The University of Chicago News Office
June 5, 2003 Press Contact: Steve Koppes
(773) 702-8366

University of Chicago scientist participates in three Mars missions being launched this month


Thanasis Economou


University of Chicago physicist Thanasis Economou is involved in all three missions that will be launched to Mars this month by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the European Space Agency. He already was involved in the operation of two scientific instruments en route to Saturn and comet Wild-2.

Launched on June 2 was the European Mars Express mission. Mars Express, an orbiter, includes the British-led Beagle 2 lander, which will carry a chemical analysis instrument. Economou, a Senior Scientist at the University of Chicago’s Enrico Fermi Institute, serves as a consultant to the chemical analysis instrument’s science team.

NASA will launch two Mars Exploration Rover missions on Sunday, June 8 and Wednesday, June 25. Economou is a member of the science team for both missions. Each rover is equipped with chemical sensors that use a technique invented at the University of Chicago. The Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer instruments are similar to the one for which Economou provided the X-ray spectrometer portion of the rover that explored the Mars Pathfinder landing site in 1997.

Another instrument that Economou operates is the University’s dust detector, which is aboard NASA’s Stardust space probe. That instrument will measure the dust density around Wild-2 when Stardust flies within 93 miles of the comet in January 2004. A similar instrument on the Cassini space probe will collect data on dust particles as that spacecraft crosses Saturn’s famous rings. Cassini will enter Saturn’s orbit in July 2004.

The Chicago dust-detection instruments for Stardust and Cassini were designed, developed and built by Anthony Tuzzolino, Senior Scientist in the Enrico Fermi Institute, and the late John Simpson, the Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in Physics.

To arrange an interview with Economou, call Steve Koppes at (773) 702-8366.
Last modified at 10:54 AM CST on Tuesday, June 17, 2003.

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