NM Natural History Scientist Selected for Mars Rover Team
November 23rd, 2020
The New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science (MNHS) is proud to announce that one of the museum’s very own geologists was among 13 scientists recently selected by NASA to the science team of the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover mission. The new mission scientists will perform scientific investigations as part of the team operating the Perseverance rover when it lands on February 18, 2021. Dr. Larry Crumpler, a volcanology and space sciences researcher at the Museum was selected after a national and international search for science participants for the upcoming mission to the Red Planet.
The scientists selected are from universities and institutes around the world. MNHS is one of only two museums represented in this mission with the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. This means that MNHS will play a pivotal role in its second major NASA Mars rover mission and will be able to offer New Mexicans real-time information about the discoveries of Perseverance.
In his new role as a science team member on Perseverance, Crumpler continues his rover-related Mars research. Crumpler previously spent 15 years as a scientist on the Spirit and Opportunity missions, where MNHS was one of only two museums nationwide to be a part of the mission. In his new role on the Perseverance team, he will be documenting the geology along the rover’s path, much like a geologist does in the field. He will be making use of most of the instruments on the Perseverance rover to facilitate the investigation, including the SuperCam built by a team at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
"The Spirit and Opportunity rovers confirmed the presence of water in the past on Mars and the fact that the planet has complex geology that is similar in many ways to New Mexico," said Crumpler. "Now we are going to Mars to look for evidence of past life. So the Space Sciences department at the Museum will now encompass some aspects of the Museum’s other specialty - fossils. We will be looking for microfossils or other evidence of past microbial life – in this case, on Mars instead of in New Mexico."
One of Crumpler’s tasks on the mission will include evaluating the use of the new helicopter “Ingenuity” for geologic research along the rover’s traverse in its landing site, the Jezero Crater. Crumpler had been a science team member on the development of the proposed Mars helicopter “Scout” in 2014, which was adopted as a technology experiment on the Perseverance mission.
Perseverance will land at the site of an ancient Martian river delta. The mission goals include a search for evidence for past microbial life preserved in the sediments.
Keep up to date with the progress of Perseverance as it travels toward Mars on the NASA website: https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020
About the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science
The New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science is a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, under the leadership of the Board of Trustees of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science. Programs and exhibits are generously supported by the New Mexico Museum of Natural History Foundation, through the generous support of donors. Established in 1986, the mission of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science is to preserve and interpret the distinctive natural and scientific heritage of our state through extraordinary collections, research, exhibits, and programs designed to ignite a passion for lifelong learning. The NMMNHS offers exhibitions, programs, and workshops in Geoscience, including Paleontology and Mineralogy, Bioscience, and Space Science. It is the Southwest’s largest repository for fossils and includes a Planetarium and a large format 3D DynaTheater.
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