Tucson Local Media: Desert Times

Desert Times

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  • Heroes Week: Honoring our local first responders

    In an effort to honor those who provide for the local community on a daily basis, The Explorer has put together a collection of stories and photographs chronicling the efforts of the first responders community. Whether in uniform or out, police, fire or medical, those who take the calls and arrive on scene deserve nothing less than being honored as heroes of the local community. While the extraordinary events and occurrences are often the subject of news headlines and TV spots, the everyday actions of those same brave men and women are often just as impactful to the community and its residents – without any of the fanfare. While the jobs may be different, one common theme is almost always found – modesty. Those who serve the community don’t see themselves as the heroes we all know them to be, instead often placing that mantle on the shoulders of their spouses, family members or those who serve our nation’s military. While the term hero may not be the most easily definable, there are inherently heroic qualities to be found in anyone who sacrifices their time, wellbeing or safety for the preservation and betterment of the world around them. So thank you to all those who service, protect, provide and ensure that the world around them is a better place, through actions both large and small, recognized or never mentioned.See more stories about our heroes in general, Mountain Vista Fire District and Melissa Larkin, the SRO of the year. 

  • Camp prepares young welders for the workplace

    Marana High School is pretty quiet these days as the majority of students are gone for summer vacation. But if you head to the north side of the school, you’re likely to hear the sounds of welding torches and angle grinders. Follow those sounds and you will see sparks flying in the school’s welding shop.For the second straight year, the school is hosting a Welding Certification Boot Camp designed to allow students who are planning welding career to not only get a lot of additional welding experience, but also earn valuable American Welding Society (AWS) certification. Last year, Marana teamed with Tucson and Cholla high schools to conduct the camp, but this year, interest was so high that each school was able to offer their own camps. The class is made up of both recent graduates and seniors-to-be, but all of the students are serious about welding careers. “They had to express that this is what they want to do for a career,” said Marana Welding and Fabrication Instructor Kenton Webb. “They are here to weld, not hang out with me or their friends.”First-time students in the camp can earn three types of certifications, including Shielded Metal Arc Welding process, which is also known as stick welding. SMAW is the most common welding process. In addition, they can earn certificates in FCAW or MIG, as well as dual shield wire. Although they are entry-level certifications, they can really help when the students enter the job market.“If they go and apply with a fab company or welding company, it at least gets their foot in the door because they have shown that they have already passed the certifications,” Webb said.Students in their second year of the program can pursue a Cade Industries certification, which is a little bit different and a little bit harder cert. This particular certification is an ASNE Certification or pipe certification.

  • Mountain Vista Fire District provides safety tips to kids

    On a day which the temperature rose well over the triple-digit threshold, the Mountain Vista Fire District brought out an engine to cool off a group of excited children at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church with what may be called the communities “most powerful sprinkler.” More than an opportunity to hose off the kids, the firefighters shared with the children some important tips on poolside safety tips.“Today we are teaching the kids the ABC and D’s of pool safety,” said MVFD Cpt. Steve White. “It breaks down into always having an adult, having at least a 60-inch barrier around the pool, knowing CPR is also crucial and distractions; avoiding things like being on your phone, or any other type of distraction around the pool.”While the kids at St. Mark’s were provided the information, drowning prevention is not to be taken lightly in any community, and poolside safety should be shared with the members of every family. According to MVFD, drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death among children ages one-to-four, and everyone should know the ABC and D’s of water safety.Adult supervision (A) means always designating an adult to watch over any kids playing in the pool, hot tub or any other similar body of water and to make sure the adult always knows where the children are in and around the house.Even with adult supervision, it is important to have a proper barrier (B) around the pool that is at least 60-inches-tall with a self-closing gate. If feasible, automatic closing pool covers are also a great safety option, as are alarms on back doors and windows to know if anyone is heading in or out.Poolside safety goes beyond supervision and physical barriers. Taking CPR classes (C) and other rescue technique courses may one day be a vital, lifesaving bit of knowledge if the unthinkable does occur. While no one is “drown-proof,” having children take swimming classes is also advisable and will help them become more comfortable in the water.

