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University of Iowa News Release

Feb. 13, 2004

Mars Lecture To Air On UI TV Feb. 16, 18, 20

A videotape of a Feb. 3 lecture, "The Search for Water at Mars" by University of Iowa professor and space physicist Don Gurnett, will air on UI TV at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 16, Wednesday, Feb. 18, and Friday, Feb. 20.

In the lecture, Gurnett uses slides to discuss the history of the exploration of Mars as well as his current research, which involves a NASA-funded project to search for underground water on Mars. The project uses a radar instrument aboard the European Space Agency's (ESA) Mars Express spacecraft that began orbiting Mars Dec. 25, 2003.

Called MARSIS (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding), the joint Italian-U.S. project includes scientists from the University of Rome, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of Iowa. The radar, a major part of which was designed and built at the UI, is scheduled to be turned on in April, when it will probe the Martian surface to a depth of as much as five kilometers -- about three miles. If it works as expected, scientists hope to detect liquid water deep below the surface, and then map the locations of subsurface water across the planet. The presence of water has important implications for the possible existence of life at Mars, past or present.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 301, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Linda Kettner, 319-384-0030, linda-kettner@uiowa.edu