The Search for Water and Life on Mars (and Beyond)

  • Speaker
  • James Wray, Ph.D.Associate Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology
Date & Time

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Simons Foundation Lectures are free public colloquia related to basic science and mathematics. These high-level talks are intended for professors, students, postdocs and business professionals, but interested people from the metropolitan area are welcome as well.
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Water-based liquids are believed to be the most fundamental requirement of all life on Earth and thus are considered a prerequisite in our search for extraterrestrial life. Research missions have revealed Mars as the only other world known to have a preserved geologic record of water flowing and ponding on its surface. Mars, therefore, provides our first testing ground for whether the mere presence of water alone is sufficient for life.

In this lecture, James Wray will describe his team’s efforts to characterize not only the where and the when of water on Mars, but also “how long,” “how warm” and “what was the chemistry?” Incorporating the latest results from both orbital imaging and surface roving, he will describe how these questions — and their preliminary answers — have sharpened our focus in planning the next missions to the Red Planet. Those missions will directly seek the signs of life on ancient Mars and potentially ferry life from Earth to a second home on Mars. These two near-future goals are both synergistic and conflicting, as the talk will discuss.

About the Speaker

James Wray is a planetary scientist and associate professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He currently chairs the Planetary Geology Division of the Geological Society of America and is a co-investigator or collaborator on five active Mars mission science teams. Originally trained in astrophysics at Princeton and Cornell, his research now focuses on planetary surface compositions as records of the current and past environmental conditions on other worlds.

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