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Roving Down the Road Towards Understanding the Habitability of Mars

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Linda Hall Library

5109 Cherry Street

Kansas City, MO 64110

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Artist’s depiction of NASA’s Mars 2020 rover. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The lecture

Mars preserves sedimentary rocks whose attributes comprise at least a partial record of past conditions occurring on the planet. Moreover, it is relatively accessible to exploration as a result of its reasonable proximity to the Earth. Over the past ~15 years, several rover missions have leveraged these attributes towards the goal of understanding whether Mars was ever habitable.

The Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity landed in 2004 and emphasized understanding the role of water in shaping the surface at landing sites in Gusev crater and Meridiani Planum, respectively. The Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity landed in 2102 in Gale crater and more directly probed whether habitable environments ever occurred there.

The results of these prior rover missions together with orbital studies of Mars using various remote sensing assets informed the selection of the landing site for the Mars 2020 rover. Once on the ground in Jezero crater, the 2020 rover will explore ancient lake and river delta deposits on a mission to further establish the past habitability of Mars.

The speaker

Dr. John A. Grant, III served as co-chair for the science community process for selecting the landing sites for the Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity rovers and is currently co-leading the process for selecting the landing site for the Mars 2020 rover. He joined the Smithsonian in the fall of 2000 as a geologist at the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the National Air and Space Museum.

On Spirit and Opportunity, Dr. Grant serves as a Science Operations Working Group Chair responsible for leading day-to-day science planning of the rovers, whereas on Curiosity he is a Long Term Planner focused more on achieving strategic goals for the mission. He is also a co-investigator on the High Resolution Camera (HiRISE) and is the Science Theme Lead for Landscape Evolution and Future Landing Sites.

Dr. Grant received a BS in geology, magna cum laude, from the State University of New York College at Plattsburgh and a Master’s and PhD in geology from the University of Rhode Island and Brown University, respectively. He is the 2017 recipient of the G. K. Gilbert award given by the Planetary Geology Division of the Geological Society of America for outstanding contributions to the solution of fundamental problems in planetary geology.

Parking

Parking is free in Library parking lots and along the west side of Holmes Street between 51st and 52nd streets. The main entrance to the Library grounds is on Cherry Street. The Linda Hall Library is not affiliated with UMKC. Parking in all UMKC lots is by permit or meter. Doors open at 6:00 p.m.

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Linda Hall Library

5109 Cherry Street

Kansas City, MO 64110

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