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Science Team

The SAM Team is coordinated all over the globe. By accomplishing individual and group goals all across the world, the team has made a real statement to the power of cooperation and communication.



+ Paul Mahaffy – SAM PI:

Paul Mahaffy*What is your role in the SAM project?

Principal Investigator

What about SAM do you find most interesting? Most challenging?

Working with some of the best engineers and scientists on the planet to make lab-like measurements on the surface of Mars and extend the great work of the Spirit and Opportunity rovers.

Have you worked on other missions or flight instruments? If so which ones?

Several of the mass spectrometer projects described on this webpage.

What kind/level of education do you have?

Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry

What are your favorite things to do outside of work?

Play drop in volleyball on Friday evenings at Volleyball House.

+ Pan Conrad, SAM Deputy PI:

Pan ConradWhat is your role in the SAM project?

SAM deputy principal investigator, scientific co-investigator and investigation scientist. I also have the lead for providing the Organic Check Material (OCM) that will serve as an external standard for SAM.

What about SAM do you find most interesting? Most challenging?

I've never worked on a project capable of doing so many different science experiments before. Add that to doing them on another planet, and it's very exciting. I decided to be a scientist as a career change later in my life than most scientists and I never thought I would get to do experiments on Mars! The most challenging thing is understanding the relationship between writing requirements and doing the things you want to do. Requirements are the instructions the engineers use to build the instrument suite, so we have to be able to express in a very detailed way what we want it to do before it is even built. I imagine that this is what a computer programmer goes through when they try to write detailed instructions to get a robot to do something.

Have you worked on other missions or flight instruments? If so which ones?

This is my first one! I hope it is just the first :)

What kind/level of education do you have?

To do my job, you have to get a PhD in science. I am an interdisciplinary scientist, which means it's a mix of geology, chemistry, biology, physics and sometimes engineering! My PhD is in geology, but before that I studied music. If you work hard, you can fit more than one education into your life.

What are your favorite things to do outside of work?

I train in karate three days a week and I am a member of the Shenandoah Mountain Search and Rescue Group. I like to do almost everything I can think of, but there isn't too much time outside of work right now. It takes a lot of time and sacrifice to prepare for a robotic expedition, but I think it's definitely worth it!!!

+ Sushil Atreya:

Sushil AtreyaWhat is your role in the SAM project?

I have been involved in SAM from the time of its conceptual incarnation before it was actually proposed for MSL. I helped define and fine tune key science drivers of the SAM suite. Once we begin collecting the data on the surface of Mars, I will analyze and and interpret atmospheric trace gas and evolved gas measurements, including potential biomarkers such as methane, with the goal of understanding surface-atmosphere coupling, chemistry and climate evolution, and habitability of Mars. I also plan to participate in SAM science education and public outreach efforts.

What about SAM do you find most interesting? Most challenging?

It's the first time ever that we have a shot at addressing the most fundamental question about Mars: did Mars ever have the potential to sustain microbial life. It is also the most challenging question to address, but the instrument complement of SAM s carefully designed to do just that, with some help from other MSL instruments.

Have you worked on other missions or flight instruments? If so which ones?

Fresh out of graduate school, I got an opportunity to be a co-investigator on the UV Spectrometer team of the Voyager missions to the giant planets. Since then I have worked on the science and experiment teams of many planetary missions of the US, Europe, Japan and the former Soviet Union, including Juno Jupiter Polar Orbiter, Galileo Probe and Orbiter at Jupiter, Cassini-Huygens at Titan and Saturn, Mars Express and Venus Express Missions, to name just a few.

What kind/level of education do you have?

I have a PhD atmospheric and space science. My undergraduate and master's degrees were in physics, chemistry and math, and I teach in an engineering school.

What are your favorite things to do outside of work?

Cycling, hiking, exploring world's deserts and mountains, whenever I can steal a few free moments.

+ Mehdi Benna:

Mehdi BennaWhat is your role in the SAM project?

I am a member of the engineering team of SAM and a science collaborator of the investigation.

What about SAM do you find most interesting? Most challenging?

