UAlberta Scientist Chosen by NASA for the Mars 2020 Rover Mission

By Lubaba Hoque Modified on March 04, 2021

Dr. Chris Herd is one of 10 experts selected by NASA to help examine samples from the red planet.

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Dr. Chris Herd is one of 10 experts selected by NASA to help examine samples from the red planet.

The NASA Mars 2020 rover mission marks the first time that samples from Mars will be collected for potential return to Earth, through subsequent missions to the red planet. The mission launched in the summer of 2020.

The UAlberta connection

Chris Herd is a professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, as well as a curator of the Meteorite Collection at the University of Alberta. Herd will serve as one of the two returned sample scientists for the Mars rover mission. Thus, he will be part of a team responsible for making scientific and critical operations decisions for this mission.

Herd will analyze the Martian meteorites and other rocks to select samples that could provide important information about Mars' geological history.

"This is a dream come true for me. I will be helping select which rocks might someday be analyzed in labs on Earth," said Herd.

Herd was among the 10 experts selected by NASA and is the only Canadian. He is being funded by the Canadian Space Agency.

Significance of mission

Scientists believe that the rocks on Mars could provide evidence of past life. By choosing, collecting and storing rock samples from specific areas on Mars' surface with hopes to bring it back to Earth, scientists are laying the foundation for a new understanding of the red planet. The rover is operating in Jezero Crater, which is just north of Mars' equator and was home to an anicent river delta.

"Mars 2020 will let us choose where to collect samples and will allow us to get context for the rocks that are collected—their location, surrounding features, and more," explained Herd. "Returning samples with that context is the holy grail of Mars exploration."

The rover landed on Mars in February and is busy collecting material samples for later analysis back on Earth.

The goal of this mission is to search for signs of past microbial life and learn about Mars' climate and geology in order to prepare human exploration for future missions. The Mars 2020 mission will answer fundamental questions about the potential for life on Mars (YouTube).


Learn more about the Mars 2020 mission

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