CRISM (Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars)
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Seeing Mars Through a CRISM
Students Learn About Search for Water on Red Planet

It's hard to see the surface of Mars from Maryland, but more than 100 local middle school students learned how Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab scientists will explore the Red Planet during Comcast-Discovery Space Academy: Mission Mars at APL on May 10.

The Space Academy series - sponsored by APL, Comcast Cable and Discovery Networks - takes students behind the scenes of APL space missions and introduces them to the engineers and scientists on the projects. Past events focused on NEAR, TIMED and CONTOUR; this latest "Academy" covered Mars exploration and CRISM, the powerful camera APL is building to search for the chemical traces of past water on the Martian surface. CRISM will fly aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft, set for launch in 2005.

The students, from schools in Anne Arundel, Montgomery and Howard counties, took part in a "press conference" with CRISM Principal Investigator S. Murchie and Instrument Scientist O. Barnouin-Jha, gathering information for stories they'll submit to their teachers and, perhaps, the CRISM Web site. Other APL staffers taught the visitors how to put on clean-room suits and gave hands-on tours of the Lab's spacecraft design and test facilities.

"We hope these hands-on, minds-on learning experiences excite and inspire both the students and the teachers," says APL's K. Beisser, CRISM education and public outreach coordinator. "We are very fortunate to have a wonderful team of experts at APL willing to share their experiences with these students."

With a little help from the Applied Physics Lab's V. Bailey, DeNesia Williams of Meade Middle School, Fort Meade, Maryland, fits into an authentic clean-room suit during Comcast-Discovery Space Academy: Mission Mars at APL on May 10.

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