  • Marana cop named school resource officer of the year

    For the second straight year, a member of the Marana Police Department has been named the state’s School Resource Officer of the Year for their work in the Marana Unified School District.Melissa Larkin received the award during last week’s Arizona School Resource Officer Association Conference, being honored for her service and dedication to the students and community of Marana Middle School.Larkin completed her second year working with seventh and eighth graders at the school and has forged strong relationships with the students, parents, teachers and staff. “I teach an internet safety class which every seventh grader will take at some point,” Larkin said. “There are over 500 seventh graders at Marana Middle and every one of them will spend time in my classroom.”Larkin logged in some serious hours teaching the course. The federal grant which funds her position requires that she teach 180 hours each school year, but last year she clocked a total of 240 hours. “Officer Larkin has a classroom that supports safety and collaboration,” said Marana Middle School Principal Heather Pletnick. “She works closely with teachers to establish a curriculum that is timely, educating our students on the dangers of the internet and cyber bullying.”

  • Pima County Supervisor Miller storms out of board of supervisors meeting after she comes under fire

    Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller walked out of a heated board meeting last Tuesday, June 21, as her delays in responding to public-records requests were being discussed.“I have an urgent appointment I need to get to,” Miller said. “I thought we’d be done by now.”After Miller’s sudden departure, the board voted for a new records policy that would require members to turn over public records related to county business created on personal computers and devices such as smart phones, as well as public records created on private email accounts. Before she left the meeting, Miller pledged to turn over any public records created on personal devices and via private email addresses.While Miller has told the County Clerk’s Office that she and her staff have not done county business on private email accounts or on private devices, recently uncovered records suggest that District 1 staffers, including Miller, may have conducted county business using their private email accounts. At least one email recently released by Miller’s office shows that Miller and her staff discussed a recent ordinance regarding panhandling in medians via private Gmail addresses.

  • What is a hero?

    While the summer blockbuster movies may paint a somewhat different picture, being a hero often has nothing to do with thwarting international plots to end the world, stopping an alien invasion or single-handedly fighting crime syndicates. Being a hero is more of a mindset, an attitude focused on making the community a better place, whether through actions large or small.From community leaders to the armed forces to volunteers at nonprofits, heroes span a wide range of characteristics, personalities and world views, though the willingness to make a difference is often the common thread.“In my opinion a hero is someone who does what they know is right, always,” said Shawn Benjamin, community relations manager for the Mountain Vista Fire District. “Not because it is going to get them recognized but in spite of it. They do in even when they are scared out of their minds because someone needs them. They build people around them up and help them achieve their goals. A hero is a true soul. Someone who is not perfect, makes mistakes, accepts and learns from them so they can turn around and guide others.”Though a current member of the firefighting community, Benjamin spent years as a member of the Oro Valley Police Department, and has had to step up when she saw a women collapse in a local restaurant last Thanksgiving. Benjamin immediately began administering CPR as another bystander called for an ambulance, which came from Golder Ranch Fire District. Golder Ranch responders were able to take the woman to the hospital, where she successfully begun her recovery with no brain damage.While the actions of Benjamin and eight members of GRFD are nothing short of heroic, Benjamin doesn’t use the term “hero” to describe herself or anyone else who took action that day. Having worked for years within both the police and firefighter communities, she said that helping is the right thing to do, and that anyone put into a similar situation would do the same thing. She said many of the men and women in public safety go into the field wanting to make a difference, not to find some moment of limelight.Oro Valley Police Department Lt. John Teachout, who along with fellow OVPD Lt. Chris Olsen saved a women and her children last year when her vehicle began to catch fire near Flagstaff, said that acts of bravery occur within the first response community on a daily basis, often without recognition—but that doesn’t matter at all.  

  • Should Tucsonans worry about Zika?

    It’s a hot summer day. The morning doves are cooing and the sun beats down on a slight breeze. Water sits still at the bottom of trays under ceramic pots filled with flowers and plants. Pinch, swat, slap. A small itchy red bump outlined with flushed skin is what the mosquito leaves after its bite.The Aedes aegypti mosquito lives and harasses Tusconans during the warm, wet summer months. This mosquito is responsible for carrying and spreading four diseases including the Zika virus, which was reported as a public health emergency by the World Health Organization in February 2016.Although the Aedes mosquito is found in Arizona, there have been no cases of Zika, as of late March 2016. The Maricopa County Department of Public Health and the Arizona Department of Health Services reported a woman from Maricopa County had acquired the Zika virus from international travel.Do Tucsonans Need to Fear the Zika?“Certainly we want people taking general precautions from receiving mosquito bites,” said Kacey Ernst, a University of Arizona epidemiologist who studies mosquito-borne diseases. However, she explained that if there were no mosquito bites by a Zika infected mosquito, then there would be no risk of Zika being in the area.The United States has reported 312 travel-associated Zika virus disease cases and zero locally acquired cases. Of the 312 cases, 27 were pregnant women. Out of the 50 states, 41 states have reported an outbreak of the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

