Since Galileo first saw Mars through a telescope in 1610, the red planet has captivated astronomers and explorers. As one of our closest neighbors, scientists hope they can find answers to some of the greatest questions in history just beneath the Martian surface.
In our October Thought Leader Series, presented by The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), experts Dr. Kirsten Siebach, Dr. Scott Solomon, and retired astronaut Bill McArthur will discuss humanity’s future on the red planet.
ABOUT THE SPEAKERS
Dr. Siebach is an Assistant Professor in the Rice University Department of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences and specializes in Martian Geology. She researches “source-to-sink” sedimentary processes on Mars and early Earth to interpret the history of water and surface environments early in our solar system. She is currently a member of the Science and Operations Teams for the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity, and previously worked on the science and engineering teams for the Phoenix Lander and the two Mars Exploration Rovers. Dr. Siebach completed her PhD in Geology at Caltech, and then did postdoctoral research in geochemistry of Martian sediments at Stony Brook University.
Dr. Solomon is a biologist, professor, and science communicator. He teaches ecology, evolutionary biology, and scientific communication as an Associate Teaching Professor at Rice University. Dr. Solomon is also a Research Associate at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. He has a Ph.D. in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior from the University of Texas at Austin, where his research examined the evolutionary basis of biological diversity in the Amazon Basin. Before coming to Rice, he worked as a visiting researcher with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC and São Paulo State University in Rio Claro, Brazil.
Colonel McArthur was assigned to NASA Johnson Space Center in 1987 after graduating from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School and being designated an experimental test pilot. McArthur logged 224 days and 22 hours in space, including over 24 hours of spacewalk time, during three space shuttle missions and one long-duration stay at the International Space Station (ISS). He made his first flight on board space shuttle Columbia, as part of the STS-58 crew in 1993. McArthur then flew on space shuttle Atlantis for his second mission, STS-74, in 1995. McArthur made his first visit to the ISS in 2000, as part of space shuttle Discovery’s STS-92 mission. McArthur became a six-month resident of the space station on his final mission, Expedition 12, in 2005 and 2006.
There are practical and scientific reasons for humans to explore Mars. Among them, we know Mars is the most accessible place in the solar system. Exploring Mars provides the opportunity to possibly answer origin and evolution of life questions, and could someday be a destination for survival of humankind.
Additionally, we know Mars is unique across the entire solar system in that it is a terrestrial planet with an atmosphere and climate, its geology is known to be very diverse and complex (like Earth), and it appears that the climate of Mars has changed over its history (like Earth).
Overall, many of the key questions in solar system science can be addressed effectively by exploring Mars. This endeavor also serves to inspire the next generation of explorers and dramatically expand human knowledge.