The complexity and the density of the instrument made its design (electrical, mechanical and thermal) extremely challenging. It was amazing to see all the elements of SAM coming together and interacting smoothly with each other. It is definitely a testimony to the skill of all the engineers who contributed to the design of the instrument.

Have you worked on other missions or flight instruments? If so which ones?

CONSERT on the Rosetta probe (ESA)

  • NGIMS on the Maven Mission (NASA)
  • NMS on the LADEE Mission (NASA)
  • MOMA on the ExoMars Rover (ESA/NASA)

    What kind/level of education do you have?

    Electrical Engineer and PhD in space science

    What are your favorite things to do outside of work?

    Flying Airplanes

  • + Lora Bleacher:

    Lora BleacherWhat is your role in the SAM project?

    I'm on the SAM Education and Public Outreach Team. I incorporate SAM science and engineering information into products and programs for students, teachers, and the general public.

    What about SAM do you find most interesting? Most challenging?

    I find it amazing that SAM combines so much scientific potential into such a small space (about the size of a microwave)! Due to the complexity of the SAM suite it can be challenging to accurately describe its capabilities.

    Have you worked on other missions or flight instruments? If so which ones?

    Yes, I have worked on the education and public outreach teams for several missions, including the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and MESSENGER missions.

    What kind/level of education do you have?

    M.S. in Geosciences, with a focus on meteorites and planetary geology

    What are your favorite things to do outside of work?

    Hanging out with family and friends, exercising, cooking, and reading

    + Oliver Botta:

    Mehdi BennaWhat is your role in the SAM project?

    As a member of the MSL team, I will perform: scientific support of the SAM investigation including analysis of data processing software code, analysis of chromatograms and mass spectra, and duties in MSL operations as a Science Theme Group member (data assessment, activity planning, and strategic planning).

    What about SAM do you find most interesting? Most challenging?

    Most interesting: the instrument has the capability to provide very interesting data that will help in the understanding of fundamental questions on the habitability of Mars, in the past or perhaps in the present.

  • Most challenging: SAM is extremely complex, and making it work such that we will receive the data we want will require a lot of teamwork. The interpretation of the data will be equally challenging and will probably require a lot of additional work on the SAM

    Have you worked on other missions or flight instruments? If so which ones?

    Yes, on the Mars Organic Detector instrument originally selected for the 2003 Mars lander mission.

    What kind/level of education do you have?

    Ph.D. in organic chemistry

    What are your favorite things to do outside of work?

    Spend time with my family, sports, read.

  • + Michel Cabane:

    Mehdi BennaWhat is your role in the SAM project?

    I have the responsibility of SAM's GC subsystem, developed in France (University of Paris, CNRS), funded by CNES

    What about SAM do you find most interesting? Most challenging?

    The most interesting is the search for organic molecules ; the most challenging is to have all SAM parts working altogether, especially concerning the (fruitful) French (Univ.of Paris) - US (GSFC) cooperation

    Have you worked on other missions or flight instruments? If so which ones?

    I worked on ACP experiment (aerosols) aboard Huygens probe in Titan's atmosphere (Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn), NASA-ESA mission, launched in 1997, landed in 2004 ; COSAC experiment (analysis of the soil) aboard the Philae lander of Rosetta/ comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko), ESA mission, launched in 2004, landing expected fin 2014 ; GAP experiment (analysis of the soil) aboard Phobos-Grunt, RosCosmos mission, to be launched in 2011, landing expected for 2013.

    What kind/level of education do you have?

    Thesis at University of Paris : ionisation of air (radioactivity, electrical discharges ; electric mobility and mass spectra), role of pollutants.

    What are your favorite things to do outside of work?

    Art (primitive art, roman numismatics), walking in the hills (fossils, archaeology : South of France), classical music.

    + Patrice Coll:

    Patrice CollWhat is your role in the SAM project?

    I'm SAM Deputy Co-Principal Investigator, and scientific Co-Investigator of SAM instrument. I am mainly involved in the developpement of the SAM_GC (Gas Chromatograph) instrument, supported by the French Space Agency (CNES). I am Professor at University Paris Diderot, France, member of LISA laboratory.

    What about SAM do you find most interesting? Most challenging?

