August 3, 2012
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
AMY KELLY, Media Relations director
CONCORDIA COLLEGE PROFESSOR PLAYS ROLE
IN NASA’S HISTORIC MARS ROVER MISSION SCHEDULED TO LAND MONDAY
Concordia College, Moorhead, Minn., physics professor Dr. Heidi Manning helped test one of 10 instruments aboard the Mars Science Laboratory “Curiosity,” which is scheduled to land at 12:31 a.m. Monday, Aug. 6. Manning worked with the Sample Analysis at Mars or SAM instrument, which will be looking for organic molecules. After the rover lands, Manning will be working at the Goddard Space Center in Washington, D.C., analyzing data SAM sends back and trying to answer a question that has been posed for a number of years, “Is or has there been life on Mars?”
“The SAM instrument is focused on what chemicals are present on Mars,” Manning says. “So there is carbon there, but what molecules does it form? And does it form the building blocks of life?”
The rover landing is the most complex ever attempted by NASA. It has even been referenced as the “seven minutes of terror.” Seven minutes is the amount of time it should take for the rover to descend from the top of Mars’ atmosphere to the surface.
“It’s the thing I’ve held my breath about the most,” Manning says. “The landing is just an amazing engineering phenomenon.”
NASA is broadcasting and streaming the landing live. To find out more about the mission, visit the NASA newsroom at http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/news/newsroom/ .
To speak with Dr. Manning about her involvement in this project, please call Amy Kelly at (218) 299-3642 to arrange an interview.