Curiosity’s Search for Ancient Habitable Environments at Gale Crater, Mars

  • Speaker
  • John P. Grotzinger, Ph.D.Co-Director, SCOL
    Fletcher Jones Professor of Geology, Ted and Ginger Jenkins Leadership Chair, Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology
Date & Time

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The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover, Curiosity, touched down on the surface of Mars on August 5, 2012. Curiosity was built to search for and explore habitable environments. The MSL science payload can assess ancient habitability through the detection of traces of water, as well as a source of energy to fuel microbial metabolism, and key elements such as carbon, sulfur, nitrogen, and phosphorous. Within 8 months of landing, the MSL Science Team was able to confirm full mission success, based on the discovery of fine-grained sedimentary rocks, inferred to represent the presence of an ancient lake, which would have been suited to support a Martian biosphere. The environment likely had a minimum duration of hundreds to tens of thousands of years, and recent discoveries from the past year suggest it could have been biologically viable.

In this lecture, John Grotzinger will highlight the latest results from Curiosity and the value of robots in geologic exploration.

About the Speaker

John Grotzinger is a geologist interested in the evolution of surficial environments on Earth and Mars. Field mapping studies are the starting point for more topical laboratory-based studies involving geochemical, geologic, and geochronological techniques. He is the past Project Scientist for the Mars Science Laboratory mission and also a member of the Mars Exploration Rover Science Team, and of the HiRISE team on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Grotzinger is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and Fletcher Jones Professor of Geological Sciences at Caltech.

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