The Occupy Mars Learning Adventure

Training Jr. Astronauts, Scientists & Engineers

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Radar Project 6 for the USA Occupy Mars Tiger Teams

Students on the USA Tiger Teams are working on special projects that will help occupy Mars.   We are building our collection of solutions and will present that at the Mars Society Convention in Irvine, California in September, 2017.

Arduino Radar

by J.B. Wylzan

Project 25:  Radar Scanner Display
This project shows how objects are detected and displayed on your computer screen imitating a radar monitor. A separate software called Processing 3.0a10 was used to interact with the Arduino R3 IDE.

Microservo SG90
Ultrasonic Sensor
connecting wires
Arduino R3 UNO board

Code # 25:

iHacklab Radar Monitor Display
This project, inspired by Dejan Nedelkovski,
was modified to fit the display into a standard computer monitor
reprogrammed by JBWylzan

Using Graphics Interface provided by Processsing 3.0
The example code is public domain */

import processing.serial.*;
import java.awt.event.KeyEvent;

Serial myPort;
String angle=””;
String distance=””;
String data=””;
String noObject;
float pixsDistance;
int iAngle, iDistance;
int index1=0;
int index2=0;

void setup() {
size (1000, 500);
myPort = new Serial(this,”COM4″, 9600);

void draw() {
rect(0, 0, width, 1010);
fill(98,245,31); // green

void serialEvent (Serial myPort) {
data = myPort.readStringUntil(‘.’);
data = data.substring(0,data.length()-1);
index1 = data.indexOf(“,”);
angle= data.substring(0, index1);
distance= data.substring(index1+1, data.length());
iAngle = int(angle);
iDistance = int(distance);

void drawRadar() {

void drawObject() {
stroke(255,10,10); // red
pixsDistance = iDistance*22.5;

void drawLine() {

void drawText() {
text(“        0°”,250,5);

Use the sketch above and your previous projects on Servo and Ultrasonic to detect objects and monitor them on a radar-like screen display.

Actual Layout:

1. Build the prototype as shown above
2. Run the Processing Interface
3. Select File > New
4. Copy Code #25 above
5. Paste Code #25
6. Click File > Save
7. Click Run
8. Wait for the Screen to display
9. Open previous projects on ultrasonic or servo
10. Upload sketch and run your hands on the ultrasonic

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Morse Code Project 6 for Occupy Mars Learning Adventures

Barboza Space Center USA Tiger teams are working on several emergency communication systems for the planet Mars.  This is one of six systems that our students are working on.

Morse Code

by J.B. Wylzan

Project 13:  Morse Code 
This project  shows how to control an RGB Led colors using **modular programming.

RGB led
3 resistors
connecting wires
Arduino R3 UNO board

Block Diagram:

Code # 13:

iHackLab Morse Code
powered by Arduino
sketched by J.B. Wylzan
modified by Lawsinium

The RGB LED will display the morse code for I LOVE YOU.
This example code is public domain.

int redPin = 8;
int greenPin = 7;
int bluePin = 6;

void setup()
pinMode(redPin, OUTPUT);
pinMode(greenPin, OUTPUT);
//pinMode(bluePin, OUTPUT);

// .. / .-.. — …- . / -.– — ..-   <<< I LOVE YOU

void loop()

dit(); dit();
dit(); dat(); dit(); dit();
dat(); dat(); dat();
dit(); dit(); dit(); dat();
dat(); dit(); dat(); dat();
dat(); dat(); dat();
dit(); dit(); dat();
// …………………………………………………………………………………………………….

( Only for Reference; don’t add the pic on your sketch )

// …………………………………………………………………………………………………….
void dit()
digitalWrite(redPin , HIGH);
digitalWrite(redPin , LOW);

void dat()
digitalWrite(greenPin , HIGH);
digitalWrite(greenPin , LOW);

void pause()
digitalWrite(bluePin, HIGH);
digitalWrite(bluePin, LOW);

**Programmers Technique**

Modular Programming is one of the techniques programmers use to shorten their programs. Instead of writing very long algorithm, programs are contain into a chunk, a modular procedure. The functions dit(), dat(), and pause() are all procedures put into functional modules. This means that instead of writing all the sketch in every module inside the void loop() section, we simply use the shortcuts: dit(), dat(), and pause().

