News From Mars Comes To Downtown Los Alamos

Central Park Square owner Philip Kunsberg, 4th from left, with members of LANL’s Perseverance Rover team, from left, Sam Clegg, Cindy Little, Amanda Sheridan, Kunsberg, Roger Wiens, Scott Robinson, Roberta Beal and Matthew Brand gather recently in front of the ‘News from Mars’  video display on Central Avenue. Photo by John McHale/ladailypost.com

By BONNIE J. GORDON
Los Alamos Daily Post
bjgordon@ladailypost.com

Mars is closer than you think. A stroll down Central Avenue in downtown Los Alamos can transport you to the surface of Mars via a slide show of pictures taken by the Perseverance Rover, which is exploring Mars. A video screen is attached to a building that is part of Central Park Square, across the street from the former CB Fox Kidz and around the corner from Bennett’s Fine Jewelry.

This effort is a collaboration between Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and Central Park Square owner Philip Kunsburg.

“We are proud to display the accomplishments of this astounding project,” Kunsburg said.

Residents of Los Alamos may remember a previous streaming of pictures from Mars taken by the previous Mars Rover, Curiosity, a few years ago.

Scott Robinson has been in charge of coordination of the Operations Center at LANL for the SuperCam instrument that is one of seven scientific instruments on Perseverance. He retired from his 30-year career at the lab after the launch of Perseverance, but still works on Mars operations, including setting up this new public display downtown.

“This video project is a great opportunity to stay involved and keep doing the science,” Robinson said. “There was a great team of engineers, scientists and technicians developing the SuperCam laser instrument and camera at the Lab.”

Now there are people supporting SuperCam instrument operations all across North America and Europe. LANL shared building the SuperCam instrument with two other facilities, one in France and one in Spain, Robinson said. SuperCam is composed of three major components that all must work together to produce the instrument’s science data. The Body Unit of SuperCam was built at LANL, the Mast Unit in France and calibration targets in Spain.

After launch in July, it took seven months for Perseverance to reach Mars, where it joined Curiosity, which is still on task delivering information about Mars to scientists on Earth. While the Curiosity mission focused on geology, the mission of Perseverance is rooted in biology, Robinson said.

“One of the main missions for Perseverance is the search for signs of ancient life,” Robinson said. “Perseverance is exploring an ancient lakebed. The mission is going great and both the Rover and science instruments are working very well.”

There’s no deadline for Perseverance to complete its mission, he said, adding that like Curiosity, Perseverance will continue to collect data for a long time, scientists hope.

Perseverance also is collecting rock and soil samples to send back to Earth via a rocket that will deliver a lander to pick up the samples for transport back to Earth where scientists will study them, Robinson said.

Residents and visitors to Los Alamos can keep up with developments via the News from Mars display on Central Avenue.

“We’re planning to keep it going and add new images and information,” Robinson said.

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