    So much complexity in such a short time of development! And also the capacity for SAM folks to act as a whole team, with so many people and differences (I heard that even some French are on board!)

    Have you worked on other missions or flight instruments? If so which ones?

    Yes I did ! At the very end of its development and during the operations phase of the Aerosol Collector Pyrolyser experiment onboard Cassini-Huygens mission (NASA/ ESA), and currently for the Gas Analyser Package onboard Phobos-Grunt mission (Roskosmos) and for the Mars Organic Molecule Analyser on ExoMars mission (ESA). I also participate to several activities at Low Earth Orbit (International Space Station...).

    What kind/level of education do you have?

    Ph.D. in Environmental Chemistry

    What are your favorite things to do outside of work?

    Outside of work? What does that mean? Let's say playing rugby (oooh what a rude boy!) on Friday night and to travel with my family (India, USA...).

    + Jason Dworkin:

    Mehdi BennaWhat is your role in the SAM project?

    I am a collaborator for the derivatization samples that will allow the detection of polar organic compounds, potentially relevant for life.

    What about SAM do you find most interesting? Most challenging?

    The ability to do complex laboratory chemistry outside the laboratory is most interesting. Most challenging will be interpreting the unexpected results SAM will present.

    Have you worked on other missions or flight instruments? If so which ones?

    I am deputy project scientist for OSIRIS-REx, a New Frontiers 3 concept study and co-I for MOMA, an instrument for ExoMars.

    What kind/level of education do you have?

    Ph.D. in biochemistry

    What are your favorite things to do outside of work?

    Family time at home.

    + Jen Eigenbrode:

    Jen EigenbrodeWhat is your role in the SAM project?

    I am a MSL participating scientist.

    What about SAM do you find most interesting? Most challenging?

    I think the most challenging aspect of SAM will be in its application. As Earth scientists we are bias to what we know of Earth organic geochemistry. On Mars, we will need to depend on this knowledge base, but be open to moving beyond it. Mars may have been more like Earth in the past, but it has been vastly different for billions of years. Staying aware of our terrestrial biases and assumptions will be key to making scientific progress on understanding the history of organic materials on Mars and determining the source of the organic molecules Curiosity finds.

    Have you worked on other missions or flight instruments? If so which ones?

    SAM is the first flight instrument I have worked on and MSL will be my first planetary mission.

    What kind/level of education do you have?

    I have a Ph.D in Geosciences, with a strong background in field geology and organic geochemistry.

    What are your favorite things to do outside of work?

    I spend my free time whitewater kayaking on the Potomac River and other regional rivers. I also enjoy mountain biking, trail running, and skiing.

    + Heather Franz:

    Heather FranzWhat is your role in the SAM project?

    I'm a research analyst with the SAM science team. I use the SAM prototype instrument to perform evolved gas analysis of Mars analog rocks and mineral standards to facilitate interpretation of the data acquired on Mars. As an isotope geochemist, I.ve developed a method for measuring sulfur isotope ratios with SAM's Quadrupole Mass Spectrometer (QMS), since we no longer have a channel on the Tunable Laser Spectromter (TLS) that can measure sulfur isotopes. I.ve also developed software tools that will be used for SAM data analysis.

    What about SAM do you find most interesting? Most challenging?

    I think it's very exciting that SAM is carrying the most advanced instruments yet sent to Mars to search for signs of life or habitability. I'm thrilled to be part of the team, and I can't wait to see what we find on Mars. The most challenging aspect is coaxing SAM to make measurements it wasn't optimized to do.

    Have you worked on other missions or flight instruments? If so which ones?

    I joined the SAM team after working for 14 years in mission design and navigation here at GSFC. I've had the opportunity to work on many interesting missions, especially designing the unique trajectory for the Wind spacecraft and guiding it through 38 lunar gravity assist flybys. Besides Wind, I've also worked on Polar, Triana, MMS, IMP-8, SOHO, ACE, WMAP, ERBS, and the CGRO controlled reentry.

    What kind/level of education do you have?

    I earned a Ph.D. in Geology, focused on the sulfur isotopic composition of Martian meteorites. I also have a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering, B.A. in Dance, and M.S. in Applied Physics.