  • Southern Arizona interstate 11 environmental impact study begins

    Planners for the controversial Interstate 11 highway proposed for Southern Arizona are moving to formally identify possible routes through the federal NEPA process.  A three-year Tier One Environmental Impact Study, authorized by the State Transportation Board in December, 2014 at a cost of $15 million, will try to identify a “preferred alternative” route.  However, Arizona Dept. of Transportation  (ADOT) Project Manager Jay Van Echo, meeting with activists from Picture Rocks and Avra Valley on May 18, acknowledged that there were really only two serious possibilities: through the Avra Valley or along the existing I-10.  There will also be a rarely-selected “No Build” alternative.Only two actual proposals are currently on the table: the Avra Valley route proposed by Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, and a less-expensive double-decking of six miles of Interstate 10 from Ruthrauff to I-19, raised but then dismissed by ADOT staff.  The proposed “Sonoran Corridor” west of I-19 is also part of the plan and was originally labeled “I-11” on County maps.  The Sonoran Corridor was turned down by voters last November as part of a bond package even though it was tied to popular road repairs.The project starts with publication of intent in the Federal Register May 20, followed by a series of public meetings in Wickenburg, Buckeye, Casa Grande, Tucson, and in the Nogales area.  Two Tucson meetings are tentatively scheduled but not yet confirmed: June 22 at the Riverpark Inn in Tucson, and June 23 at Marana Middle School.  Both will run from 4 – 7 p.m. to allow for participation when people leave their jobs.The informal meeting with Robin Clark from the Avra Valley Coalition, Paul Flemm from Citizens for Picture Rocks, and this reporter, was at the offices of the Gordley Group, a public relations and marketing firm contracted by the Arizona Dept. of Transportation.  In addition to civil engineer Van Echo, also attending were company president Jan Gordley and Public Involvement Director Alice Templeton.  Templeton said they were “advocates for process without concern over the outcome” and wanted to gather as much public input as possible.  This meeting was, according to Van Echo, one of many with various officials and stakeholders, including environmental groups.  When asked if the Center for Biological Diversity had been among them, the response was negative.  It was pointed out that Executive Director Kierán Suckling lives in the path of the “Huckelberry Highway” and just might be an interested party. 

  • Arizona’s People: A rich and spicy stew

    What is America to meA name, a map, or a flag I seeA certain word, democracyWhat is America to me….* Arizona was part of New Spain, and then Mexico, for hundreds of years.  The Mexican-American War and Gadsden Purchase changed that, but many Mexicans elected to stay in their ancestral homes.  While much of American Arizona set a determined course to be white, Tucson remained “a bit of Old Mexico” throughout the 19th Century.  

  • Pima county medians now off-limits to loitering, panhandling

    Loitering on traffic medians in unincorporated Pima County is now prohibited after the Pima County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 in favor of new regulations last Tuesday, May 19. “The proposed ordinance was brought before the board of supervisors at the request of Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos.”The issue was previously discussed during an open house last month, at which time District 1 Supervisor Ally Miller stated she would bring a proposed ordinance before the board. However, it was brought before the board by Nanos.While many throughout Tucson, particularly those living on the Northwest side, see the ordinance as a means of combating panhandling (and by extension homelessness), Nanos said it’s all about safety.“Is it safe to be on a median?” Nanos asked the board during the meeting. “Would you have your 8-year-old son, your 15-year-old daughter or your mom standing on that median as cars zoom by at 50 miles per hour all day, is that safe? I can’t say it’s safe.”

  • Report: Child care costs rival in-state college tuition in Arizona

    Infant child care in Arizona costs an average of $9,437 a year, rivaling in-state college tuition and putting care out of reach for many families, according to a recent Economic Policy Institute report.And Arizona’s costs were on the low end when compared to the rest of the nation, with infant care costs in Washington, D.C., reaching $22,631 annually.The numbers were unsurprising to early child care advocates.“It is hard everywhere, because we don’t make the commitment to child care that we really need to,” said Helen Blank, director of Child Care and Early Learning at the National Women’s Law Center.Arizona is in the minority of states where infant care costs slightly less than in-state tuition, with average child care costs about 4.7 percent less than college costs, said Josh Bivens, director of research and policy at EPI.Even though Arizona is relatively cheap, child care costs are still a “big chunk” of a family’s budget. The Department of Health and Human Services says child care should only take up 10 percent of a family’s income, but the EPI report says it takes up 17.6 percent of a typical family income in Arizona.