1. Sketch a program using a speaker that will produce the morse code sound for I LOVE YOU.
2. Sketch a program with a push button that will mimic the morse code for I LOVE YOU.

Actual Layout:

1. Build the prototype as shown above
2. Run the Arduino Interface
3. Select File > New
4. Copy Code # 13 above
5. Paste Code #13
6. Click File > Save
7. Click Verify
8. Click Upload
9. The RGB led will blink on and off like a morse code.

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Can lightning storms be found on Mars

How Sandstorms Generate Spectacular Lightning Displays

How can nonconducting sand particles transfer the huge amounts of charge needed to generate spectacular lightning displays? A new model finally explains this phenomenon.

Comments:  Our students have been asking if there are lightning storms on Mars?   

We wanted to share this article that came from MIT.

One of the fascinating features of volcanic cloud plumes is the extraordinary displays of lightning they generate. Similar discharges occur in sandstorms and in the dust blown up by helicopters flying over deserts causing dangerous arcing. These lightning storms are as puzzling as they are spectacular.

There are two parts to the problem. First, particles of sand are more or less identical, in size shape and chemistry. How then do they transfer charge between them? Second, sand particles are insulators, not conductors, which makes it doubly strange that they can be involved in the transfer of such massive amounts of charge. What on Earth is going on?

Today, Thomas Pähtz at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and a couple of buddies say they can explain the whole thing with a deceptively simple new model. What’s more, their model makes some straightforward predictions about the way sand particles transfer charge.

Here’s their idea. They begin by thinking of sand particles as identical dielectric spheres. In an electric field, dielectric particles become polarised, causing charge to gather on each side of the sand spheres. When two spheres touch, the charge redistributes across the boundary between them, creating a larger, doubly polarised particle. The key idea is what happens when this breaks into two again: each particle ends up with a net charge (see picture above). The process of polarisation then begins again allowing the particles to increase their charge even further with each collision. It’s not hard to see how a relatively small number of collisions could end up transferring huge amounts of charge in this way despite the absence of any kind of conducting medium.

This model makes some interesting predictions about the rate at which a cloud of sand should pump charge. For example, it predicts that shallow clouds of dust would end up being charged only weakly. This is what you might expect from weak winds or heavy grains. Similarly, very thick clouds should result only in weak charging. However, Pahtz and co says that in intermediate clouds, there should be dramatic charging. And sure enough, that’s exactly what they find, both in numerical simulations of dust clouds and in actual experiments they’ve performed with real sand.

“We find as predicted that shallow agitated beds – as could be expected in weak winds or for heavy grains – charge weakly, as do very deep agitated beds – as would be expected for highly dissipative materials. Under intermediate conditions, however, we observe dramatic charging, with the most highly charged particles found preferentially near the top of the agitated bed,” they say.

That’s an elegant idea that produces some fascinating results. But it leaves open one very important question. In real storms, what generates the electric field that polarises the sand particles in the first place? It looks like Pahtz and co will have interesting time ahead getting to the bottom of that one.

Ref: Why do Particle Clouds Generate Electric Charges?

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Space Geology: Moki and Moqui Marbles Found on Our Summer Field Trip Studying About Mars

Mars on Earth: How Utah’s Fantastical Moqui Marbles Formed

On our most recent geology field trip in 2017.  The Occupy Mars Learning Adventures team came upon two new discoveries.  Moki and Moqui Marbles.  Which is correct????

Here is what the California team discovered.

Moki marbles_1633.JPGIMG_1631.JPGIMG_1632.JPG


Mars on Earth: How Utah's Fantastical Moqui Marbles Formed
Moqui marbles on a sandstone slope.

