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But before any of their plans launch from the drawing board, they would do well to heed the research going on today by hundreds of NASA scientists, including JMU alumna Jennifer Eigenbrode (’94), about the planet’s composition and atmosphere. gasco abu dhabi careers A planetary science astrobiologist based at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, Eigenbrode joined NASA in 2007 as a member of the Sample Analysis at Mars team for the Mars Science Laboratory mission.

“SAM is an instrumental laboratory in the belly of the rover,” Eigenbrode says of the devices housed within Curiosity, a car-sized rover with a big mission: to determine if Mars was ever able to support microbial life. hp gas online booking phone number Since landing in 2012, Curiosity’s robotic arm has gathered rock and dust from the Martian landscape, delivered the samples to the instruments and heated them to produce gases. “One of my jobs is to study the data that is transmitted from that instrument so we can analyze their composition,” Eigenbrode says. “I want to know if there are organics in the rock samples.”

In June, Eigenbrode’s team published exciting news in Science. electricity questions grade 6 After engaging in rigorous analysis and reanalysis, scientists announced they had found organic molecules preserved in 3-billion-year-old sedimentary rocks at the base of Mount Sharp on Mars. “Finding organics doesn’t tell us there was life there,” Eigenbrode cautions, “but it’s an important clue to where we should look for evidence of life, in this case, a past life.”

While the Science paper reported on a key mission finding, Eigenbrode, who earned a Bachelor of Science degree in geology at JMU, points to several other mission highlights as favorite moments of discovery. gas nozzle stuck in car Early in the mission, the team discovered a conglomerate rock, one filled with small and large rounded pebbles. “That told us that those individual pebbles had to have been bounced along a stream channel by a fluid for a very long time in order to get rounded off,” Eigenbrode says. “So there is a process there that we identify as being one associated with river flow. gas laws worksheet chapter 5 answers We didn’t know that when we landed.”

All of these findings convince Eigenbrode and her fellow scientists that they have scratched the surface of a rich research base, especially if humans are one day to travel to Mars. electricity equations physics The Curiosity mission has revealed several obstacles that must be addressed for astronaut safety, such as the presence of perchlorates, compounds toxic to humans at the levels found on Mars. gas knife lamb Dust storms could also prove disastrous to humans and equipment. “It’s so fine, it gets everywhere and it sticks,” Eigenbrode says. Then there’s the radiation coming down and the wide temperature swings. “It gets really cold there,” she says, “and anywhere between 60 to 80 degrees Celsius temperature swings occur on a daily basis.”

Until that day, Eigenbrode is excited to be part of the Curiosity mission. “I am a geologist on the surface of Mars; I’m just not physically there. All the fundamental geology that I learned at James Madison, I apply on a regular basis on the Mars mission. gas 93 octane But geology is only one discipline of the science necessary to address the bigger questions that we seek to answer.”

Eigenbrode, who earned a master’s degree in geological sciences at Indiana University, a doctoral degree in geosciences at Pennsylvania State University and was a postdoctoral fellow in the Geophysical Laboratory at Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C., brings her experience to the mix of interdisciplinary scientists with expertise in geology, chemistry, biology, physics and atmospheric science, who all come together to answer questions posed by the “Red Planet.”