Steven Squyres, Ph.D., will present the William C. Ferguson Lecture on “Roving Mars: Spirit, Opportunity and the Exploration of the Red Planet” at 11 a.m. Feb. 8 in Graham Chapel as part of the Assembly Series.
Squyres is the principal scientific investigator for the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) Mission, which he first conceived in 1987, getting a green light from NASA a decade later.
He helped design, build and test all the scientific tools on the two 400-pound, solar-powered rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. He oversees the science operations of the rovers and a team of 170 researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
The rovers landed on Mars two years ago and are helping astronomers determine whether there was life on the planet. Spirit and Opportunity are examining Mars’ rocks and soil for minerals signaling the past presence of water.
Like his former professor, the late astronomer Carl Sagan, Squyres has a deep passion for space exploration, and he hopes the Mars mission will rekindle the public’s interest as it shares in the exploration of the surface of another world.
He is the Goldwin Smith Professor of Astronomy at Cornell University. He earned a doctorate from Cornell in 1982.
He specializes in planetary sciences and has a particular interest in the tectonics of Venus, the history of water on Mars and the geophysics of the icy satellites of the outer planets.
The Assembly Series event will actually feature two of the top MER scientists, as WUSTL’ own Raymond E. Arvidson, Ph.D., the deputy principal investigator of the mission, will introduce Squyres.
Arvidson is the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor and chair of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in Arts & Sciences. He directs the department’s Remote Sensing Laboratory, which is involved in many aspects of NASA’s planetary exploratory programs, including developing science objectives, plans for missions, data analysis and archiving.
Assembly Series lectures are free and open to the public.
For more information, call 935-4620 or go online to assemblyseries.wustl.edu.