Credit: Marjorie Chan, University of Utah

Hikers rambling through Utah’s candy-striped canyons sometimes come across a strange-looking sight. Where the Navajo Sandstone loses its iconic peach, orange and red stripes, hundreds of round, iron-coated stones often litter the ground.

The stony spheres are concretions — sandstone balls cemented by a hard shell of iron oxide minerals. Often called moqui marbles, acres of the chocolate-colored rocks are scattered across Utah and Arizona. They tumble from the pale, cream-colored Navajo Sandstone beds, when wind and water wash away the softer rock.

For decades, the rocks were simply a geological oddity. Then, look-alikes were discovered on Mars (the so-called Martian blueberries). The milestone — among the early evidence for water on Mars — boosted interest in Earth’s iron baubles. [Photo Gallery: See Fantastic Moqui Marbles]

Now, a new study reveals that the moqui marbles are no more than 25 million years old — a sharp contrast to the 190-million-year-old Navajo Sandstone. Marbles scattered on sandstone slopes in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument are only 2 million to 5 million years old. And on Arizona’s Paria Plateau, the marbles’ iron oxide rind is as young as 300,000 years old, researchers report in the September 2014 issue of the Geological Society of America Bulletin.

“They really represent a record of how water moved the rock millions of years ago, and the next generation can use them to understand water and life on other planets,” said Marjorie Chan, co-author of the new study and a geologist at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

Odd balls

The moqui marbles’ precise ages come from a radioactive clock. The iron oxide minerals contain traces of radioactive uranium and thorium, and these decay by expelling helium. Tallying the elements reveals the time since the minerals formed. The innovative technique may help resolve different models of how the stone spheres formed. Scientists agree that the iron comes from the bone-white Navajo Sandstone layers, stripped bare of their mineral paint by percolating groundwater. A subtle film of hematite, or iron oxide, colors the iconic red cliffs and canyons.

Chemical reactions fused the moqui marbles with iron, but the details haven’t been settled. Some researchers now think tiny microbes spurred the chemical process, and that similar concretions on Mars may one day reveal signs of ancient life. [The 7 Most Mars-Like Places on Earth]

“The discoveries on Mars helped push us to better understand the setting here on Earth, and what we do on Earth feeds back into helping interpret Mars,” Chan told Live Science.

Concretions of all shapes and sizes are found all over the world. The curious rocks have inspired fantastical tales of fairies, meteorites and dinosaur eggs, but their origin is fairly mundane. Water flowing through sedimentary rock leaves behind minerals that glue together masses of sand, mud or other particles. Sometimes, a treasure — like a bone or a shell — hides inside.

The moqui marbles crop up in the Navajo Sandstone in Arizona and in Utah’s public lands, eroding from the spectacular white cliffs in Zion National Park and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Collecting concretions in the parks is prohibited.

Red and white Navajo sandstone in Zion National Park.
Red and white Navajo sandstone in Zion National Park.

Credit: National Park Service

The iron stones appear almost black, with a pitted surface polished by blowing sand. Other rusty structures formed too, including discs, “flying saucers,” pipes and flat plates. Spiritualists have endowed the marbles with “energy” and dubbed the distinctive shapes as male and female, making them among the only rocks with a gender. Quietly sitting and holding one in each hand is said to calm the spirit, just like meditation.

“I don’t believe that,” Chan said. “I do believe these are important resources, and the geologic landscape is our heritage.”

Cloaked in iron

The Navajo Sandstone was once the biggest expanse of dunes on Earth. Its color comes from flakes of iron-rich minerals blown in and buried with the quartz sand. After the dunes were blanketed and buried by younger geologic layers, the iron enrobed the sand grains, giving the Navajo Sandstone its amazing colors and patterns. [Image Gallery: Majestic Monument Valley]

Eons later, the moqui marbles were born. The concretions owe their existence to massive tectonic shifts in the Southwest, researchers think. Some 20 million years ago, the Colorado Plateau started to bob up like a cork. The entire plateau has lifted about 1.2 miles (2 kilometers).

