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Dreaming about Rocks from the Red Planet:
Scientific Goals and Engineering the Mars Missions
A lecture by Erik M. Conway
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Sunday, March 4, 2018, at 4 p.m.
in Episcopal Parish Hall, Eastsound, WA

Planetary scientists have sought to collect and examine samples from Mars since the beginning of the space age over fifty years ago. But although there are already Mars rocks on Earth, blasted off the red planet by meteor impacts and collected in Antarctica, they are not sufficient. As ancient artifacts, they are in effect random samples devoid of geological context and thus cannot address important scientific questions. So planetary scientists seek to collect specific samples from the Mars surface. This research goal makes it an engineering problem. In this talk, Conway connected the scientific desire to connect such samples to the design of Mars rover missions, including a forthcoming sample-return mission, and to the changing priorities of NASA’s human spaceflight program.

Erik Conway is a historian of science and technology at Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. He studies the history of space exploration and examines the intersections of space science, earth science, and technological change. With Naomi Oreskes, he is coauthor of the bestselling book on climate-change denial, Merchants of Doubt, for which they won the History of Science Society’s Watson Davis and Helen Miles Davis Prize in 2012. Conway is author of four other books, including his latest work, Exploration and Engineering: JPL and the Quest for Mars (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015). In 2017, he received the prestigious Athelstan Spilhaus Award of the American Geophysical Union for his many contributions to public engagement with earth and space sciences.

Cosponsored by Janet Alderton.