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The Astro Team Returns to Mars!

February 10, 2021

Mars 2020 Staff Highlights

Astrogeology Science Center Mars 2020 Staff Highlights
Left to right: Dr. Ryan Anderson, Dr. Ken Herkenhoff, Alicia Vaughan (Contractor).

The USGS Astrogeology Science Center is excited to have several staff members on the Mars 2020 Science Team. As we gear up for the Perseverance rover landing on February 18th, Astroteam members were able to sit down with Astro interviewer Railyn Stokes and answer questions about their involvement with this mission, and more!

Mars 2020 is the first step of Mars Sample Return. The Perseverance rover will collect rock samples to be returned to Earth by future missions, and these team members are part of the larger science team that will get to select and document those first samples. Watch the short video interviews with each of them to learn more about their Martian interests and backgrounds, the instruments they are supporting, and the special challenge of living on Mars time.

Dr. Ryan Anderson is a member of the ChemCam instrument team on Curiosity, and a Co-Investigator on the SuperCam team for Perseverance.  He discusses how those instruments are used in the exploration of Mars, and some of the key discoveries made by ChemCam including mineralogy that reveals a rich history of water on Mars. He has been involved in mapping the Jezero crater landing site for Mars 2020 using orbital data and is excited to compare what is seen at Jezero to the ideas he has formulated from his studies. Ryan will also face the challenge of supporting two rovers on Mars once Perseverance lands.

Gearing up for Landing Day—USGS Mars Rover Team (Dr. Ryan Anderson)

Dr. Ken Herkenhoff has been involved in every rover mission sent to Mars since Pathfinder in 1997. He was the Principal Investigator of the Microscopic Imagers on the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity, and he is a member of several instrument teams on Curiosity including Mastcam, MAHLI, MARDI, and ChemCam.  He is a Co-Investigator on the Mastcam-Z team for Perseverance. He discusses how this mission is different from previous ones, and how USGS Astrogeology has contributed significantly to a more precise landing capability. He also tells us more about the Mastcam-Z instrument, impactful Martian discoveries, and how he will manage working on operations for two rovers on Mars once Perseverance lands.

Gearing up for Landing Day—USGS Mars Rover Team (Dr. Ken Herkenhoff)

Alicia Vaughan is a contractor with the USGS Astrogeology supporting the Mastcam-Z instrument investigation. She spent many years working on the Mars Exploration Rover Mission as a member of both the science and engineering teams, before leaving to fulfill her life-long dream of teaching. Excited to be back exploring Mars with Perseverance, she discusses how she got into the field of rover operations, how she will be contributing to Mastcam-Z instrument operations, and shares some advice for those curious about how they might pursue a career in robotic space exploration.

Gearing up for Landing Day--USGS Mars Rover Team (Alicia Vaughan)

You can follow the exciting mission events at Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover - NASA Mars, and check back here for updates from our team members in the coming months.

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