NASA put chemistry on Mars and now the Royal Society of Chemistry is offering the public an exclusive behind-the-scenes insight into the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover’s mission, via a live online exchange with rover driver Paolo Bellutta.
Bellutta, one of the ‘robot chemist’ drivers, joined the RSC live from Pasadena, on Friday 7 September at 1600 BST for a question-and-answer session.
Signor Belluta works at the legendary Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), where he has been handling the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity since 2003.
Curiosity is equipped with 180lb of scientific instruments to support its mission to find evidence that Mars may have supported life.
One of these instruments is called ChemCam, which will analyse the elemental composition of rocks and soil on the Martian surface.
In 2007, five years before Curiosity embarked on its mission, the RSC published a study by scientists working on the Mars Science Laboratory that assessed the best analytical methods for ChemCam to use to identify Martian rocks and determine the elements present in them.
Now, to celebrate Curiosity’s important chemistry mission, the RSC is making this paper, published in the Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectroscopy (JAAS), available free on the RSC website until the end of September.
The RSC also has free education resources available through Learn Chemistry to help budding space scientists understand the spectroscopic methods ChemCam is using to investigate the Martian surface.