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Announcements of Opportunity

SURF: Announcements of Opportunity

Below are Announcements of Opportunity posted by Caltech faculty and JPL technical staff for the SURF program.

Each AO indicates whether or not it is open to non-Caltech students. If an AO is NOT open to non-Caltech students, please DO NOT contact the mentor.

Announcements of Opportunity are posted as they are received. Please check back regularly for new AO submissions! Remember: This is just one way that you can go about identifying a suitable project and/or mentor. Click here for more tips on finding a mentor.

Announcements for external summer programs are listed here.

New for 2021: Students applying for JPL projects should complete a SURF@JPL application instead of a "regular" SURF application.

Students pursuing opportunities at JPL must be
U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents.

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Project:  Mars Data Analysis
Disciplines:  Planetary Science, Earth Science
Mentor:  Matthew Golombek, (JPL), Matthew.P.Golombek@jpl.nasa.gov, Phone: (818) 393-7948
Mentor URL:  https://science.jpl.nasa.gov/people/Golombek/  (opens in new window)
Background:  The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is seeking highly motivated undergraduate students to participate in Mars data analysis focused on information returned by the Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft, the Mars Exploration Rovers, and InSight lander. Data to be studied will be from the Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC), Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA), Thermal Emission Spectrometer (TES), Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS), High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), the Context Imager (CTX), and instruments of the Mars Exploration Rover Athena Science Payload and the InSight lander.
Description:  Work will be directed at characterizing the geology and safety of candidate landing sites for future Mars missions, including the Mars Sample Return. Safety issues focus on quantification of slopes of concern for landing safely in potential landing sites and traverses using MOLA data and digital elevation models from stereo images. Work will also be related to measuring rocks on the surface of Mars from orbit and on the surface and understanding their context. This will include analyzing rocks visible in high-resolution HiRISE images and quantifying their size-frequency distribution to better understand landing safety. InSight work will involve mapping geological features observed in the surface images such as craters, eolian bedforms, rocks, and soils. HiRISE and CTX images will also be georeferenced to lower resolution images (CTX, THEMIS) and topographic maps (MOLA). Additional work may include analyzing craters on Mars to investigate rock distributions in their ejecta, how they change with time and their morphologic state as well as the geomorphology as a clue to the subsurface geology. Terrains, rock abundance, slopes and trafficability of notional traverses between Jezero crater and northeast Syrtis to assist Mars Sample Return landing and sample retrieval may also be studied.
References:  Information on the Mars landing sites and selection can be found at:
Golombek, M. P., et al., 2003, Selection of the Mars Exploration Rover landing sites: Journal of Geophysical Research, Planets, v. 108(E12), 8072, doi:10.1029/2003JE002074, 48pp.
Golombek, M., et al., 2005, Assessment of Mars Exploration Rover landing site predictions: Nature, v. 436, p. 44-48 (7 July 2005), doi: 10.1038/nature03600.
Golombek, M. P., et al., 2006, Erosion rates at the Mars Exploration Rover landing sites and long-term climate change on Mars: Journal of Geophysical Research, Planets, v. 111, E12S10, doi:10.1029/2006JE002754.
Golombek, M. P., and McSween Jr., H. Y., 2007, Mars: Landing site geology, mineralogy and geochemistry: Chapter 17, p. 331-348, in Encyclopedia of the Solar System, Second Edition, L. A. McFadden, P. R. Weissman and T. V. Johnson, eds., Academic Press/Elsevier, San Diego, 966 pp.
Golombek, M. P., et al., 2008, Martian surface properties from joint analysis of orbital, Earth-based, and surface observations: Chapter 21 in, The Martian Surface: Composition, Mineralogy and Physical Properties, J. F. Bell III editor, Cambridge University Press, p. 468-497.
Golombek, M., K. Robinson, A. McEwen, N. Bridges, B. Ivanov, L. Tornabene, and R. Sullivan, 2010, Constraints on ripple migration at Meridiani Planum from Opportunity and HiRISE observations of fresh craters, J. Geophys. Res., 115, E00F08, doi:10.1029/2010JE003628.
Golombek, M., et al., 2012, Selection of the Mars Science Laboratory landing site: Space Science Reviews, v. 170, p. 641-737, DOI: 10.1007/s11214-012-9916-y.
Golombek, M. P., et al., 2014, Small crater modification on Meridiani Planum and implications for erosion rates and climate change on Mars: Journal of Geophysical Research, Planets, v. 119, p. 2522-2547, 10 Dec. 2014
Golombek, M., et al., 2017, Selection of the InSight landing site: Space Science Reviews, v. 211, p. 5-95, DOI 10.1007/s11214-016-0322-8
Golombek, M., et al., 2020, Geology of the InSight landing site on Mars: Nature Communications, v. 11, art. # 1014, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-14679-1.
Golombek, M., et al., 2020, Assessment of InSight landing site predictions: Journal of Geophysical Research, Planets, v. 125, e2020JE006502. https://dx.doi.org/ 10.1029/2020JE006502.
Golombek, et al., 2020, Location and setting of the Mars InSight lander, instruments and landing site: Earth and Space Science, v. 7, e2020EA001248. https://doi.org/10.1029/2020EA001248

Rock distributions and their importance in landing site selection can be found in: Golombek, M., and Rapp, D., 1997, Size-frequency distributions of rocks on Mars and Earth analog sites: Implications for future landed missions: Journal of Geophysical Research, Planets, v. 102, p. 4117-4129. Golombek, M. P., et al., 2003, Rock size-frequency distributions on Mars and implications for MER landing safety and operations: Journal of Geophysical Research, Planets, v. 108(E12), 8086, doi:10.1029/2002JE002035, 23pp. Golombek, M. P., et al., 2006, Geology of the Gusev cratered plains from the Spirit rover traverse: Journal of Geophysical Research, Planets, v. 110, E02S07, doi:10.1029/2005JE002503. Golombek, M. P., et al., 2008, Size-frequency distributions of rocks on the northern plains of Mars with special reference to Phoenix landing surfaces: Journal of Geophysical Research, Planets, v. 113, E00A09, doi:10.1029/2007JE003065.
Golombek, M., Huertas, A., Kipp, D. and Calef, F., 2012, Detection and characterization of rocks and rock size-frequency distributions at the final four Mars Science Laboratory landing sites: Mars, v. 7, p. 1-22, doi:10.1555/mars.2012.0001.
Student Requirements:  Most of the work will be done on personal computers utilizing mixed operating systems (Windows and Macintosh), so experience with them is important. The ability to measure and tabulate rocks, place the data into standard spreadsheets, and plot the results is required for the work on rock distributions. Experience with ArcGIS mapping software (10.x), especially georeferencing imagery, is preferred as our landing site data is specifically formatted to work with this GIS package. Additional knowledge of Integrated Software for Imagers and Spectrometers (ISIS 3.x), SOCET SET, or Matlab software would be a plus. Preference will be given to students with backgrounds in geology or planetary science and other related disciplines such as geographic information science, physics, chemistry, astronomy, engineering, and computer sciences. They may be supervised by one or two research scientists and may also work alongside other researchers and students.
Location / Safety:  Project building and/or room locations: . Student will need special safety training: .
Programs:  This AO can be done under the following programs:

  Program    Available To
       SURF    both Caltech and non-Caltech students 

Click on a program name for program info and application requirements.

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