Dr. Richard P. O’Toole, the chairman of Government Relations at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, explained to members of the Kiwanis Club of La Cañada the Mars program and what JPL scientists are currently doing in exploration of outer space.
O’Toole was presented by Dr. Fred Schooley, the retired JPL program manager of Biotechnics who is currently vice president of the local service club. O’Toole is a resident of La Cañada Flintridge. He and his wife Susan are the parents of Brian and Kelley.
O’Toole joined JPL in 1975 as an economist and then as manager of the Systems Analysis Section. In 1988, he made a career change into Government Relations where he currently serves as chairman. He serves on JPL’s executive council and has been instrumental in JPL’s long range planning.
O’Toole’s presentation covered a wide range of subjects that included the current Mars program, explorations into deep space, exoplanets, which are planets orbiting other stars, and astrophysics, which is the study of deep outer space.
Currently scientists are looking at Earth from space to view changes in its climate and are working in interplanetary studies with other countries. Currently the U.S. has 24 spacecraft and 10 other instruments in space and are looking across the solar system and beyond.
Talking about the current Mars program, O’Toole noted that there are several phases of the very successful program with the first phase covering the history of the discovery of evidence of water on Mars.
Of the second phase, O’Toole told of the search of evidence of organic life on Mars.
O’Toole added that by year 2020, JPL hopes to receive samples of materials currently being gathered and held by Curiosity that will help determine if life was on Mars millions of years ago.
He noted that the rover vehicle will pick up samples and maintain them until another mission in four to six years will be sent to collect them for analysis here on earth.
O’Toole’s PowerPoint presentation detailed the landscape of Mars and showed where the scientists plan to further explore over the next two years.
“There are 200 million stars in our galaxy,” noted O’Toole, “and the Kepler program is looking for planets around stars. There are thousands of stars out there and our solar system exploration continues to work through programs like Cassini and the two Voyagers that are now millions of miles from earth as they head for hyperspace at a rate of a million miles a day.”
Contributed by Al RESTIVO