Dr. Jeffrey Moersch
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences,
University of Tennessee
Friday, September 13
"Results from the first year of Curiosity roving the surface of Mars"
The Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity) rover has just completed its first (Earth) year of exploring Gale Crater on the surface of Mars. Although the rover’s eventual goal will be to study layered sediments in the central mound of the crater, the first year of the mission was spent driving to and studying an area within ~600 meters of the landing site where three distinct geologic units are in contact.
Along the way, the rover observed evidence for past liquid water at the surface in the form of aqueously-altered minerals and sedimentary rock types indicative of transport in flowing water. In making these discoveries, the mission has already accomplished its overarching goal of finding evidence for past habitable environments on Mars.
This talk will present highlights from the first year of exploration, with particular emphasis on an instrument on the rover called the Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN), which measures the abundance of subsurface hydrogen under the rover.
Professor Jeffrey Moersch began his path toward a career in planetary science as a physics undergraduate major at Cornell University, working on the Voyager 2 and Galileo missions under the tutelage of the late Professor Carl Sagan. He began working on Mars while earning a Master’s degree in geology at Arizona State University. He then returned to Cornell for a Masters and PhD in astronomy, first working on the failed Mars Observer mission and then using telescopic observations he made of Mars with the Hale 200” telescope on Mt. Palomar.
After finishing school, he became a Resident Research Associate of the National Research Council in the Exobiology Branch of NASA’s Ames Research Center in California. Moersch left NASA in 2000 to join the faculty in the (then) Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Tennessee.
Moersch’s research specialties include remote sensing (infrared, nuclear) of planetary surfaces and planetary mission instrument development. He has worked on six NASA missions to Mars to date, including the Mars Exploration Rovers (Spirit and Opportunity) and the Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity).
Since 2010, Moersch has served as the Mars Editor for Icarus, the oldest and one of the most prestigious academic journals devoted to planetary science.