  • First wildlife passages in Sonoran Desert dedicated upon completion

    Trekking up the side of the new wildlife bridge on North Oracle Road last Tuesday were nearly 200 people; local families, government employees, members of the media and representatives of non-governmental organizations—not exactly the travelers the overpass was designed for.The crowd gathered to take advantage of a rare opportunity to see the completed bridge and nearby underpass first hand. Both pieces were funded as part of the $2.1 billion Regional Transportation Authority road-improvement program approved by voters a decade ago. Within the plan was an included $45 million for wildlife crossings. The two installations along North Oracle Road cost $9.5 million.The human visitors found the bridge easy to traverse, though presence of wildlife in the area has indicated that animals have also found success crossing over.Both the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the Coalition of Sonoran Desert Protection have installed trail cameras in the region to watch for animals, and have captured images and videos of deer, javelina, coyote and more.While the development and realization of the passages has been a goal for several NGO’s for some time, there are government organizations benefitting as well.“This collaborative effort helps Arizona Game and Fish Department with its mission of conserving wildlife for current and future generations,” said Raul Vega, regional supervisor for Arizona Game and Fish Department. “Without proper planning, wildlife and habitat can be lost forever. This project is a piece of a much larger puzzle that we ultimately provide the opportunity for residents of Pima County to coexist with wildlife.”

  • Small business grew from high tech hobby

    The world of technology is always changing and adapting, so it only makes sense that someone who makes their living in the high tech world would do the same. Tom Stutsman Robot Hobbies and Computers went into business repairing computers, then got into the high tech hobby business and has now begun creating devices for use in law enforcement. Stutsman still repairs computers, sells robots, drones and R/C cars and runs STEM camps, but he is also inventing robots that can benefit law enforcement agencies. Stutsman has a degree in electrical engineering and electronics and always saw himself as a bit of a Tony Stark. While he did not invent a real world Iron Man armor, he has created a low-cost, easily repair robot that can help keep law enforcement officers safe and help them apprehend criminals. “I actually enjoy designing, building and engineering robots,” Stutsman said.Stutsman’s business evolved from talking with customers. He put an emphasis on drones when he found out there was a need for drone repairs with so many being sold in malls and began offering that service. Through research he realized he could sell a more durable product at a similar price and has become an exclusive dealer for a number of the top brands. His foray into law enforcement robots came from a similar interaction. He had a member of a local SWAT team come into the store looking for a drone, but soon learned that they had a robot that had a damaged arm. It was going to cost the officer’s department $500 and shipping just to have the problem diagnosed. Actually fixing the arm was going to cost quite a bit more. Stutsman made the repair himself, for about $150.A new robot will cost a law enforcement agency over $50,000 with repairs and upkeep costing quite a bit more. Even a pre-owned robot will cost $30,000. Stutsman found he could make smaller, less expensive versions that can accomplish many of the same tasks, and can actually do some things the bigger, more expensive ones cannot. 

  • Reefer Madness: Fatal crashes spike after state legalizes drug

    Fatal crashes involving drivers who recently used marijuana doubled in Washington after the state legalized the drug, according to research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. In the study, AAA examined drug tests and fatal crashes among drivers in Washington, one of the first states to legalize marijuana in 2012. Researchers found: • One in six drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2014 had recently used marijuana. “With about 20 states—including Arizona—considering  marijuana legalization this year, this serves as an eye-opening case study for what states may experience with road safety after legalizing the drug,” said Linda Gorman, director of communications and public affairs for AAA Arizona. Some states have created legal limits, also known as per se limits, in an attempt to reduce marijuana-impaired driving. These limits specify the maximum amount of THC, the main chemical component in marijuana that can impair driver performance, drivers can have in their system based on a blood test. It’s a similar concept to the .08 BAC limit for driving under the influence of alcohol.Research suggests that relying on legal limits alone for marijuana-impairment are problematic for three reasons:

