May 18, 2022
Purdue’s best in Mars, planetary research
What is the importance of the red planet, Earth’s neighbor more than 150 million miles away? Looking for the latest in Mars research? What can another planet’s history tell us about Earth’s future? A variety of Purdue’s leadership, expertise and innovation in Mars and planetary research is highlighted in this roundup.
Roger Wiens, a professor of earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences at Purdue, is an expert in Mars robotics technology. Wiens explains the economic benefits of robotic exploration of Mars and how the technological advances achieved for Mars can be used back on Earth.
- After a yearlong march across Mars’ landscape, the Perseverance rover recently reached one of its main mission goals.
- Briony Horgan, associate professor of planetary science, led the efforts to designate Jezero Crater for the rover’s landing and now is long-term planner as part of the science leadership for NASA’s rover.
- Horgan expects to spend most of the coming year searching for signs of ancient life, such as organic material and signs of microbes.
- Roger Wiens was instrumental in outfitting Mars rovers Curiosity and Perseverance with tools that help quantify the environment of the Martian surface, including the ChemCam and the SuperCam.
- Sound recordings on Mars taken by SuperCam help scientists analyze and understand the planet’s atmosphere and rock composition and check on the health of the rover itself.
- Wiens was also working on remote spacecraft to study the sun.
- Brandon Johnson, an associate professor in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences at Purdue, is an expert on craters, impacts and planetary science, along with meteors, asteroids, moons and everything else in the solar system that can go smash
- Impact craters help scientists decipher the ancient history and current status of planetary bodies – including insights into which moons and planets might have molten cores and plate tectonics or liquid oceans.
- Details in impact craters on Earth and the moon are giving scientists clues into the history and evolution of both.
Briony Horgan is looking to Mars’ rocks to determine the red planet’s past, including when it may have been habitable. She talks about the search for evidence of microbial life in rock samples, which will be the focus in the second year of the Perseverance rover mission as it studies an ancient river delta.
- Through the Mars rover mission, Briony Horgan is fulfilling her love for exploring to the extreme by seeing undisturbed portions of the red planet no one has laid eyes on before.
- Horgan told the This is Purdue podcast that rocks were an early interest for her, but a fascination with space made her realize she wasn’t confined to studying Earth’s terrain.
- Using Mastcam-Z, the rover’s special dual-lens camera developed by the team she was on, Horgan is analyzing images to determine the minerology of the rocks on Mars.
Purdue planetary research in the news:
National Geographic Magazine
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