As you probably heard, NASA successfully landed a rover -- called Curiosity -- onto the surface of Mars early this morning. It's so easy to be jaded about amazing stuff these days, but this was truly remarkable -- the plan to land the rover was crazy. We realize the scientists and engineers involved probably don't regard it that way, but they used a robot with a supersonic parachute and a sky crane -- to land on Mars!
Ahem. Well, as it happens, Laurie Leshin -- RPI's dean of science -- is part of the science team for Curiosity (her field is cosmochemistry) . She was at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena for the landing. So, yes, her week is shaping up to be more fun and interesting than yours.
RPI's Approach blog has a quick Q&A with Leshin about the mission and the part with which she's been involved. On what she hopes they find:
I also hope we find a lot of water-bearing minerals that we can characterize very well--carbonites, clays, sulfates--and that can teach us about the aqueous environments on Mars. For most of my career we've thought about Mars as a cold dry place with a potential for a warmer weather past, but not a lot of evidence of it. But that's changing and I think this mission has the potential to really start painting a picture of a more habitable Mars from the past and its potential for habitability in the future.
Bonus bit: here's an op/ed Leshin wrote for the Times Union about the mission -- and its potential for inspiring kids.
And she's on Twitter.
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