For our second ROADS “Meet a NASA Expert,” we were pleased to have planetary scientist Briony Horgan join us from the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences at Purdue University where she is an assistant professor. Her research program uses data from NASA satellites and rovers, along with lab and field work back on Earth, to understand the surface processes that have shaped Mars and the Moon. Briony is a participating scientist on NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory rover mission and a Co-I on NASA’s upcoming Mars 2020 rover mission, the first step toward Mars Sample Return.
The surface of Mars is the frontline in NASA’s search for life beyond Earth, and NASA has devoted three generations of robotic, semi-autonomous rovers to this search. Through the efforts of the scientists and engineers behind the Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity rovers, we now know that Mars hosted watery environments that may have been habitats for ancient life 4 billion years ago. The next step is the Mars2020 rover, which will search for signs of ancient microbial life on Mars and collect samples to return to Earth. Why is this search important, and how much can these robotic geologists do alone? There was Q&A with students after Briony’s talk.
For our first ROADS “Meet a NASA Expert,” we were joined by Jim Rice, an astrogeologist and a Mars Exploration Rover Project scientist.
The Red Planet, Mars, has always held our fascination, more so than any other planet. The very word “Mars” conjures up visions of Martians as well as great voyages of exploration in our imagination. What was once a distant, mysterious, cinnamon colored orb in our night sky is now literally a New World that we are currently exploring with rovers and landers on the surface and orbiters from above. These robotic missions are the pathfinders for future human missions. And at some point humans will make Mars our second home in the Solar System.
Jim’s presentation discussed the major discoveries that have been, and are now being made, about Mars by our robotic missions. Jim also discussed the dangers, challenges, and plans for human missions to the Red Planet. There was Q&A with students after the main presentation.
For our final “Meet a NASA Expert,” we were joined by Monica Vidaurri, a science consultant specializing in astrobiology and political science at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Monica’s science research focuses on the atmospheres of exoplanets and the extent to which life can exist or arise on a given planet, while her policy research focuses on diversity and inclusion, science representation in Congress, planetary protection and bioethics, and NASA mission budgeting. There was time for a Q&A after Monica’s presentation.
We were pleased to have Kim Willis join us for the fourth of our opportunities for ANGLeS teams to Meet a NASA Engineer. Kim works at Johnson Space Center where she’s curator of the Apollo lunar samples. Six Apollo missions landed humans on the surface of the Moon. These astronauts explored the surface of the Moon and collectively collected 382 kg (842 pounds) of lunar rocks, soils, and core samples. Learn details about these six Apollo missions to the lunar surface, how crews collected these precious lunar samples, the initial lunar receiving laboratory where the Apollo astronauts and samples were quarantined, and see where these samples are currently curated by NASA. There was a Q&A period after Kim’s presentation.
We were pleased to have George Gorospe, a NASA Research Engineer and the manager of the Diagnostics and Prognostics research group at NASA Ames Research Center. He received a BA in classical studies at Dartmouth College, and an MSc in Mechanical Engineering at the University of New Mexico. While at UNM he also work for Pueblo News. He started work at NASA through internships provided by the Tribal Colleges and Universities Program, the NASA Robotics Academy and NASA Academy for Space Exploration. He is now the manager of Intelligent Systems Division and the Systems Health, Analytics, Resilience, and Physics modeling (SHARP) laboratory. He discussed his research efforts at the SHARP laboratory and steps that enable him to be successful in his career path. There was a question-and-answer period after George’s presentation.
We were pleased to have John Gruener join us for our second “Meet a NASA Engineer” chat. John shared his career path to NASA along with relevant information about what we have learned from the Apollo Missions, new views of the Moon revealed from robotic spacecraft, and the future plans for lunar exploration. There was a question-and-answer period after John’s presentation.
We were pleased to have had Jerry Woodfill join us from Johnson Space Center for our first ANGLeS Challenge “Meet a NASA Engineer” chat. Jerry is a NASA engineer who worked on the Apollo program as a spacecraft warning system engineer. Jerry gave a talk about how he was able to not only overcome technical problems that might have led to the Apollo 11 crew perishing, but also how he helped save Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk from a catastrophic failure. At the end there was time for a few questions submitted by students.
Were you on the chat with Jerry? Did you take his pledge at the end? Congratulations on becoming an Honorary Flight Controller! Don’t forget to print your certificate — you’ll find it as the last page of the PowerPoint below.