Ashwin Vasavada of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, has become the project scientist for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory project in January 2015. Here he is with a scale model of Mars rover project, Curiosity, at JPL. Curiosity landed on Mars’ Gale Crater in August 2012.
The new project scientist for the Mars Rover Curiosity is Ashwin Vasavada of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. Vasavada was deputy project scientist for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Project since 2004 – five years before the name Curiosity rover was chosen for the project.
The role of the scientist of the project is to coordinate the efforts of an international team of nearly 500 scientists in 10 scientific instruments of the rover, rover planning surveys and data evaluation of Curiosity. The scientist project also works closely with the project team and engineering-based JPL rover to maximize the science while using the rover efficiently and safely.
Vasavada happens John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, who recently became president of Caltech’s Division of Geology and Planetary and remains a member of the science team curiosity.
Vasavada helped shepherd the project through the development of the spacecraft, the selection and integration of scientific instruments, the selection of the landing site on Mars’ Gale Crater, Curiosity activities from his landing in August 2012, and the publication of many results research.
“John Grotzinger put his heart and soul into curiosity for seven years, leaving a legacy of success and scientific achievements,” said Vasavada. “Now I look forward to continuing our expedition ancient past of Mars’, with a healthy rover and an international team dedicated and passionate. And yes, this is all just incredibly cool. ”
The researchers are currently using curiosity to investigate the geological strata at the base of a mountain inside Gale Crater. Recent findings indicate that the lower portion of the mountain formed as sedimentary deposits in lakes and streams. During his first two-year mission, Curiosity has found evidence that Mars has offered conditions favorable for microbial life about three billion years ago.
Vasavada also worked on teams of science for NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Cassini mission to Saturn. He holds a doctorate in planetary science in 1998 from Caltech in 1992 and a bachelor of science degree in geophysics and space physics from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Vasavada resides in Los Angeles. Outside of work, he loves spending time with her niece, explore the mountains of California, and volunteering to improve science education and literacy. He currently chairs the board of directors of a non-profit organization that operates three science-focused, public schools in the south of Los Angeles.
JPL, a division of Caltech, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project Project Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, and built Curiosity rover project.