    What are your favorite things to do outside of work?

    I'm still passionate about dance, and I spend as much time as I can both dancing and attending dance performances in Washington and New York. I also enjoy playing piano, gardening, and hiking.

    + Caroline Freissinet:

    Caroline FreissinetWhat is your role in the SAM project?

    I'm a chemist, involved in the GC-MS part of SAM, and more specifically in the derivatization experiment, which enables SAM to detect and identify heavy organic molecules such as carboxylic and amino acids in Mars solid samples.

    What about SAM do you find most interesting? Most challenging?

    Most interesting is to see all the different persons, coming from such diverse backgrounds, all working on this same and one project which is SAM. This passionate work of all these people for a unique cause is incredible. Most challenging is to make something work as a whole on Mars when it's so complex to make each part of it work independently in the lab! Also, every little detail had to be thought carefully because there is nothing possible to add or remove once there, or noone to fix it. You can't forget anything. It's far beyond the level of when you are in the field trip and have to work with what you brought only, which is already so much challenging.

    Have you worked on other missions or flight instruments? If so which ones?

    I've worked during my PhD on research and technology program applied to the Mars Organic Molecules Analyzer (MOMA) experiment onboard the NASA-ESA joint ExoMars mission.

    What kind/level of education do you have?

    PhD in analytical chemistry which I defended at Ecole Centrale Paris in 2010. My background is in molecular biology, biochemistry and evolutionary biology.

    What are your favorite things to do outside of work?

    Outside of work, I love to be outside of the world, shooting the most remote and inspiring landscapes with my Nikon after endless hikes, vertical rockclimbing, mountain treks and/or backcountry skiing. I travel the world to find such stunning places and adrenaline to get there. I can still bring non-contaminated samples from such remote locations!

    + Claude Geffroy:

    Claude GeffroyWhat is your role in the SAM project?

    I am a member of the engineering team of SAM and a science collaborator of the investigation.

    What about SAM do you find most interesting? Most challenging?

    The complexity and the density of the instrument made its design (electrical, mechanical and thermal) extremely challenging. It was amazing to see all the elements of SAM coming together and interacting smoothly with each other. It is definitely a testimony to the skill of all the engineers who contributed to the design of the instrument.

    Have you worked on other missions or flight instruments? If so which ones?

    • CONSERT on the Rosetta probe (ESA) • NGIMS on the Maven Mission (NASA) • NMS on the LADEE Mission (NASA) • MOMA on the ExoMars Rover (ESA/NASA)

    What kind/level of education do you have?

    Electrical Engineer and PhD in space science

    What are your favorite things to do outside of work?

    Flying Airplanes

    + Danny Glavin:

    Danny GlavinWhat is your role in the SAM project?

    I am the Planetary Protection lead responsible for making sure that SAM does not contaminate the surface of Mars with terrestrial microbes. I participated in the development and optimization of the SAM derivatization experiment that will allow the gas chromatograph mass spectrometer to detect a variety of different organic compounds including amino and carboxylic acids. I was also recently selected by NASA to be a MSL Participating Scientist to help develop measurement protocols that will be used by SAM to detect amines of possible biological origin on Mars.

    What about SAM do you find most interesting? Most challenging?

    For me, the most interesting aspect of SAM is helping with the development of the most sensitive organics analyzer that has ever been flown to Mars. The most challenging aspect of SAM is the large number of people involved and working with the engineers to find solutions that balance the science goals with engineering constraints.

    Have you worked on other missions or flight instruments? If so which ones?

    I worked on the UREY instrument (an amino acid analyzer for Mars) that was originally selected for ESA's ExoMars rover mission before the instrument was descoped. Now I am a Co-Investigator on the Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer (MOMA) instrument that is part of the 2018 joint ESA/NASA ExoMars mission. I am also a Co-Investigator on the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission scheduled to launch in 2016 and return samples from asteroid 1999 RQ36 to Earth in 2023.

    What kind/level of education do you have?

    Ph.D. in Earth Science

    What are your favorite things to do outside of work?

