The Curiosity Rover mission found signs of organic materials on Mars dating back about 3.5 billion years, NASA announced June 7. It could be a big deal, said Raymond Arvidson, the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor in Arts & Sciences.
Glaciations on Mars are different from those on Earth. During a Martian glacial period, water vapor that would otherwise travel to the north polar cap instead snows out at lower latitudes, where ice then accumulates. Radargrams of the north polar region of Mars record the most recent mid-latitude Martian glacial period and the regrowth of the polar ice since then.
John P. Grotzinger, the scientist who led the Mars Rover Curiosity mission that discovered evidence of water in 2012, will deliver the McDonnell Distinguished Lecture on Wednesday, March 2, at Washington University in St. Louis.
NASA announced earlier this week that dark streaks that appear on Martian slopes in the summer, lengthen and then fade as winter approaches are seeps of salty water. The news that Mars still has surface water again raised hopes that it may have life. It will take thoughtful mission planning to find out, says Washington University in St. Louis Mars expert Ray Arvidson, PhD.
The Opportunity rover is currently exploring a Martian crater named the Spirit of St. Louis, after the famous aircraft — which was in turn named in honor of St. Louis citizens who purchased it for Charles Lindbergh. The mission team picked this naming scheme because Washington University team members spotted a promising target just beyond the crater. As long as the rover remains in the crater, the names will drawn from a list of names related to the famous flight.
Before his Assembly Series talk, Adam Steltzner, a NASA engineer in charge of the Mars Curiosity rover landing, met with WUSTL students and discussed their entry for NASA’s Robotic Mining Competition.
Ten years ago, on Jan. 24, 2004, the Opportunity rover landed on a flat plain in the southern highlands of the planet Mars and rolled into an impact crater scientists didn’t even know existed. In honor of the rover’s 10th anniversary, Ray Arvidson, PhD, deputy principal investigator of the rover mission, recently took an audience on a whirlwind tour of the rover’s decade-long adventures and discoveries.
In the Jan. 24 edition of the journal Science, Ray Arvidson, PhD, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis and deputy principal investigator of the MER mission to Mars, writes in detail about the discoveries made by the Opportunity rover and how these discoveries have shaped our knowledge of the planet.
In June, a rover named Zoe set out into the Atacama Desert on the west coast of South America to test a suite of instruments intended for future missions to Mars under Mars-like conditions. One of the instruments aboard Zoe was a Raman spectrometer designed by a team led by Alian Wang of Washington University in St. Louis. A fragile lab instrument that was ruggidized to survive the desert, the Raman spectrometer is expected to fly on the 2020 Mars mission.
Despite its midwest location, far away from massive NASA mission control centers in Cape Canaveral, Fla., or Pasadena, Calif., WUSTL can boast at least seven graduates (and one current student) now making key contributions to NASA’s latest mission to Mars, “Curiosity.”