If you missed the inspiring presentation by NASA Curiosity Rover Chief Scientist John Grotzinger "Exploring Mars with the Curiosity Rover: The Search for Ancient Habitable Environments" here is a recording from this special EAPS event together with background about the new lecture series.
On Friday May 9, over three hundred faculty and students, together with members of the public, packed the Stata Center Lecture Hall for a high tech trek from Earth to Mars and then on, following in the Curiosity Rover's dusty tracks, from Gale Crater into an alluvial fan towards the foothills of Mount Sharp.
For a little over an hour, Grotzinger's talk put the audience, first back in the NASA control room of "7 minutes of terror" fame, and then firmly on the surface of the Red Planet itself, "dust on feet", boring into the ground, looking over the shoulder of NASA scientists seeking an answer to the question "Could life have flourished in this now arid and inhospitable place?" video
About the Speaker
Dr. John Grotzinger is the chief scientist and head of strategic science planning for NASA's $2.5 billion Curiosity rover mission to Mars, which riveted the country with its daredevil landing. Leading a team of more than 450 scientists, Grotzinger is responsible for future planning, parallel operations, determining Curiosity's exploratory sites, and ensuring smooth and productive collaboration between several independent engineering teams -- a key element of mission success. Objectives for the rover mission include characterization of the Martian landscape, measuring radiation levels to enable future human exploration, and analyzing soil and rock samples in an effort to find environments that could have once supported life. Since 2003 Grotzinger also has worked on the Spirit and Opportunity rovers, and in 2004 the Opportunity team discovered evidence for liquid water on ancient Mars.
Grotzinger, who served as a member of the EAPS faculty from 1987 to 2005, is interested in the evolution of surficial environments of Earth and Mars. For his important contributions to understanding the co-evolution of life and environment on early Earth, Grotzinger received the Charles Doolittle Walcott Medal from the National Academy of Sciences in 2007 -- an honor awarded just once every five years -- and has been a member of the Academy since 2002. He was also honored with the 2012 Halbouty Award of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists for his work in the geology and geochemistry of hydrocarbon exploration.
A New Annual Lecture
The Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) traces its origins to the founding of MIT by the geologist William Barton Rogers in 1861. Today, members of the EAPS Department seek to understand the history of our galaxy and solar system and the origin and evolution of the Earth's crust, atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere, in a research enterprise spanning the search for extrasolar planets and the study of meteorites; the discovery and exploitation of fossil fuels; the study of earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain belts, and landscape evolution; and Earth's climate history, from ocean circulation and atmospheric chemistry to human impacts on the environment.
Intended as an annual vehicle for showcasing this huge interdisciplinary reach, the Brace Lecture is being established to honor the first Head of EAPS, William F. Brace, and to reach across the Institute to share the physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, and, yes even, engineering that goes on in the Green Building.
In this issue
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