRI Mars atmosphere model

  • A numerical simulation of the hydrological and geochemical environment of the martian subsurface

  • The development of a Raman probe for in situ analysis of Mars samples

  • An examination of stress and deformation on Mars time

"This suite of internally funded seed projects a real commitment toward building up a strong Mars program at the Institute," says Stern.

SwRI will announce the next selection of internally funded SwIM projects in December, and expects to hire one or more Mars science experts by that time.

"We frequently transfer technologies developed for one application to a totally different application," says Downing. "This synergistic effect is common at SwRI because of the diverse scientific and engineering talent available. Such is the case for SwIM, where technologies originally developed for the nuclear and automotive industries now are being applied to Mars exploration."

SwIM also will sponsor a pair of focused, Mars-related technical workshops from Aug. 7-9. The topics are "Future Mars Surface Experiment Needs and Technologies" and "Mars Rover Needs and Technologies." Each workshop will include invited talks by experts from NASA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and other institutions. Discussion panels will include NASA and SwRI researchers.

For more details on SwIM workshops, seminars, or projects, contact Stern at (303) 546-9670.

For more information contact Maria Martinez, Communications Department, (210) 522-3305, Fax (210) 522-3547, PO Drawer 28510 San Antonio, Texas 78228-0510.

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