Public lecture - Bringing Mars into 2020

Michael Bouchard, Washington University 

May 18, 2018 - 7:30pm, McDonnell Hall, Room 162


The lecture is sponsored by the St. Louis Astronomical Society and is open to the public.


Abstract:  Building on a heritage of over 20 years of robotics exploration on the surface of Mars, NASA is preparing for the next step in martian exploration, the 2020 Mars rover. The last four Mars rovers have made ground breaking discoveries in NASA's campaign to "follow the water," and through their work we now know that Mars was once warm and wet enough to have liquid water, rivers and lakes, at its surface. Now we are ready to take the next step. Mars 2020 will not only search for signs ancient habitable conditions on Mars, but will also directly search for signs of past microbial life. Mars 2020 is also the first step in the holy grail of Mars science, sample return! The rover will drill and collect rock cores as it drives around and cache them for a future mission to pick up, load into a rocket, and return to Earth.


I'm a NASA Earth and Space Science Fellow and PhD candidate in Washington University in St. Louis' Earth and Planetary Science Department, where my dissertation research focuses on analyzing geochemical data returned from past and present Mars rover missions. I have spent the last two summers working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. While there I worked as a systems engineer on various aspects of the 2020 Mars rover, and in hazard assessment of potential landing sites for 2020.

MCSS welcomes new faculty member Bronwen Konecky, Dept. of Earth and Planetary Sciences

Dr. Bronwen Konecky joined the faculty of Earth and Planetary Sciences in Spring 2018. Dr. Konecky received her undergraduate degree in Environmental Science from Barnard College, Columbia University. After earning her Bachelor’s degree she spent several years working in international development, coordinating environmental research and restoration in sub-Saharan African villages for a program at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. Dr. Konecky then moved on to pursue graduate study in tropical climate and paleoclimate, focusing on reconstructing past environments using the geochemistry of lake sediments. She earned both Masters and PhD degrees in Geologic Sciences from Brown University. Her dissertation title was “Decadal to Orbital Scale Climate Change in the Indian Ocean Region: Precipitation Isotopic Perspectives from East Africa and Indonesia.” After finishing her Ph.D., she undertook postdoctoral training in paleoclimate modeling at Georgia Tech and the University of Colorado Boulder, working closely with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, CO. Dr. Konecky’s research investigates tropical climate variability and climate change using tools of stable isotope hydrology, paleolimnology, organic geochemistry, and modeling. She is currently building new laboratory facilities for climate research in EPS using both mud and models. She also looks forward to exploring her other favorite “M” word, music, in St. Louis.