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Passing the First Hurdles

by John Moores

September 23, 2005 -

It's been a few months since I last wrote in this space so let me give you a brief run-down of what has happened. Mainly I had been busy studying for the "Oral Preliminary Examination," a test in front of a panel of professors which determines whether you are ready to continue on to doctoral work. Luckily for me the time spent hitting the books paid off and I was successfully "advanced to candidacy" last week.

Just because I have been studying doesn't mean that I've been ignoring my work with the Phoenix Project. Since my last entry furniture for the new lab has arrived here at the Phoenix building. As you can see it's actually beginning to look like a real lab, complete with lab tables, an optical breadboard and an insulated chamber that will one day be home to the Regolith Isotope Signature Experiment (RISE).

We've christened the new lab The Cloud Chamber in honor of the Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer (DISR) team - part of the Cassini-Huygens Mission to Saturn and Titan - who donated much of the furniture now in place. The Cloud Chamber was the name of the lab operated by this group whose mission was to conduct preparatory science on the clouds of Titan in the late 1980s and early 1990s in advance of the descent of the Huygens probe into the thick atmosphere in January of this year.

I think the name is especially fitting for us since we hope to use the equipment to perform the same kind of trailblazing science for the Phoenix Mission as the original Cloud Chamber did for Cassini-Huygens.