    Spending time with my wife Florence and two children Thomas and Nicolas, going to the gym, piloting small aircraft, and playing softball and golf.

    + Fred Goesmann:

    Fred Goesmann What is your role in the SAM project?

    CoI of the GC part

    What about SAM do you find most interesting? Most challenging?

    My involvement in the hardware phase was rather small. I think, I missed something.

    Have you worked on other missions or flight instruments? If so which ones?

    Rosetta (COSAC), Beagle II (GAP), Phobos Grunt (gas analysis)

    What kind/level of education do you have?

    PhD in physics and materials science

    What are your favorite things to do outside of work?

    Play the Scottish Bagpipe, ride my recumbent bike

    + Andrea Jones:

    Andrea JonesWhat is your role in the SAM project?

    I am a member of the SAM Education and Public Outreach (EPO) Team. It is my job to stay current on science results from SAM and other instruments onboard the Curiosity rover, and to share this information with teachers, students, and the public in meaningful ways.

    What about SAM do you find most interesting? Most challenging?

    SAM is an amazingly complex, powerful scientific instrument. Trying to explain how it works and what it can (and cannot) do to non-scientists is difficult, but also lots of fun.

    Have you worked on other missions or flight instruments? If so which ones?

    Yes, I am currently a member of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter EPO Team. I have also worked with the Aura mission and the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) Science Team.

    What kind/level of education do you have?

    M.S. in Geosciences, with a focus in planetary geology

    What are your favorite things to do outside of work?

    Hiking, skiing, camping, stargazing, reading, and making homemade cheese!

    + Laurie Leshin:

    Laurie LeshinWhat is your role in the SAM project?

    I am a Co-Investogator on SAM, which is "NASA speak" for saying that I am a member of the SAM science team. I was involved in the original proposal for SAM many years ago.

    What about SAM do you find most interesting? Most challenging?

    The most fun thing for me about the SAM experiment if that it is essentially identical to experiments I have done in labs on Earth, but on the ground those labs were as large as a whole room (and SAM is the size of a microwave oven)! For example, for my PhD thesis I heated up samples of Martian meteorites, extracted the water and CO2, trapped them, and analyzed their abundance and isotope compositions to understand the history and evolution of martian volatiles. We are doing essentially the same experiment with SAM on the surface of Mars! That's so cool. But because I've done the experiment on Earth, I know how challenging and complicated it can be. So what we're doing with SAM is incredibly complex. It's a technological marvel. And when it works, we will learn so much!

    Have you worked on other missions or flight instruments? If so which ones?

    I'm also a member of the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) team on Curiosity, which measures bulk chemistry of rocks and soils, which will help us pick interesting samples for SAM. I was also involved in the Mars Polar Lander mission, which crashed on Mars in 1999. So, I know how difficult and heartbreaking exploring other worlds can be.

    What kind/level of education do you have?

    I have a PhD in Geochemistry.

    What are your favorite things to do outside of work?

    Outside of work is all about spending time with my family - my husband, stepsons, and dog and cat! I enjoy traveling to new places, cooking and eating yummy food, and baking cakes that look like things. I also enjoy giving my time to advance women and girls in STEM fields.

    + Eric Lyness:

    Eric LynessWhat is your role in the SAM project?

    I work on GSE software and science data analysis software.

    What about SAM do you find most interesting? Most challenging?

    Getting the most usable science data out of the SAMS raw data output.

    Have you worked on other missions or flight instruments? If so which ones?

    I previously worked on test software for MicroShutters for the James Webb Space Telescope and laser characterization systems for DESDnI.

    What kind/level of education do you have?

    I have a BS in computer science.

    What are your favorite things to do outside of work?

    Canoe camping with my family.

    + Charles Malespin:

    Charles MalespinWhat is your role in the SAM project?

    I am working on the detection of trace atmospheric noble gases and atmospheric methane using the SAM Hydrocarbon Trap. These gases of interest are separated and enriched from the other Martian atmospheric gases which allows for better measurements and analysis.

    What about SAM do you find most interesting? Most challenging?

    SAM is a very complex instrument and it takes a wide range of people to get it all working. I enjoy being exposed to the various disciplines required to take advantage of SAM's capabilities. The challenging part will be to carefully analyze all the data we will get from complementary instruments.

