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NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander Will Carry U of M Prof's Work to Mars University News
For release: May 23, 2008

For press information contact: Curt Guenther, 901-678-2843

What color really is Mars?  A University of Memphis professor’s work will help answer that question this weekend.

U of M physicist Dr. Firouzeh Sabri, a member of the team involved in the design and production of the soon-to be current generation Mars color-calibration targets, is anxiously awaiting the landing of NASA’s Phoenix landing craft that is expected to touch down Sunday, May 25, after a 422-million mile trip since its launch in August 2007.

Dr.  Sabri, a materials scientist, applied a series of carefully-designed thin film coatings to the surface of these calibration targets onboard the Phoenix lander to protect them from their environment, primarily to reduce the amount of Martian dust that might settle onto their surfaces and potentially mask the underlying colors.  These film coatings, which are three orders of magnitude thinner than a human hair, were created in such a manner as to act as a protective film, yet not mask the color of the underlying surface.

"This is an exciting project to be a part of," said Dr. Sabri.  "I'm definitely looking forward to seeing the outcome of our efforts."

University of Central Florida professor Dan Britt , team leader and inventor, along with Randolph S. Duran, Andrew Schuerger, and their Danish collaborators, have played an important role in helping scientists understand better the properties of Mars' surface. The calibration targets are used to correctly indentify the color of the Mars environment at all hours of the day.

Physical properties are often used to describe matter and monitor physical and chemical changes that it may be undergoing.  Color is one of the key signatures of the material type, which is why knowing the "true" color of matter such as Mars terrain is so important.

Dr. Sabri holds her doctorate from Cavendish Labs, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.  She joined the faculty of the U of M Physics Department in August 2007.  Before coming to the U of M, she was at the University of Florida, working on the same Mars lander project.  At the U of M, she is also involved in several other materials-related research projects, as well as the REU (research experiences for undergraduates) program that the UofM Physics Department created this year under a grant from the National Science Foundation.

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