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Terry Z. Martin: Out of this world

 Posted: 2:00 AM October 24, 2012

Terry Z. Martin, Ph.D., is a retired planetary scientist specializing in the Mars atmosphere. He worked at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, Calif., from 1979 to 2008, taking part in the Viking mission to Mars, the Mars Global Surveyor and most recently the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

He moved to Ashland four years ago from La Canada Flintridge, near Pasadena.

He teaches occasionally at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and lectures at ScienceWorks Hands-on Museum.

Favorite aspect about Ashland: Abundant cultural life; varied climate; distance from Southern California.

What do you consider your career highlight: Helping Jet Propulsion Lab explore Mars and Jupiter.

Tell us about teaching: My first teaching experience ever was trying to form a singing group — madrigals — in 2009 at OLLI. Since then I have tried to focus on what I actually am supposed to know about.

Why is it important we study Mars? Mars is our best and closest shot at answering the question, "Is there other life out there?" — unless we get radio signs of extraterrestrial intelligence. It is possible that life developed first on Mars, and then came here on meteorites blasted off the surface of early Mars, when it was likely wet and hospitable. It isn't now, but there could be fossils or other evidence that would point in that direction. We are "following the water" with our rovers to try and pursue these ideas.

Could Mars be a second home for humanity? In the long term it might be possible to modify Mars or humans to make that possible, but in the short term it might represent a good way for mankind to come together in a worthy common engineering goal. It would be tough for humans to live there in the current environment. We would have to develop systems very much like those for working on the moon. And it is only easy to get there or back about every two years.

Personally, I would rather see us deal with climate change first.

What do you like to do in Ashland during your time off?: Singing; gardening; cross-country skiing; exploring the Northwest.

What do you still have on your to-do list?: Stay at some fine National Park lodges; see Canada by train.

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