    Have you worked on other missions or flight instruments? If so which ones?

    This is my first flight mission, but hopefully not the last..

    What kind/level of education do you have?

    I have a degrees Astrophysics, Applied Physics, and Physics.

    What are your favorite things to do outside of work?

    I enjoy playing golf, soccer, and going out with friends around the DC area.

    + Heidi Manning:

    Heidi ManningWhat is your role in the SAM project?

    I am one of the people working on the education and public outreach of the SAM project. I also performed some laboratory testing that aided in the design of the SAM electronics.

    What about SAM do you find most interesting? Most challenging?

    I find the SAM mission very interesting and challenging because it is so complex. There are so many aspect to consider and so many elements to get working together. It really takes a huge team all working together to make this mission successful.

    Have you worked on other missions or flight instruments? If so which ones?

    I developed an instrument that flew on the Space Shuttle (the REFLEX instrument on STS 72). I also worked on the Cassini Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS) and the Huygen's probe Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer (GCMS).

    What kind/level of education do you have?

    I earned a B.A. in physics and a PH.D. in physics

    What are your favorite things to do outside of work?

    I enjoy swimming, bike riding and spending time with my children.

    + Amy McAdam:

    Amy McAdamWhat is your role in the SAM project?

    I'm a research scientist on the SAM science team. I perform evolved gas analysis (EGA) studies of Mars analog minerals and materials under SAM-like conditions, in support of similar measurements that will be taken by SAM on the surface of Mars.

    What about SAM do you find most interesting? Most challenging?

    I've always been fascinated by Mars and the possibility of past or present habitable environments there. It is very interesting and exciting to be involved with one of the most sophisticated instrument suites ever sent to investigate the geochemistry of the surface of Mars, including the organic geochemistry. One challenge has been learning how to best optimize SAM EGA experiments for the variety of materials that could be encountered on Mars.

    Have you worked on other missions or flight instruments? If so which ones?

    This is the first time I've worked on the team for a flight instrument.

    What kind/level of education do you have?

    Ph.D. in Geological Sciences

    What are your favorite things to do outside of work?

    Hiking, reading, biking, traveling, cooking

    + Chris McKay:

    Chris McKayWhat is your role in the SAM project?

    Connection of the results to astrobiology and the possibility of life on Mars.

    What about SAM do you find most interesting? Most challenging?

    The possible detection of organics despite the challenges of perchlorate and cosmic rays. This is both the most interesting and challening aspect to me.

    Have you worked on other missions or flight instruments? If so which ones?

    Phoenix to Mars, Huygens probe to Titan

    What kind/level of education do you have?

    Phd

    What are your favorite things to do outside of work?

    Field exploration of Mars analog environments

    + Tobias Owen:

    Tobias OwenWhat is your role in the SAM project?

    Analysis and interpretation of isotope data for volatiles

    What about SAM do you find most interesting?

    The ability to search for organic compounds in the atmosphere and surface materials and their relationship to past and present possibilities for the existence of living organisms.

    Most challenging?

    Untangling possible evidence for life from products of geochemistry

    Have you worked on other missions or flight instruments? If so which ones?

    Yes! Viking, Voyager, Galileo, Cassini-Huygens--Now Rosetta and Juno

    What kind/level of education do you have?

    PhD

    What are your favorite things to do outside of work?

    Hiking, Swimming, Foreign Travel, Classical Music, Operas, Plays, Social Issues

    + Francois Raulin:

    Francois RaulinWhat is your role in the SAM project?

    scientific help with my expertise in planetary astrobiology

    What about SAM do you find most interesting? Most challenging?

    a highly powerful analytical instrument looking for chemical signatures of past/extent life or prebiotic chemistry on large martian areas, and within a wide international cooperation!!

    Have you worked on other missions or flight instruments? If so which ones?

    Yes: Cassini-Huygens (IDS, and the GC-MS, ACP and CIRS instruments) and Rosetta (Cosima and COSAC instruments)

    What kind/level of education do you have?

