Mars Curiosity rover scientist gives Feb. 22 lecture

Dr. Heidi Manning, professor of physics at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., will lecture about her work on the Mars “Curiosity” rover project on Friday, Feb. 22.

Manning’s lecture, “The Curiosity Rover on Mars,” will be held in Hagg-Sauer Hall 100 on the BSU campus; it will begin at 7 p.m. and is open free to the public.

Manning is spending this academic year working with the Mars Science Laboratory Mission; her work focuses on the rover’s Sample Analysis on Mars (SAM) instrument suite. The suite is a complex chemistry laboratory that measures chemical composition of atmosphere, soil and rock samples.

Manning’s presentation will include an overview of the Curiosity mission, some details on the SAM instrument suite and a summary of the results obtained on the mission so far.

The “Curiosity” rover was launched on Nov. 26, 2011, as part of the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft. “Curiosity” successfully landed on Mars on Aug. 5, 2012, completing a 36-week flight; its mission on Mars is planned to last for two years.

The rover carries 10 science instruments with a total mass 15 times as large as the science payloads on previous Mars rovers “Spirit” and “Opportunity.” It includes tools that are new to Mars exploration missions, including a laser-firing instrument for checking elemental composition of rocks from a distance. “Curiosity” uses a drill and scoop at the end of its robotic arm to gather soil and powdered samples of rock interiors, then sieves and parcels the samples into analytical laboratory instruments inside the rover.

Manning helped develop the SAM instrument suite during a summer research assignment at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in 2011, and also worked on the development and calibration team for the ion and neutral mass spectrometer for NASA’s Cassini Orbiter, which is studying the atmospheric composition of Titan and Saturn. She earned her bachelor’s degree in physics at Gustavus Adolphus College and has a doctorate in physics from the University of Minnesota.

Manning’s lecture is sponsored by the Bemidji State University affiliate of the Minnesota Space Grant Consortium.

Heidi L. K. Manning
Mars Science Laboratory
Mars Curiosity on Facebook
Mars Curiosity on Twitter
Cassini Orbiter