Curiosity: landing and roving on Mars

Wednesday 16th January 2013 @ 19:00

Non-Member: £12.00 ; Staff: £5.00 ; Student: £3.00

Professor Sanjeev Gupta, Participating Scientist in NASA Mars Science Laboratory

A talk on the Mars mission: early mission operations, geological observations and future mission objectives.

Professor Gupta is a geologist from the Department of Earth Science and Engineering and one of only two UK scientists to take part in the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission. The mission, which is being controlled remotely by scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena USA, touched down on the red planet on 5 August 2012. The $US 2.7 billion operation involves a team of 200 scientists from around the world who will be assessing whether Mars has had conditions favourable for life. They will also be determining whether conditions were favourable for preserving a record of evidence in the rock about whether life has existed there.

Professor Gupta says: “Earlier Mars landers and rovers examined the Mars surface but didn’t give us the opportunity to study the geology of thick piles of sediments in detail. Sedimentary rocks are the history books of a planet, preserving information about past environmental conditions. On Earth, they also preserve evidence of past life. This new phase of exploration will enable us to analyse the geology in much more detail, giving us an exciting opportunity to learn more about our nearest neighbour.”

This not the first time that Professor Gupta has studied Martian geology, in January 2009 he studied a set of spectacular satellite images and published a paper in the journal Geology, which suggested that Mars was warm enough to sustain lakes three billion years ago - a period of time that was previously thought to be too cold and arid to sustain water on the surface. The research suggested that during the Hesperian Epoch, approximately three billion years ago, Mars had temporary lakes made of melted ice, each around 20km wide, along parts of the equator.

In October this insight seems to have been correct as Curiosity’s cameras identified rounded pebbles which suggest the past existence of an ancient riverbed on the surface of Mars.

For a description of the mission see...NASA Curiosity Fact Sheet Also click on the links in the right hand column.

Optionally followed by supper (this can be booked on the event booking form).
After the lecture a Friends' Table has been reserved at a local restaurant to entertain the speaker and for any of the audience who would like to join us to continue the evening's discussion. A two-course fixed price supper is served including wine, coffee and service charge.
Or if you have already booked for the event and now want to join us for supper Book Supper now

Venue: Blackett Building, Imperial College London