Robert M. Walker Distinguished Public Lecture with Meenakshi Wadhwa on Bringing Mars Samples Back to Earth
The planet Mars has fascinated humans for centuries. But it is only in the last few decades that robotic orbiters, landers, and rovers have allowed us to explore Mars in ever increasing detail. Nevertheless, some of our biggest questions relating to the formation and planetary-scale evolution of Mars, including its geologic and climate evolution, the history of water and volatiles, as well as the potential for the development of life in its ancient past can only be addressed by detailed analyses of carefully selected martian samples in state-of-the-art Earth-based laboratories. The campaign to return Mars samples to Earth is underway with the currently on-going collection of well-documented samples by the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover. The Mars Sample Return (MSR) program represents the next phase of this campaign. Wadhwa will talk about the samples that have been collected so far and those that are expected to be collected in the near future, the scientific motivations for bringing these samples back, and how and when they are planned to be returned.
Meenakshi Wadhwa holding a lunar meteorite (Photo courtesy of ASU)