As Mars rover Curiosity makes its final approach to the Red Planet, two UA geoscientists are getting ready to help solve some of the mysteries of its geologic past.
On Aug. 5, at about 10:30 p.m., an already busy summer will kick into overdrive for University of Arizona geosciences professor Bob Downs and one of his graduate students, Shaunna Morrison. At that time – provided everything goes as planned – Curiosity, the most sophisticated exploration vehicle ever sent to another planet, will parachute toward the Martian surface faster than the speed of sound after a nine-month journey through space. And as soon as it sinks its six wheels into the red dust, the two scientists specializing in mineralogy will have not one, but two planets to deal with.
As “primary data downlink leaders” designated by NASA, Downs and Morrison are part of a team of scientists tasked with the identification of rocks that Curiosity will encounter during its two-year expedition across the floor of Gale Crater near the Martian equator. (more…)