By William Green
James E. Lockwood Jr. Director of Beloit College’s Logan Museum of Anthropology
BELOIT, Wis. — The lead scientist for the Mars Curiosity expedition will visit Beloit, Wis., early next year to receive the Roy Chapman Andrews Society’s Distinguished Explorer Award.
Dr. John Grotzinger will discuss his research and discoveries on the red planet during the award presentation Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, at 4:30 p.m., in Eaton Chapel on the Beloit College campus. The program will be free and open to the public. Earlier that day, Dr. Grotzinger will discuss his work with area youth in an assembly at Beloit Memorial High School.
After a long journey and a complex and nerve-wracking landing, the SUV-size Curiosity is exploring Mars and making new discoveries every day. It is now scooping up dirt samples, using X-rays and lasers to identify the minerals in Martian soil. It is also starting to analyze the Martian air and will soon start drilling into rocks as it drives to a mountain that is almost 3 1/2 miles high.
The one-ton Curiosity has been described as “a six-wheeled geochemistry lab and the most sophisticated machine ever sent to another planet.”
Updates on Curiosity are posted on the Mars Science Laboratory website and on Curiosity’s Twitter feed, @MarsCuriosity.
Dr. Grotzinger is a geologist who studies the early history of Earth and other planets. He is a professor of geology at the California Institute of Technology. Before moving to Caltech, he was professor of earth sciences and director of the Earth Resources Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Among his honors and awards, he has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences and received the National Science Foundation’s Young Investigator Award, the Fred Donath Medal from the Geological Society of America, the Henno Martin Medal from the Geological Society of Namibia, and the Charles Doolittle Walcott Medal from the National Academy of Sciences.
This presentation marks the second time the Beloit-based organization has celebrated explorations on Mars. In 2006, the society recognized the work of Dr. Steve Squyers, principal investigator for explorations conducted using the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity.
The program featuring Dr. Grotzinger will be the 11th Distinguished Explorer Award event of the Roy Chapman Andrews Society, in association with Beloit College. Founded in 1998, the society’s mission is to honor the legacy of one of the most celebrated explorers of the 20th century by educating the public about Andrews’ life, work and adventures; promoting the value of scientific exploration and discovery; and emphasizing Andrews’ lifetime ties to Beloit. In addition to Dr. Squyers, other previous award recipients include the following:
• Dr. Michael J. Novacek, leader of the first Western expedition to the Gobi Desert since Andrews’ discovery of the first nest of dinosaur eggs there in 1922;
• Dr. Mark Plotkin, ethnobotanist and bio-prospector for new medicines developed from the plants and practices of traditional healers of the Amazon jungle;
• Dr. Robert Ballard, discoverer of the RMS Titanic and founder of the Jason Project, an educational tool enabling students to watch live transmissions from underwater robot explorers;
• Dr. Lonnie Thompson and Ellen Mosley-Thompson, scientific “ice hunters” who examine the climate and environmental history of the Earth through the analysis of glacial core samples;
• Dr. Mark Moffett, Beloit-bred ecologist, who combines science, exploration, and photography in a unique blend of discovery and story-telling;
• Dr. Paul Sereno, paleontologist, discoverer of “Super-Crocs” and dinosaurs, and co-founder of Project Exploration, engaging inner-city students and teachers in science;
• Dr. Sylvia Earle, oceanographer, founder of Deep Ocean Exploration and Research, and former chief scientist for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration;
• Dr. Steve Lekson, archaeologist, curator and professor at the Museum of Natural History, University of Colorado at Boulder; and
• Dr. Nathan Wolfe, virus hunter, founder/director of the Global Viral Forecasting Initiative, and visiting professor at Stanford University.
For information about reserved seating at the award ceremony and tickets for a celebratory dinner with Dr. Grotzinger, contact the Roy Chapman Andrews Society at (608) 514-1722 or at www.roychapmanandrewssociety.org.
Posted Jan. 30, 2013