    Chemical engineer (ESPCI, Paris) and PhD (Université Paris 6)

    What are your favorite things to do outside of work?

    Mountain skiing in the French Alps

    + Francois Robert:

    Francois RobertWhat is your role in the SAM project?

    Interpretation of isotope ratios and organic mass spectra.

    What about SAM do you find most interesting? Most challenging?

    The search for organic molecules, their speciation and relative abundance. All together they are clear signatures of life - even if this life is not based on DNA.

    Have you worked on other missions or flight instruments? If so which ones?

    I was involved in StarDust for which samples were analysed in Earth laboratories

    What kind/level of education do you have?

    I am a 60 years old scientist who have published about 120 papers on the molecular composition of the insoluble organic matter found in meteorites and on isotope ratios - both in Cosmo and Geo-chemistry

    What are your favorite things to do outside of work?

    Promenades and museum in Paris where I live.

    + Oren Sheinman:

    Oren SheinmanWhat is your role in the SAM project?

    Lead Mechanical engineer on SAM.

    What about SAM do you find most interesting? Most challenging?

    Interesting working on an interplanetary mission and the constant awareness that this box I was touching would some day be roaming about a planet other than Earth millions of miles away. Also found it not only interesting, but very enjoyable interacting with the team and the diverse backgrounds from which we all come from that came into play to solve the daily challenges which arose. Challenging: Mechanically packaging "10 lbs of Potatoes into a 5 lb bag", i.e. keeping all components which make up the instrument suite within a very tight volume and mass constraint while maintaining access and serviceability to them.

    Have you worked on other missions or flight instruments? If so which ones?

    Yes, - COBE, XTE, Swift, Image, E-01, Constellation-X, JWST, etc.

    What kind/level of education do you have?

    B.S. in Aerospace Engineering, University of Maryland.

    What are your favorite things to do outside of work?

    Bicycling, Boating, Scuba Diving, Australian Shepherds, Big Green Eggs, and working/fusing with glass.

    + Jennifer Stern:

    Jennifer SternWhat is your role in the SAM project?

    I help understand the carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen isotopic composition of gases (carbon dioxide, water, and methane) evolved from the heating of solid Mars regolith. I also work on experiments heating Mars analog samples in the presence of oxygen to combust any organic carbon to CO2, and measure the carbon isotopic composition of that CO2 to determine its source or the process that formed these molecules, and whether that process was biological or geological.

    What about SAM do you find most interesting? Most challenging?

    What's most interesting about SAM - It's amazing how much capability you can fit into a small space! Also fascinating that so many people contributed their individual scientific and engineering expertise to making this happen. Finally, the sheer number of experiments you can do on SAM, between the QMS, GC, and TLS is incredible, giving us the versatility to customize analysis of these unknown samples.

    Have you worked on other missions or flight instruments? If so which ones?

    SAM is my first instrument, and MSL is my first mission.

    What kind/level of education do you have?

    PHD in Geology, with a focus in Low Temperature Geochemistry.

    What are your favorite things to do outside of work?

    Outside of work, I love to bike, hike, and run, I teach spinning and zumba, and perform as a bellydancer.

    + Cyril Szopa:

    Cyril SzopaWhat is your role in the SAM project?

    Instrument scientist of the Gas Chromatograph sub-system

    What about SAM do you find most interesting? Most challenging?

    I like the complementary instrumentation used in SAM that will allow us to collect very important complementary data for astrobiology studies of the Mars surface. I also like to think that it will be the first experiment of this type to reach Mars since the Viking probes in the 70's ! I think that the data treatment will be challenging !

    Have you worked on other missions or flight instruments? If so which ones?

    I am a team member of the Aerosol Collector and Pyrolyzer (ACP) experiment of the Cassini-Huygens mission.

  • I am a Co-Investigator of :
  • the Cometary Sampling And Composition (COSAC) experiment of the Rosetta mission
  • the Gas Analytical Package (GAP) of the Phobos-Grunt mission
  • the Mars Organic Material Analyzer (MOMA) of the Exomars mission


  • What kind/level of education do you have? I have a PhD in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. What are your favorite things to do outside of work? I like to practice sports and take care of my young children

    + Melissa Trainer:

    Florence Tan Location?

