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Fall Quarterly Mtg with Roger Weins

Posted By Katherine Hine, Monday, October 14, 2013

October 5, 2013, Local Section Meeting with Roger Weins

Eight ASA members( Stan Anderson, Stephen Contkes, Michael Everest, Jason and Kathy Hine, Kevin Iga, Myron Mann, Roger Wiens) and two guests met together at Pepperdine University in Malibu for a time of fellowship and to hear a talk by Roger Wiens of Los Alamos National Lab.

The meeting started at 9AM with a time of informal fellowship over a potluck breakfast. The formal program began at 10 AM with short time of worship and singing led by Jason and Kathy Hine. Afterwards Michael Everest gave abrief introduction to the ASA, Roger’s radiometric dating article on the ASA website, and his recent book Red Rover: The Inside Story of Robotc Space Exploration, From Genesis to the Mars Rover Curiosity. Roger’s talk was entitled "Getting to Mars with the Curiosity Rover: The Space Mission and the Spiritual Journey.” His talk discussed his involvement in the development and deployment of the ChemCAM instrument on the Curiosity Rover. These goals were related to the search for life on Mars in that the Curiosity Rover was developed to assess the habitability of Mars for life. The Curiosity Rover was built to carry a large payload of instruments, including the ChemCAM, for which Roger is the principal investigator. The ChemCAM is a remotely operated turret-mounted laser and telescope atop the rover which performs laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) to obtain atomic emission spectra from geologic samples in Mars’ surface. In other words, the ChemCAM is used to find out the elemental composition of rocks and soil on Mars. Roger presented some of the more interesting results obtained with the ChemCAM, including how the ChemCAM revealed that the rocks on Mars are hydrated with a few percent water.

Roger explained how he became involved in the Curiosity Rover mission, starting from his providential involvement in the Genesis space mission, his move to Los Alamos where he first became acquainted with LIBS, troubles with an unethical collaborator, the selection of his ChemCAM for inclusion in the Curiosity Rover mssiion, and the spiritual and political struggles he faced when he was maligned during a time when the project was threatened with cancellation.

Roger described the challenge of landing the Curiosity Rover safely on Mars, which was solved by deploying a retro rocket package which lowered the Rover to Mars’ surface on ropes. He even sohwed footage of the Rover’s succcessful landing near mount Sharpe, where the Rover found rounded pebbles indicative of erosion in a river or lakebed and much more diverse igneous rocks thant were previously thought to exist on Mars. He lso noted that the Rover didn’t find any methane and other organic molecules or other signs of life.

Roger answered a variety of questions after his talk, including ones about the nature of water on the Martian surface, the government shutdown, climate change and global warming on both Earth and Mars, the Curiosity mission’s end, and plans for the next mission.

The meeting concluded at 11:30 AM.

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