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Sniffing out the Story on the Habitability Potential of Mars: Follow the Volatiles!

presented by

Pamela Conrad
Mars Mission Specialist
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

July 18, 2013

TSRI Auditorium


Background:

Pamela Conrad is an astrobiologist and mineralogist with the Planetary Environments Laboratory at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, USA. She has worked for the past several years on the development of approaches and measurements for assessment of habitability in planetary surface environments. Her planetary science interests include the comparative early evolution of Earth and Mars and the measurement of habitability potential on rocky bodies in the solar system. She is Deputy Principal Investigator and Investigation Scientist for the Sample Analysis at Mars instrument suite, which is presently exploring Gale Crater on Mars as part of the Mars Science Laboratory mission. Her extensive field experience revolves around characterizing the edges of the habitable zones in deserts (both polar and temperate). Since her involvement with Mars Science Laboratory, Pan has become focused on the measurement of the noble gases and what they can tell us about planetary differentiation and evolution.

Abstract:

The Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) investigation on the Curiosity Rover is the most complex analytical laboratory ever to travel to another planet. SAM is a suite of instruments: a quadrupole mass spectrometer, a six column gas chromatograph and a two cell tunable laser spectrometer that can directly measure the atmosphere of Mars or from solid samples by pyrolysis and evolved gas analysis and gas chromatography. We are both a survey suite and a probe for specific species and stable isotopic ratios of interest, and with the other advanced technology of the MSL payload we are exploring Mars with both breadth and depth. This presentation will summarize what the Mars Science Laboratory mission has learned so far about Mars and its past and present habitability potential, highlighting the SAM investigation.

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