    Goddard Space Flight Center

    What is your role in the SAM project?

    My role is as a scientist who will be able to analyze the data coming back from Mars to understand the composition of the atmosphere and rocks that we encounter in Gale Crater. I have a background in atmospheric chemistry and organics so will be most interested in some of the atmospheric samples or the organic molecules we will hopefully find! I have also helped develop some of the training manuals for the team to get everyone up to speed with the instrument software and data analysis.

    What about SAM do you find most interesting? Most challenging?

    There are so many ways in which a sample can be measured, so we have a lot of flexibility on Mars to really get at the heart of the questions we are asking about the chemical makeup of the environment (rocks, air). However, this is part of what makes it so challenging, there will be so much to understand about how the sample was collected and processed before we can put our scientific data into context.

    Have you worked on other missions or flight instruments? If so which ones?

    SAM is the most mature flight instrument I've worked on. Since coming to Goddard I've been involved in other mission proposals but haven't worked on others that have flown.

    What kind/level of education do you have?

    I have a Ph.D. in Chemistry.

    What are your favorite things to do outside of work?

    Hang out with my family, including my son who will be almost 3 when MSL lands! Together we like to spend time with friends, explore the Washington D.C. region, go camping in the summer, and travel whenever we can.

    + Chris Webster:

    Chris WebsterWhat is your role in the SAM project?

    Co-I lead for the Tunable Laser Spectrometer (TLS) instrument

    What about SAM do you find most interesting? Most challenging?

    We have a great PI, an outstanding, devoted team, and the best set of experiments ever sent anywhere in the solar system. While the day-to-day surface operations will be challenging, SAM will no doubt make important science discoveries that together with those from other instruments will make MSL the greatest Mars mission to date.

    Have you worked on other missions or flight instruments? If so which ones?

    TLS has been flown in hundreds of aircraft (ER-2, WB-57, DC-8, Global Hawk) and balloon flights, was on the Cassini- Huygens Probe Phase A payload (not flown), crashed on the surface of Mars on board the Mars Polar Lander, and has been included in numerous Mars Scout, Discovery and New Frontiers proposals, including an earlier Mars Scout Balloon mission led by Paul Mahaffy who first recognized the power of combining GC-MS-TLS as an analytical suite.

    What kind/level of education do you have?

    B.Sc (Hons) Chemical Physics; Ph.D. Molecular Spectroscopy

    What are your favorite things to do outside of work? Apart from work?

    Well, I enjoy traveling, writing poetry, fixing cars and houses, and experimenting with ethanol when tinted at wavelengths around 580-620 nm from fermentation processes.

    + Mike Wong:

    Mike WongWhat is your role in the SAM project?

    I am a Collaborator on the SAM team, primarily doing calibration, analysis, and interpretation of the data.

    What about SAM do you find most interesting? Most challenging?

    I worked with a less advanced ancestor of SAM: the Galileo Probe Mass Spectrometer. That instrument measured atmospheric composition for more than an hour as the probe parachuted into Jupiter.

    My area of focus has been volatile gases, which change from gaseous to condensed form depending on the local conditions. On Mars, both water and carbon dioxide can condense. Volatile gases are intriguing because they trace dynamic processes in the atmosphere, and can yield clues to how the atmosphere and climate evolved throughout the planet's history. And water is thought to be a requirement for life.

    Have you worked on other missions or flight instruments? If so which ones?

    * Galileo Probe Mass Spectrometer
    * Cassini Composite Infrared Spectrometer
    * Hubble Wide Field Camera 3

    What kind/level of education do you have?

    I have a PhD in Atmospheric and Space Science from the University of Michigan.

    I actually disagree with Pan Conrad's statement above, "To do my job, you have to get a PhD in science." I know several planetary scientists and astronomers without PhDs who make significant contributions to the field. Getting a PhD is the most common way into research, but it's not the only way.



    What are your favorite things to do outside of work?

    For exercise I like to practice judo and ride bikes. I'm also really into music. In grad school I had a radio show segment called "The Protoplanetary Nebula," which was a stereo interpretation of the formation of the solar system.

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