  • AMVETS Post 770 looking for new members

    The AMVETS Post meets the first Sunday of each month at 10 a.m. The next meeting will be Sunday, May 1. The Ladies Auxiliary meets the second Sunday of each month at 9:30 a.m. The next meeting will be Sunday, May 8. The Sons’ Of AMVETS meets at 6 p.m. the Monday following the Post’s monthly meeting. The next meeting will be on Monday, May 2. The Riders meet on the 1st Thursday of the month at 6:00pm. The next meeting will be May 5. All meetings are held at the Post.The Steak Dinners has moved to the 3rd Saturday of the month. There will not be any more steak dinners until 15 October.The official days to fly the flag in May are: Mothers’ Day – 8 May, Armed Forces Day – 21 May. Memorial Day – 30 May (fly the flag at half-staff until 12 noon- then raise the flag to full staff).May dates of interest: 71st anniversary of V-E Day – 8 May. 409th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown - 14 May.The AMVETS Department Annual Convention will be Friday, 13 May, through Sunday, 15 May. If you are a member of AMVETS, please sign-up to be a delegate to the convention. Remember that Memorial Day is on Monday, 30 May. Some streets in Tucson Estates will be blocked off. Instead of driving away, think about joining us for the annual Memorial Day Parade and Ceremony. The parade starts at 8 am and the ceremony starts at 9 am. The Sons of AMVETS will be selling hot dogs, hamburgers, and drinks in the Memorial Park area. Please use your “indoor voice” when ordering food and during the ceremony. 

  • Supporters, opponents weigh in on Proposition 123

    A remarkable political ad hit the airwaves last week: Gov. Doug Ducey sitting next to his former Democratic rival, Fred DuVal, as they both urged voters to support Arizona’s schools by voting for Prop 123.“I support Prop 123 because it puts $1.5 billion into the classroom over the next 10 years,” DuVal says in the ad.DuVal expanded on the importance of that revenue in an email to supporters urging them to support Prop 123, which taps the land trust set aside for education to provide $1.5 billion in funding annually for the schools.“I have decided to endorse Prop 123 because it will put new money into our kids’ schools right away—this year—and without that money, our kids will suffer,” DuVal wrote. “It is the best opportunity we realistically have in the next few years to drive new dollars to our schools.”DuVal’s appearance alongside the governor was a testament to the wide coalition that Ducey and his allies have assembled to support Prop 123, which voters will decide on Tuesday, May 17. The supporters include state lawmakers across the political spectrum: Senate President Andy Biggs and House Speaker David Gowan, but also Democratic state lawmakers such as Sen. Steve Farley and Rep. Bruce Wheeler. Business leaders such as Arizona Chamber of Commerce President Glenn Hamer, Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President Lea Márquez Peterson, Tucson Metro President Mike Varney and Southern Arizona Leadership CEO Ron Shoopman back it, as do education advocates such as the Andrew Morrill of the Arizona Education Association, Arizona PTA President Paula K. Purkhiser and Dana Naimark of the Children’s Action Alliance. A host of other politicos have weighed in as supporters, including Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio.There’s little argument that the state is way behind the rest of the country when it comes to education spending. You can pick your statistic: Arizona turns up in bottom of all states in survey after survey regarding school spending, classrooms are getting more crowded and teachers are fleeing the state because they don’t want to build careers in a place where they won’t be able to earn a decent living. 

  • For Pima’s sake

    For nearly half a century, there’s been a fountain of opportunity in our desert. Pima Community College was founded in 1969, immediately opening the doors for Tucsonans who wanted to make something more of themselves. Over the years, the college has grown and evolved. Today, Pima offers a variety of standard educational programs and provides technical career training in industries ranging from nursing to aviation technology.When it comes to student opportunities, there’s no denying it, Pima is a beacon of hope. Internally, however, the years have been less kind to the college. Today, Pima is a few years into reforming itself after a period of neglect. Change never comes easy or, it would seem, without differing perspectives on what kind of change is needed.  THERE ARE CHALLENGES“My mission is ‘Never again.’ Never again will the college be brought down by undiscovered weaknesses,” board member Scott Stewart says. Stewart is the last remaining board member from what one might call the previous era of Pima. He’s been on the board since 1999, and the last five or so years have been pretty rough. 

