The Robotic Surface Exploration of Mars

John L. Callas, NASA'S Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Thursday, February 9, 2012, 3:30pm

Spanos Auditorium

This seminar is part of the Jones Seminars on Science, Technology, and Society series.

For many years, two intrepid robotic explorers, Spirit and Opportunity, have been conducting field geology day after day on Mars at two different locations on the surface. Originally designed for a 90-Martian day mission, the rovers have exceeded that requirement by more than two dozen times. The rovers have traversed great plains, climbed mountains, descended into deep craters and survived rover-killing dust storms and frigid winters. Importantly, as the rovers move, each day becomes a brand new mission with new sights and new geology to explore. Each rover has made significant discoveries in understanding the Red Planet and both rovers have found evidence of past habitable environments that could possibly have supported life. Although Spirit's mission has concluded after six years, great adventures still lie ahead for Opportunity even after eight years of operation on Mars. Soon, Opportunity will be joined on the surface by another, larger, more capable rover, the Mars Science Laboratory, Curiosity.

About the Speaker

John L. Callas has been project manager of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover project since March 2006. Previously, as science manager and then deputy project manager, he had helped lead the rover project since 2000. Callas grew up near Boston, Mass. He received his Bachelor's degree in Engineering from Tufts University, Medford, Mass., in 1981 and his Masters and Ph.D. in Physics from Brown University, Providence, R.I., in 1983 and 1987, respectively. He joined JPL to work on advanced spacecraft propulsion, which included such futuristic concepts as electric, nuclear and antimatter propulsion. In 1989 he began work supporting the exploration of Mars with the Mars Observer mission and has since worked on seven Mars missions. In addition to his Mars work, Callas is involved in the development of instrumentation for astrophysics and planetary science, and teaches mathematics at Pasadena City College as an adjunct faculty member.