These Wheels are Made for Roving: Exploring the Surface of Mars with Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity

January 13, 2016
When the Spirit and Opportunity rovers landed in 2004 they didn’t find any Tharks or H.G. Wellsian tentacled creatures with leathery skin, but they did find surprising evidence of water. Both rovers vastly exceeded their nominal missions and were joined on Mars by the larger Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity in 2012. In this episode, Senior Research Scientist and NASA Participating Scientist Bill Farrand from the Space Science Institute in Boulder, CO tells us how the rovers have helped to transform our view of the surface of Mars from a barren, dead volcanic planet to one that was once much like the Earth with flowing ground and surface waters and stunning scenic vistas. This presentation was given at Nerd Nite Denver in December 2015. Farrand is a senior research scientist at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado. He has a B.A. in Geology from Franklin & Marshall College and a M.S. and Ph.D. in the Geosciences from the University of Arizona. He has worked extensively in terrestrial remote sensing as well as in the remote sensing of Mars and of the Moon. In the terrestrial remote sensing field, Bill has worked extensively with data from airborne hyperspectral remote sensing systems for both commercial and government programs. Bill has been a Participating Scientist on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover (MER) Mission since 2002. Bill has worked extensively with multispectral Pancam data from both the Spirit and Opportunity rovers looking at the multispectral reflectance of rocks viewed by the rovers at the Columbia Hills of Gusev crater and on the plains and craters of Meridiani Planum. He is also involved in several other projects examining terrestrial analogues of Martian surface materials, working with orbital remote sensing data of Mars, and examining the hyperspectral reflectance of dry and ephemeral lakes. In his free time, Bill is an avid rock climber and also enjoys skiing, hiking, taking his dogs on walks, and pursuing useless TV and movie trivia.
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