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Nature Center Talk: Dr. Roger Wiens Reveals Discoveries From Curiosity Mars Rover

on May 24, 2016 - 7:46am

Curiosity rover’s three-year journey reveals fascinating information about the history of Mars. Courtesy/PEEC

PEEC News:

Dr. Roger Wiens will discuss the search for life on Mars at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 31 at the Los Alamos Nature Center at 2600 Canyon Road. His talk will reveal discoveries from the Curiosity rover’s journey and the next steps for exploring this intriguing planet. This is a free talk organized by the Pajarito Environmental Education Center.

Dr. Roger Wiens discusses Mars at Tuesday talk. Courtesy/PEEC

The 1-ton Curiosity rover has been trekking toward the 3-mile-high Mt. Sharp for nearly three years. Its ChemCam laser instrument, operated from downtown Los Alamos, has acquired more than 10,000 chemical observations and several thousand images along the way. Wiens will share information about this neighboring planet’s history, including whether it was once more Earth-like than previously imagined.

Wiens started his scientific career by writing the first dissertation on the Mars atmosphere based on samples analyzed in the laboratory, from Martian meteorites. He has worked as a scientist at Caltech, the University of California, and Los Alamos National Laboratory. Wiens was responsible for three instruments for NASA’s Genesis mission and he acted in the capacity of Flight Payload Lead. This mission was the first to return to Earth from beyond the Moon, when it landed in 2004 with solar-wind samples that have revealed exciting details about the composition of the Sun.

Since 2004, Wiens has been the leader of the ChemCam laser instrument on the Curiosity rover, which landed in August 2012. He has directed the U.S. and French team operating ChemCam and interpreting the data returned from Mars. Wiens has been involved in other NASA robotic missions as well, including Stardust, Mars Odyssey, Lunar Prospector, and Deep Space-One, which include missions to the Moon, Mars, and two comets.

In 2014, NASA selected the SuperCam instrument, a successor to ChemCam, to be built for its new Mars rover, scheduled to launch in 2020. Weins is now leading this new instrument development. He also is a very active writer and speaker, and enjoys sharing his knowledge about Mars with the public.

No registration is required for Weins' talk. For more information about this and other Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC) programs, visit www.peecnature.org, email programs@peecnature.org or call 505.662.0460.

PEEC was founded in 2000 to serve the community of Los Alamos. It offers people of all ages a way to enrich their lives by strengthening their connections to our canyons, mesas, mountains, and skies. PEEC operates the Los Alamos Nature Center at 2600 Canyon Road, holds regular programs and events, and hosts a number of interest groups from birding to hiking to butterfly watching. PEEC activities are open to everyone; however, members receive exclusive benefits such as discounts on programs and merchandise. Annual memberships start at $35. To learn more, visit www.peecnature.org.


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