Mars rover scientist Dr. Melissa Rice lectures Nov. 26

When NASA successfully landed an exploration vehicle on the planet Mars in August 2012, the mission achieved an extraordinary feat of exploration in our galaxy. The land also meant that the work of dozens of scientists involved in the project only had only begun.

One of those scientists was Kingsport native and Dr. Melissa Rice, a member of the Mars exploration team, who will visit Northeast State Community College this month to share her fascinating experiences and take her audience on a voyage to the Red Planet.

Dr. Melissa Rice and the MSL Rover
Dr. Melissa Rice and the MSL Rover

Northeast State invites the public to her presentation, “Exploring Mars with NASA’s Opportunity and Curiosity Rovers” on Tuesday, Nov. 26, at 1:30 p.m. in the Northeast State Auditorium (A202) on the main campus. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Rice is a Science Team Collaborator on NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity rover and a faculty member at the California Institute of Technology.  She was involved in the landing site selection process for MSL rover and worked to assess the science potential of the planet’s Eberswalde Crater.  She has worked on mission operations for the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) Spirit and Opportunity since 2007.

As part of her research, Rice compiled data from the rover’s 17 cameras to interpret the mineralogy, sedimentology and stratigraphy of Rover’s landing site on Mars in Gale Crater.  She is currently working with Dr. John Grotzinger on interpreting the stratigraphy and mineralogy of significant sections on Mars.

This research seeks to help constrain the habitability of ancient environments on Mars. Rice received her Ph.D. in January of 2012 in the Department of Astronomy at Cornell University, with minor concentrations in Geology and Science Communication.

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