Curriculum Vitae - Spirit, Mars Exploration Rover A

An artist's concept of a NASA Mars Exploration Rover Image credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell University
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January 26, 2010

NAME: Spirit, Mars Exploration Rover A

ADDRESS:"Troy," 14.6 degrees South, 175.5 degrees East, Gusev Crater, Mars, 4th Rock from the Sun

PROFESSIONAL GOAL: To investigate the historical geology and climate of Mars, but would like to do less travel than in the past

EMPLOYMENT HISTORY: Geologist, meteorologist, chemist, photographer and mountain climber for NASA, working in the field since Jan. 3, 2004

TECHNICAL EXPERIENCE:

  • Trekked 7,730 meters (4.8 miles) across Gusev Crater, including driving backwards after the right front wheel stopped working in 2006
  • Crossed the Columbia Hills, including scaling a 30.2 degree-incline at "West Spur" and reaching the 82-meter (269-foot) summit of "Husband Hill," the highest peak in the range
  • Returned 127,000 raw images and 16 color, 360-degree panoramic mosaics
  • Drilled into 15 rock targets and scoured 92 with my brush
  • Survived three Martian winters despite low light and low energy for my solar panels

MAJOR SCIENTIFIC ACCOMPLISHMENTS:
  • Unearthed a patch of nearly pure silica, the main ingredient of window glass, in 2007 while dragging my right front wheel. The silica patch, dubbed "Gertrude Weise," provided strong evidence that ancient Mars was much wetter than it is now because it was likely produced in an environment of hot springs or steam vents. It is my biggest scientific achievement to date.
  • Found evidence of a long-ago explosion at a bright, low plateau called "Home Plate" in 2006. I saw coarse, bulbous grains overlaying finer material, which fits with the pattern of accumulation of material falling to the ground after a volcanic or impact explosion. These rocks, some of which had never been seen before on Mars, revealed the crater's violent history.
  • Captured several movies of dust devils in motion in 2005, providing the best look of the wind effects on the Martian surface as they were happening.
  • Churned up bright Martian soil in 2006 at a place named "Tyrone" that contained loads of sulfur and a trace of water. This material could be a volcanic deposit formed around ancient gas vents or could have been left behind by water that dissolved these minerals underground and evaporated when they came to the surface and evaporated.
  • Discovered a surprising variety of bedrock in the Columbia Hills in 2004, showing a complex geological history for the region. Some of the rocks showed evidence of alteration by water.

EDUCATION: Built and trained at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. After reaching Mars, completed post-graduate courses online in autonomous processing with special attention to target tracking, hazard navigation and cloud recognition.

OTHER SKILLS:

  • Extremely independent, but work well in teams
  • Adapt well to challenging environments
  • Nimble with new media, regularly updating my website, Twitter and Facebook

REFERENCE:
Steve Squyres, of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., principal investigator for the Mars rovers' science instruments: "Spirit has been a wonderful workhorse. Because of Spirit's visit to the Columbia Hills, we know it was a violent place, a place churned by impacts and volcanic explosions. Spirit has shown us an ancient Mars that was very different from the Mars we see today."

AWARDS:
2004 Best of the Best - Software of the Year Award from NASA
2004 Best of What's New Grand Award from Popular Science
2005 Laureates Hall of Fame Award from Aviation Week and Space Technology
2007 Best Corporate/Team Achievement Award at the Sir Arthur Clarke Awards in England
2009 Thomas O. Paine Award for the Advancement of Human Exploration of Mars from the Planetary Society



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