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Mars Science Laboratory


ARES Involvement in Curiosity Mission Operations

Curiosity is run by a team of hundreds of scientists and engineers across the world. For the first 90 sols (martian days) of the mission, all of the scientists and engineers worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. Now, the engineers remain at JPL, but most of the scientists work remotely from their institutions. Many scientists in ARES play important roles in the operation of Curiosity, particularly in the operation of the Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) and Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instruments. CheMin and SAM are both located inside the rover and analyze scooped sediments or drilled rock powders. CheMin is an X-ray diffractometer with X-ray fluorescence capabilities. CheMin transmits an X-ray beam through a sample that has been sieved to <150 um. The diffracted X-rays are collected with a single CCD, and CheMin team members use these X-ray diffraction patterns to identify and quantify the minerals in a sample down to a detection limit of ~1-2 wt%. SAM is a suite of three instruments: a mass spectrometer, gas chromatograph, and tunable laser spectrometer. With these instruments, SAM can measure the gases emitted from a rock or soil sample as it is heated to help identify minerals, especially those below the detection limit of CheMin, and to look for compounds of carbon and other light elements, like hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen.

Doug Ming
Doug Ming

Doug Ming is a Co-Investigator on the CheMin and SAM instruments. During daily tactical operations, he is the Science Operations Working Group (SOWG) Chair and leads the science team through all tactical science meetings and directs the team to a consensus on daily science activities.

Dick Morris
Dick Morris

Dick Morris is a Co-Investigator on the CheMin and SAM instruments. He is a Payload Downlink Lead (PDL) for CheMin, so on a daily basis, he downlinks data from the CheMin instrument and assesses instrument health.

Doug Archer
Doug Archer

Doug Archer is a Collaborator and Payload Uplink Lead (PUL) on the SAM instrument. As PUL, he creates, validates, and delivers sequences to the SAM instrument. He is also a Lead for the Geology and Mineralogy Science Theme Group. As a Science Theme Lead, he advocates for science observations and helps develop the daily activity plans for the rover.

Liz Rampe
Liz Rampe

Liz Rampe is a Co-Investigator on the CheMin instrument. She is the CheMin Operations Lead, so she is in charge of training new CheMin operations team members and of keeping all current CheMin operations team members current on their training. She is also a PUL and PDL for CheMin.

ARES Involvement in Curiosity Mission Science

In addition to working on tactical rover operations, many scientists in ARES help interpret the data that are returned by Curiosity. A primary science goal of the Mars Group at ARES is to characterize the ancient aqueous environments on Mars through interpretations of the minerals and chemical composition of the surface. Doug Ming, Dick Morris, Paul Niles, Doug Archer, Joanna Clark, Trevor Graff, Tanya Peretyazhko, Liz Rampe, and Brad Sutter synthesize Mars-relevant minerals in the laboratory or collect these minerals from across the world to study them with instruments similar to those on Curiosity. With testbed instruments of CheMin and SAM, ARES scientists can create datasets that are directly comparable to those made by the instruments on Curiosity. Doug Ming, Doug Archer, Joanna Clark, and Brad Sutter study a group of salts called perchlorates that are rare on Earth but found in trace amounts in the rocks and soils measured by SAM on Curiosity. Doug Ming, Dick Morris, Paul Niles, Tanya Peretyazhko, and Liz Rampe study formation and alteration processes of clay and sulfate minerals to help characterize the environments in which they may have formed on Mars. Dick Morris, Tanya Peretyazhko, and Liz Rampe synthesize amorphous phases in the laboratory to help characterize amorphous materials that CheMin has discovered in every rock and soil sample measured to date.

CheMin team members collecting samples at Griffith Park, CA
Figure 4. Some of the CheMin team members collecting samples at Griffith Park, CA. From left: Allan Treiman, Dick Morris, Dave Blake, Liz Rampe, and Dave Vaniman. (Image Credit: D. T. Vaniman)