The tectonic uplift warped its rock layers, trapping oil and gas. When a mixture of water and natural gas flowed through the Navajo Sandstone, it stripped away the rusty coating, bleaching the rocks from red to creamy white. Chan thinks this iron-rich water crept through the sandstone until it reached a crack, hole or layer where the water chemistry was different and iron settled out of the water.

The chemical reactions first covered each sand grain with iron, creating tiny spheres. The spheres grew, layer by layer, making contact with others nearby until some spheres connect into one large mass. Collectors on private property sometimes find odd, knobby clumps that appear to be partially formed spheres, where the process may have halted halfway through.

The spheres grew layer by layer, making contact with others nearby until many spheres became one large ball.
The spheres grew layer by layer, making contact with others nearby until many spheres became one large ball.

Credit: Marjorie Chan, University of Utah

“These round concretions have a self-organizing pattern, like people at a party,” Chan said. “The natural pattern is for people to gather together in conversation groups, and the groups are going to be round.”

The results of the new study suggest that the first iron-oxide batch formed 20 million to 25 million years ago, and the next set was added 2 million to 3 million years ago. This younger group matches up with another major event: It’s when the Colorado River started cutting through the Navajo Sandstone near the mouth of the Escalante River, which likely changed groundwater flow through the region. These younger marbles are mostly goethite instead of hematite, which may reflect the changing chemistry of the groundwater.

Iron eaters

The younger ages also support a different model for how the concretions formed, according to David Loope, a geologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, who was not involved in the study. Loope thinks the moqui marbles were transformed by microbes, morphing from one kind of mineral to another as the region’s groundwater chemistry changed.

According to Loope’s model, the marbles were originally siderite, an iron carbonate mineral. The same fluids Chan said had bleached the sandstone deposited the carbonate spheres, only with an added boost of carbon dioxide gas dissolved in the water. When the Colorado River sliced into the Navajo Sandstone 2 million years ago, the groundwater flow and the mineral levels shifted.

The researchers think bacteria helped convert the siderite into hematite. With a powerful microscope, the researchers also discovered tiny structures suggestive of microbial life inside the concretions, similar to tubes seen in Martian meteorites. Some of the hematite rinds resemble siderite crystals — a clue that one mineral ousted the other, Loope and his colleagues reported in August 2012 in the journal Geology. “We are completely convinced the concretions had siderite precursors,” Loope said.

Link to the past

“Moqui” is a Hopi word that means “dear departed ones.” According to Hopi tradition, spirits of the dead would play with the marbles at night, leaving them behind in the morning to reassure the living that they were happy in the afterlife.

Just as the moqui marbles embody the Hopi idea of life after death, the iron stones are links to ancient environments on the Colorado Plateau. With the new dating technique, Chan has shown that scientists can start to pinpoint where and when water flowed through rock. The search for historic water routes in the Southwest has engaged researchers for more than century, since the first geologists tried to puzzle out how the Colorado River carved the Grand Canyon.

“A lot of people are just fascinated by these concretions, and maybe geologists haven’t been able to take them seriously in the past,” Loope told Live Science. “I think they pretty clearly hold a lot of information.”

Email Becky Oskin or follow her @beckyoskin. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

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Author Bio

Becky Oskin

Becky Oskin, Contributing Writer
Becky Oskin covers Earth science, climate change and space, as well as general science topics. Becky was a science reporter at Live Science and The Pasadena Star-News; she has freelanced for New Scientist and the American Institute of Physics. She earned a master’s degree in geology from Caltech, a bachelor’s degree from Washington State University, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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Students Study About Curiosity Rover

High school students are prototyping Mars rovers to simulate the six science discovery made by the Curiosity Mars Rover.  Students are trained to work on simulated “Tiger Teams” to support NASA.

Curiosity Rover Results:

This image from NASA's Curiosity rover shows the first sample of powdered rock extracted by the rover's drill.

