Volume: 06, Issue: 03 03/12/2008 
Suniti Karunatillake
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The above mosaic was created from over 100 images of Mars taken by Viking Orbiters in the 1970s. Photo credit: Viking Project.
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Other Articles in This Issue:
Endeavour Soars into Space
Cassini Spacecraft to Dive Into Water Plume of Saturn Moon
Saturn's Moon Rhea Also May Have Rings
Total Lunar Eclipse

Discuss the Martian Surface with Suniti Karunatillake

Chat Information:
Live online chat with Suniti Karunatillake, a doctoral candidate at Cornell University.

Date: Wednesday, March 19, 2008

10:00 - 11:00 AM Alaska Time
11:00 AM - Noon Pacific Time
Noon - 1:00 PM Mountain Time
1:00 - 2:00 PM Central Time
2:00 - 3:00 PM Eastern Time

How To Log In:
Go to http://www.space-explorers.com/internal/mercurious/index.asp?room=suniti08 to log in and begin submitting your questions. Questions may be submitted prior to or during the designated chat time.

Chat Topic:
Ask Suniti questions about the Martian Surface, what certain instruments on the Mars Rovers do, about his research from the Mars Odyssey satellite, and what scientists do with the information they collect.

Suniti Karunatillake's Biography:
Suniti Karunatillake is enrolled in the Department of Physics at Cornell University as a doctoral candidate. However, the call of the planets, instilled in childhood by Carl Sagan's documentaries and Arthur C. Clarke's novels, was too strong to keep him anchored there. Suniti is learning to become a planetary explorer under the guidance of Steve Squyres. He reviews data from the Mars Odyssey Gamma Ray Spectrometer and the Mars Exploration Rovers for his thesis project on Martian surface geochemistry. He often relies on the synergy of numerous remote sensing and surface missions to realize the story of Mars. Suniti is completing a project on several chemically unusual regions on the planet and intends to graduate shortly thereafter. Suniti attended Wabash College to receive his Bachelor of Arts degree in physics and then to Cornell University to receive his Master of Science degree in Physics. In 2005 Suniti received national recognition for excellence in space research by NASA.

Suniti's interests include modeling geochemical processes on Mars and other planets with remote sensing data, in situ data, and terrestrial analogs. Ultimately he wishes to apply his knowledge of planetary surfaces in the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life. Through mentorship and public outreach, he said he hopes to inspire others to participate in planetary exploration and to help establish the next generation of planetary explorers.

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