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May 8, 2018 Dinner Meeting Abstract

“Exploring the evolution of an ancient lake basin on Mars with the Curiosity rover”


Presented by: Dr. Katie Stack Morgan, Jet Propulsion Laboratory


Since the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover arrived in Gale crater in August 2012, the Curiosity team has addressed questions of early Mars habitability through the exploration of a diverse sequence of sedimentary rocks. For the past three years, Curiosity has been exploring its main exploration target—the lowermost strata of the 5 km-high mountain in the center of Gale crater, informally named Mount Sharp. During the trek upward through the basal units of Mount Sharp, Curiosity has observed the evolution of an ancient lake system, including evidence for cycles of wetting and drying, deposition by wind and rivers, and the pervasive interaction of water with sediments in the shallow subsurface. This talk will review recent discoveries by the Curiosity rover and will show how the rover’s exploration continues to reveal the complex and long-lived depositional history of the Gale crater basin.


Katie Stack Morgan is a research scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Deputy Project Scientist of the upcoming Mars 2020 rover mission, and a participating scientist on the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover mission. She graduated with a B.A. in geology and astronomy from Williams College in 2008 and earned her M.Sc. and Ph.D. in geology from Caltech in 2011 and 2015, respectively. For her work on the Curiosity rover, she was named to the 2013 Forbes’ list of 30 under 30 and has earned several NASA Group Achievement Awards. Katie’s research focuses on the Martian sedimentary rock record, using orbital and rover image data to understand the evolution of ancient surface processes on Mars.


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