Hansjürg Geiger
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Mars Workshop @ EPFL Abstracts
Destination Gale - MSL on the way to detect alien life? Dr Hansjürg Geiger , Exobiologist, University of Bern Mars Science Laboratory, nicknamed Curiosity, a car-size rover NASA launched to Mars in November 2011, is heading for Gale crater, a huge 3.5 to 3.8 billion year old impact crater, that once was probably filled with sediments. Gale crater has been selected from a shortlist of candidate landig sites because its floor shows signs of clays and sulfate salts, which both are known to form in water. After its landing, the rover will travel towards Gale‘s central mountain. On its route, the vehicle will have the opportunity to analyze a rich variety of different layers, opening us a chance to reconstruct Martian environments starting from very old times. The rover‘s science payload is designed to study the Martian surface in great details and should help to find clues about the possible habitability of ancient environments on the Red Planet. Furthermore, Curiosity is equipped with instruments that allows it to search for carbon compounds, the building blocks of life on earth. While the rover is not built to detect life directly, such organic molecules could be indicators for ancient or present life on Mars. The presentation will show what kind of lifeforms we can hope to find on our cosmic neighbor and where to look for, based on what we know from the most primitive organisms on our own planet and from earlier observations on Mars and in its atmosphere.