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 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.
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.