First Curiosity Drilling Sample in the Scoop
#1 A Suitable Home for Life: The Curiosity rover finds that ancient Mars had the right chemistry to support living microbes. Curiosity finds sulfur, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon– key ingredients necessary for life–in the powder sample drilled from the “Sheepbed” mudstone in Yellowknife Bay. The sample also reveals clay minerals and not too much salt, which suggests fresh, possibly drinkable water once flowed there.Read More:


Grotzinger, et al., Habitability, Taphonomy, and the Search for Organic Carbon on Mars, Science, 343(6160):386-387, doi:10.1126/science.1249944, 2014.

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity drilled into this rock target, "Cumberland," during the 279th Martian day, or sol, of the rover's work on Mars (May 19, 2013) and collected a powdered sample of material from the rock's interior.

‘Cumberland’ Target Drilled by Curiosity
#2 Organic Carbon Found in Mars Rocks: Organic molecules are the building blocks of life, and they were discovered on Mars after a long search by the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument in a powdered rock sample from the “Sheepbed” mudstone in “Yellowknife Bay.” The finding doesn’t necessarily mean there is past or present life on Mars, but it shows that raw ingredients existed for life to get started there at one time. It also means that ancient organic materials can be preserved for us to recognize and study today.Read More:


Freissinet, C., et al., Organic Molecules in the Sheepbed Mudstone, Gale Crater, Mars, JGR, 120(3):495-514, doi: 10.1002/2014JE004737, 2015.

description" content="This illustration portrays possible ways methane might be added to Mars' atmosphere (sources) and removed from the atmosphere (sinks). NASA's Curiosity Mars rover has detected fluctuations in methane concentration in the atmosphere, implying both types of activity occur on modern Mars.

Possible Methane Sources and Sinks
#3 Present and Active Methane in Mars’ Atmosphere: The Tunable Laser Spectrometer within the SAM instrument detected a background level of atmospheric methane and observed a ten-fold increase in methane over a two-month period. The discovery of methane is exciting because methane can be produced by living organisms or by chemical reactions between rock and water, for example. Which process is producing methane on Mars? What caused the brief and sudden increase?Read More:


Webster, et al., Mars Methane Detection and Variability at Gale Crater, Science, 347(6220):415-417, doi:10.1126/science.1261713, 2015.

This image shows a backward-looking view of an astronaut in a white spacesuit hiking over reddish sand and rocks on Mars. A gray plume of smoke rises from a fumarole behind the astronaut.

Prepare for human exploration
#4 Radiation Could Pose Health Risks for Humans: During her trip to Mars, Curiosity experienced radiation levels exceeding NASA’s career limit for astronauts. The Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) instrument on Curiosity found that two forms of radiation pose potential health risks to astronauts in deep space. One is galactic cosmic rays (GCRs), particles caused by supernova explosions and other high-energy events outside the solar system. The other is solar energetic particles (SEPs) associated with solar flares and coronal mass ejections from the sun. NASA will use Curiosity’s data to design missions to be safe for human explorersRead More:


Zeitlin, C., et al., Measurements of Energetic Particle Radiation in Transit to Mars on the Mars Science Laboratory, Science, 340(6136):1080-1084, doi:10.1126/science.1235989, 2013.Hassler, D.M., et al., Mars’ Surface Radiation Environment Measured with the Mars Science Laboratory’s Curiosity rover, Science, 343(6169), 1244797, doi:10.1126/science.1244797, 2014.

This self-portrait of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity combines dozens of exposures taken by the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) during the 177th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars (Feb. 3, 2013).

Curiosity Self-Portrait at ‘John Klein’
#5 A Thicker Atmosphere and More Water in Mars’ Past: The SAM instrument suite has found Mars’ present atmosphere to be enriched in the heavier forms (isotopes) of hydrogen, carbon, and argon. These measurements indicate that Mars has lost much of its original atmosphere and inventory of water. This loss occurred to space through the top of the atmosphere, a process currently being observed by the MAVEN orbiter.Read More:


Mahaffy. P.R., Abundance and isotopic composition of gases in the martian atmosphere from the Curiosity rover, Science, 341(6143):263-266, doi:10.1126/science.1237966, 2013.Webster, et al., Mars Methane Detection and Variability at Gale Crater, Science, 347(6220):415-417, doi:10.1126/science.1261713, 2015.

