Product has been added to the basket

The Mars Science Lab Mission

The Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, touched down on the surface of Mars on August 5, 2012 in one of the most audacious planetary landings ever. This car-sized rover has been successfully exploring Gale crater since then. Built to conduct an investigation of modern and ancient environments on the surface of Mars, this talk will describe the rover's explorations and adventures, and discuss the latest findings.

Curiosity has a lifetime of at least one Mars year (~23 months) and drive capability of at least 20 km.  The MSL science payload was specifically assembled to assess habitability and includes a gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer and gas analyzer that will search for organic carbon in rocks, regolith fines, and the atmosphere, an x-ray diffractometer that will determine mineralogical diversity, focusable cameras that can image landscapes and rock/regolith textures in natural color, an alpha-particle x-ray spectrometer for in situ determination of rock and soil chemistry, a laser-induced breakdown spectrometer to remotely sense the chemical composition of rocks and minerals, an active neutron spectrometer designed to search for water in rocks/regolith, a weather station to measure modern-day environmental variables, and a sensor designed for continuous monitoring of background solar and cosmic radiation.

The 155-km diameter Gale Crater was chosen as Curiosity's field site based on several attributes including an interior mound of ancient flat-lying strata extending almost 5 km above the elevation of the landing site. The lower few hundred meters of the mound show a progression with relative age from clay-bearing to sulfate-bearing strata, separated by an unconformity from overlying likely anhydrous strata. The landing ellipse is characterized by a mixture of alluvial fan, high thermal inertia/high albedo stratified deposits, and a number of stratigraphically/geomorphically distinct fluvial features.  Curiosity landed just below the base of the alluvial fan deposit and very close to the high thermal inertia unit.  Gale's regional context and strong evidence for a progression through multiple potentially habitable environments, represented by a stratigraphic record of extraordinary extent, ensure preservation of a rich record of the environmental history of early Mars.


Prof Sanjeev Gupta (Imperial College)


Prof. Sanjeev Gupta is a geologist in the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College. He is interested in the evolution of surface environments and processes on Earth and Mars. He has spent much of his career studying ancient sedimentary rock formations in places like the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt, and New Mexico. He analyses sedimentary rocks to reconstruct ancient landscapes and past environmental conditions. He is a Participating Scientist on NASA's Mars Science Laboratory - the Curiosity rover - where his role is to analyse ancient sedimentary rocks on Mars and determine if the Red Planet could ever have been habitable for life.



curiosity rover 


Date: 9 October 2013

Venue: The Geological Society, London

Speaker: Sanjeev Gupta (Imperial College)



Naomi Newbold
Tel: 020 7432 0981