Visiting Mars Scientist

Dr. Richard Zurek, NASA’s Chief Scientist for the Mars Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, stopped by Embassy London on January 17 at the end of a week-long conference at Oxford University on Mars atmospheric research.  Dr. Zurek provided an overview of Mars research past, present, and future to an audience of embassy staff, their families, and guests from other missions. You can watch that entertaining presentation here and learn how cutting edge science is unlocking mysteries about the planet most similar to our own.

After the presentation at the Embassy and spirited Q&A, Dr. Zurek headed to Imperial University, where he met with Professor W. Thomas Pike, whose work in micro engineering contributed to the Phoenix Mars Lander mission. In a reminder of the trans-Atlantic nature of space research, Prof. Pike previously worked with Dr. Zurek at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and is currently working with an American technology company on elements of the InSight mission to explore the interior of Mars, scheduled for 2016.

Dr. Zurek (right) and Prof. Pike (left) inspecting a piece of technical equipment from the Phoenix program

Research from the Phoenix program has already led to the development of new earth-focused technology, with commercial applications, including a tool for extremely sensitive surface measurements (seen below) used to analyse contact lenses and other products.

A commercially available measurement tool developed out of the Mars Phoenix program

Dr. Zurek also spoke with a group of students at Imperial College, just before he left for the airport to head back to his work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA.  We’re very grateful to him for taking the time to share his cutting-edge space science work with us, as well as for his ongoing commitment to strengthening science and technology connections between the United States and UK.  Thanks also to Prof. Pike and Imperial College for the great visit.

Dr. Zurek (left) and Prof. Pike (right) speaking with a group of Imperial College students

Note: This is my first post to the Embassy London ESTH blog. I just started as the new ESTH Officer, taking over for Sandra. I look forward to sharing more with you soon.

-Aaron