  • Learn to find meteorites at an upcoming boot camp

    Have you ever wanted to go hunt for meteorites?If so, your chance is coming up next month.And your guide will be Geoff Notkin, the co-host of the Discover Channel’s Meteorite Men program and one of the world’s foremost—and most entertaining—experts on meteorites.Your chance of finding one is pretty good: Notkin and his team have salted the desert spread at the White Stallion Ranch with a whole bunch of meteorites—and should you find one, it’s yours to keep. “We get everybody geared up with metal detectors, with magnets, with GPS,” Notkin says. “We completely outfit these people as Indiana Jones-type adventurers and then I go out in the field with them. I’m so confident that this is going to work that I guarantee everybody that they’re going to find a meteorite and they get to keep whatever they find. And there are a couple of bigger pieces buried out there that are in the $500 range.”Notkin, who moved to Tucson about a dozen years ago after falling in love with the area when he visited the famous Gem and Mineral Show, has been interested in meteorites since he was kid growing up in London. He had a fascination with both geology and the space program and one day, he realized that meteorites were rocks from outer space.

  • South Tucson: the Pueblo within the problems

    Cecilia Acevedo has come a long way since working 12-plus-hour shifts at the maquiladoras in Ímuris, Sonora.She moved there from her hometown of Cananea—a mining city less than an hour away from Naco, Arizona—at the age of 15 to get a factory job. While working there, she met her husband, and 15 years after that, the couple immigrated to Tucson. They wanted their children to have better opportunities than the ones they ever got.Acevedo remembers going to work at a ranch as early as 3 or 4 a.m., and bringing her youngest daughter, Belinda, along—wrapped in thick blankets during the winter, carefully tucked in a wheelbarrow. The couple’s job was to feed horses and other farm animals. They were undocumented at the time.“For a long time, we would just work, work, work,” Acevedo says. “We never even knew Tucson because we were always locked up at the ranch.”After years of hustling, Acevedo’s and her ex-husband’s income was enough to rent a home big enough for the family of four. But then the divorce came and Acevedo’s husband took off. “He just quit,” Acevedo says. Her daughter was 10, and her son was 16. Her ex never paid child support.Acevedo could no longer afford rent, so she and her two children moved into a tiny apartment in South Tucson. That’s how it went—from small apartment to small apartment, trying to leverage a low income while trying to feed her kids and keep a roof over their heads.

  • Women of Influence honors Tucson’s best

    In front of an audience of more than 600 attendees at Inside Tucson’s Business’ 2016 Women of Influence awards, President and CEO of Long Realty Company Rosey Koberlein told executives, entrepreneurs, community leaders and others to take a moment of personal reflection with a dose of honesty. Koberlain, who was honored as a Woman of Influence in 2005, then gave her take on some of the characteristics of women of influence.“We all have a level of fear that pulsates through our veins every day and women of influence master that fear,” Koberlain said. “They don’t deny it, they don’t run away from it. What they do is recognize it, honor it and learn from it and rise above that level of fear to step into a place where they can make decisions to lead their organizations, or their families, and make very difficult decisions with a level of clarity and compassion.”While conquering fear may seem insurmountable, each of the nearly 50 women honored as finalists demonstrated they could handle the task, and much more.Tucson Local Media, publisher of Inside Tucson Business, hosted the 13th annual Women of Influence awards at Casino Del Sol Resort, in partnership with Quarles and Brady LLP. Whether they were medical professionals, executives, founders or public servants, women from all walks of life were honored for their contributions not only their own companies, but to the well-being of the Tucson community.

  • Happy Birthday, HiRISE - UA space mission celebrates 10 years of snapping photos of Mars

    It’s been 10 years since the HiRISE camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter slipped into orbit around our neighboring planet and started sending snapshots back to the University of Arizona.And over that decade, HiRISE—the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment—has sent back 264 terabits of data. Its images have shown how the surface of Mars changes over the course of a year. It has spotted dust devils on the Martian surface. It’s helped map out landing spaces for different Mars landers, including the 2008 UA-led Phoenix mission to the arctic plains and the current mission with the Curiosity rover. It has snapped photos of those spacecraft descending to the Martian surface. It has taken pictures of Earth, other planets and comets. It has even helped the filmmakers behind the Oscar-winning movie The Martian understand the surface of Mars.UA professor of planetary geology Alfred McEwen, the principal investigator behind the HiRISE mission, says images from the HiRISE mission have changed our understand of Mars “in so many ways.”Not the least of those ways was the announcement by NASA last year that water appears to rise to the surface of Mars on a regular basis.  “We’re still struggling to understand it,” McEwen says.HiRISE could keep going for decades yet to come, although McEwen can make any promises.“The spacecraft has enough fuel on board to last another 20 years,” McEwen says. “There are various things that have started to age. Electronic parts can fail and mechanical parts can wear out and so forth. There’s no predicting.”

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