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"Follow Your Curiosity: The Search for Habitable Environments on Mars"

Dr. Daniel Glavin
Astrobiologist, Planetary Environments Laboratory
NASA Goddard Space Fight Center, Greenbelt,MD

Dr. Glavin is a Participating Scientist on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Mission. He first became involved in Astrobiology research in 1996 when a meteorite from Mars found in Antarctica, called Allan Hills 84001, revealed possible remnant of an ancient martian life forms. Although Glavin's research suggested that some of the chemical evidence was compromised by terrestrial contamination in Antarctica, the ALH 84001 discovery energized the Astrobiology community and the red planet continues to be one of the primary targets for exploration and the search for life beyond Earth. Dr. Glavin helped develop and test the wet chemistry experiment that is part of the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument onboard the MSL rover Curiosity. SAM, a microwave oven-sized instrument suite that includes a mass spectrometer developed at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center will investigate the martian atmosphere, rocks, and soil to look for water, organic compounds, and other biologically important elements required by life as we know it.
In this talk, Glavin will describe the concept of a "habitable environment" and the requirements for life as we know it. Understanding the basic requirements for life and the prebiotic chemistry that led to the emergence of life on Earth will help guide our search for life on Mars. Glavin will also give an overview of NASA's MSL mission with an update on the progress of the Curiosity rover and a summary of the analytical capabilities and measurement objectives of the SAM experiment. Curiosity is currently getting ready for the first SAM analysis of the Martian soil and will take a step closer to answering the question of whether Mars could have ever supported life.

Location: Thirkield Hall (Physics), Room 103
Nov 2012
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