NASA rover Perseverance landed on the surface of Mars Thursday, Feb. 18, and West Virginia University geologist Kathleen Benison is on the scientific team choosing which Martian rocks to bring back to Earth for study.
Benison, an expert on extreme environments similar to Mars, is a Return Sample Selection Participating Scientist who will look for rocks and sediment with the potential for hosting biosignatures—in other words, signs of life. For the next few years, she and her Mars 2020 teammates will use the rover to gain a better understanding of Mars and to collect samples that will be returned to Earth in approximately 10 years for further study.
Quotes and Comments:
“The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is equipped with great analytical instruments, but they have some limitations; some types of analyses, such as observing microfossils within minerals, require study in labs on Earth. We hope to learn more about the history, environments, climate, and possible past life on Mars with returned samples. Typically, I do fieldwork in Australia, Ireland and Kansas and bring rocks back to my lab on the WVU campus; doing field work on another planet and bringing the rocks back to Earth will be a dream experience for me. Working with so many experts in various aspects of planetary engineering and science to plan this mission has been a fun and wonderful learning experience.” – Kathleen Benison, WVU Professor of Geology, Eberly College of Arts and Sciences
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