Fri, 2 November 2012
On today’s episode Dr. Ralf Gellert, principal investigator of the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectromer, or APXS, one of the primary instruments on the Mars Curiosity rover, joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot to discuss how his instrument is currently assisting in the search for signs of Martian habitability. Dr. Gellert compares Curiosity to its predecessors, especially the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity on which he continues to work. He describes how Curiosity's ten instruments together contribute to the mission goals, ponders whether we'll ever know for sure if Mars was, or was not, habitable, and shares his hope that the next step in Martian exploration would be a sample return mission. Gellert gives a feel for the complexity and scale of planetary exploration missions, describing how government, research institutions and private industry collaborate, and how Curiosity has become and international project.
In Current in Space we report on the discovery of super-luminous supernovae out at edge of the observable universe, and provide an update on Voyager 1 and its mission to a different edge - that of our own solar system.
About Ralf Gellert
Dr. Ralf Gellert is a German-born physicist who in 2005 became an Assistant Professor of Physics at the University of Guelph in Canada. He previously worked as a research scientist at the University of Mainz and the Max-Plank Institute for Chemistry, also in Mainz, Germany. After leading the successful proposal to NASA, he became the principal investigator of the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer, or APXS instrument, one of the primary instruments currently on board NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover. The APXS is designed to analyze the elements of a Marsian sample through alpha particle and X-ray bombardment.