Local Angle on Interplanetary Story

Aug 6, 2012

As the Mars Curiosity Rover begins its surface mission, scientists like University of Tulsa geosciences professor Dr. Peter Michael prepare to make use of the information it sends to earth.

He says he’s interested in the Martian ocean, “for example, what the salinity was in terms of how much salt there was, and what the chemical composition of the salt was in the Martian ocean—and how it got there, compared to how it gets into the Earth’s ocean,” he said.

He teaches oceanography at TU, and says in a few months, once NASA has disseminated that kind of information, he hopes to be able to use some of the Curiosity findings in the classroom.

He also says that the rover will be able to study some rock formations to which scientists haven’t yet had access.

He says scientists also have igneous rock samples from Mars, that were blasted off the planet’s surface and fell to Earth as meteorites.

“But Curiosity we’re hoping will also sample some of the sedimentary rocks,” he said, “and some of the rocks that might have formed in the presence of, or actually precipitating from, water.”

“That’s an important thing if we want to know about life on Mars,” he said.

Dr. Michael says geosciences isn’t the only department at TU that will be able to take a lesson from the Curiosity.

“I was actually pretty amazed at how complex the landing procedure was, and it means that a lot of people had to be communicating with each other, and making sure that everybody understood what everybody else was doing,” he said. “I think it was successful in terms of having a diverse group of people work together and reach those objectives.”

He says it’s an example of how complex projects can be accomplished.