NASA's Curiosity rover found evidence for an ancient, flowing stream on Mars at a few sites, including the rock outcrop pictured here, which the science team has named "Hottah" after Hottah Lake in Canada's Northwest Territories.

Remnants of Ancient Streambed on Mars
#6 Curiosity Finds Evidence of An Ancient Streambed: The rocks found by Curiosity are smooth and rounded and likely rolled downstream for at least a few miles. They look like a broken sidewalk, but they are actually exposed bedrock made of smaller fragments cemented together, or what geologists call a sedimentary conglomerate. They tell a story of a steady stream of flowing water about knee deep.

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I want to be an astronaut

Still thinking about that #awesome #spacewalk
June 21, 2017

Astronaut Requirements

Illustration of astronaut and four spacecraft -- SpaceX Crew Dragon, Boeing CST-100 Starliner, Orion, and Space Station
During their careers, the next generation of astronauts may fly on any of four different U.S. spacecraft: the International Space Station, two NASA Commercial Crew Program spacecraft currently in development by U.S. companies, and NASA’s Orion deep-space exploration vehicle.
Checklist showing astronaut requirements
What does it take to be an astronaut?
Infographic showing astronaut and statistics for the number of astronaut applicants in 1978, 2012, and 2016
In 2016, NASA received a record-breaking number of applications from people who wanted to become astronauts. One of these applicants may be one of the first explorers to travel to Mars.

Within the next few decades, humans could be leaving their footprints on the Red Planet! That’s the plan, as NASA continues to prepare to expand human exploration in the solar system. Astronauts currently work as scientists on the International Space Station — the test bed for cutting-edge research and technologies that will enable human and robotic exploration of destinations beyond the station’s low-Earth orbit. The Orion spacecraft atop the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket will carry humans farther into space then they have gone before — beyond the moon and eventually to Mars.

NASA’s commercial partners are transporting cargo — and soon, crew — to the International Space Station. The need for crew members on these spacecraft and missions will continue. At times, NASA will put out a call for new astronauts.
A Very Brief History of Astronaut Selection

The military selected the first astronauts in 1959. They had to have flight experience in jet aircraft and a background in engineering. And they had to be shorter than 5 feet 11 inches – to fit in the Mercury spacecraft.

But, in addition to flight and engineering expertise, space exploration requires scientific knowledge and the ability to apply it. So, in 1964, NASA began searching for scientists to be astronauts. Back then, one qualification for scientist-astronauts was a doctorate in medicine, engineering, or a natural science such as physics, chemistry or biology.
So, What Does It Take to Be an Astronaut?

Astronaut requirements have changed with NASA’s goals and missions. A pilot’s license and engineering experience is still one route a person could take to becoming an astronaut, but it’s no longer the only one. Today, to be considered for an astronaut position, U.S. citizens must meet the following qualifications:

  1. A bachelor’s degree in engineering, biological science, physical science, computer science or mathematics.
  2. At least three years of related professional experience obtained after degree completion OR at least 1,000 hours pilot-in-command time on jet aircraft.
  3. The ability to pass the NASA long-duration astronaut physical. Distant and near visual acuity must be correctable to 20/20 for each eye. The use of glasses is acceptable.

Astronaut candidates must also have skills in leadership, teamwork and communications.

NASA’s Astronaut Selection Board reviews the applications (a record-breaking 18,300 in 2016) and assesses each candidate’s qualifications. The board then invites about 120 of the most highly qualified candidates to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, for interviews. Of those interviewed, about half are invited back for a second round. Once the final astronauts are selected, they must complete a two-year training period.

With NASA’s plans for the future of exploration, new astronauts will fly farther into space than ever before on lunar missions and may be the first to fly on to Mars.

Last Updated: June 21, 2017
Editor: Flint Wild