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Thu, 06 May


Online event, Zoom.

Mars Mission 2020

Hosted by TechSolent, this is an overview and update on NASA’s Mars 2020 Mission. Our speaker is Associate Professor Jessica Whiteside of the University of Southampton, whose department is trying to identify evidence of life on Mars based on rock samples.

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Mars Mission 2020
Mars Mission 2020

Time & Location

06 May 2021, 17:00 – 18:00

Online event, Zoom.


About the Event

On July 30th 2020, the Perseverance Rover blasted off on an Atlas V-541 rocket from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, landing on Feb 18th 2021.

The Rover will search for signs of ancient microbial life, which will advance NASA's quest to explore the past habitability of Mars. Hunting for past life requires an impressive array of cutting-edge instruments to tackle the question from many angles, including a drill to collect core samples of Martian rock and soil, then store them in sealed tubes for pickup by a future mission in the next decade that will ferry them back to Earth for detailed analysis. Perseverance will also test technologies (e.g producing oxygen from Martian air) to help pave the way for future human exploration of Mars.

Associate Professor at the University of Southampton Jessica Whiteside will cover:

1)  the four science objectives of the mission:

  • Geology: Study the rocks and landscape at its landing site to reveal the region’s history
  • Astrobiology: Determine whether an area of interest was suitable for life, and look for signs of ancient life itself
  • Sample Caching: Find and collect promising samples of Martian rock and soil that could be brought back to Earth in the future
  • Prepare for Humans: Test technologies that would help sustain human presence on Mars someday

2)  the mission purpose:

  • Technology demonstrations aboard Perseverance (MOXIE & Ingenuity, the helicopter).
  • Entry,  Descent and Landing technologies (Range trigger,  navigation, aeroshell sensor package).

3) Her role and that of the University of Southampton in this exciting project and

4) Jessica will answer the only question that really matters:

  • Is Mark Watney still growing potatoes, using red soil and reclaimed water, under a dome, in a neighbouring Martian crater?

Our speaker is:

Associate Professor of Geochemistry Dr. Jessica H. Whiteside completed a BSc in Geology/Biological Sciences with honors at Mount Holyoke College and a PhD with distinction from Columbia University in Earth and Environmental Sciences in 2006. She was Assistant Professor of Geological Sciences at Brown University before joining the Department of Ocean and Earth Science at University of Southampton in 2013. She is a Visiting Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has been a Visiting Professor at Tohoku University and a Research Associate in Paleobiology at US Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian Institution).

An explorer at heart, she actively studies the geologic record through field- and drilling-based investigations of major mass extinctions and sudden climate change events in Earth’s past.

 The crux of her current research focuses on the use of organic molecular fossils (“biomarkers”) and their isotopic composition to decipher mechanisms of (mass) extinctions, ecosystem response, and ecologic resilience during intervals of abrupt global change. 

She also pursues research on the nature of transitions between greenhouse and icehouse worlds, the relation of climate change on geological time scales to the orbital and axial geometry of planets, and the limits of planetary habitability, including forays into terrestrial analogues for potential life-favouring environments on ancient Mars.


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