When the Mars rover Opportunity landed on the red planet on Jan. 25, 2004, it was scheduled to work for 90 Mars days. Ten years later, Opportunity is still roving Mars and Scott Lever has been involved every step of the way.
Lever, mission manager for NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) Mission and a Fairmont East High School graduate, will return home to share his expertise during a public talk Thursday, Jan. 23, at 7 p.m. in Wright State University’s Student Union Apollo Room.
He will discuss the accomplishments and challenges experienced by both Spirit and Opportunity, Opportunity’s recent seasons on Mars, and spectacular 3D images captured there.
“Mars is important, among other reasons, because it probably once had life on it, and the evidence keeps pouring in both from the rover missions and in the form of meteorites that are believed to come from Mars,” said Wright State’s own Mars expert, Jane Fox, Ph.D. The Department of Physics professor is a member of the science team for Mars MAVEN—short for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN—an unmanned craft that blasted off in November 2013 and is scheduled to arrive at Mars in September 2014.
Fox said the isotope ratios that have been and will be measured by both landers and orbiters have shown that the Martian atmosphere is enriched in heavier isotopes, probably due to escape of the lighter isotopes. The MAVEN mission, which will explore the upper atmosphere, will tell scientists about the current escape rate of atoms and their isotopes from the “top” of the Martian atmosphere
“Integrating backward in time, we can predict the escape rates at earlier times, and hopefully answer questions related to a dense early atmosphere that once held life,” Fox said.
She added that the rovers are exploring the planet’s geology and show evidence of ancient running water on the surface in the form of lakebeds and streams.
Lever will also share stories from a 25-year career with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He joined the laboratory in 1984 and has participated in several flight projects, including Voyager, TOPEX/Poseidon, Cassini and the Spitzer Space Telescope. He now leads the MER Mission Planning Team and the MER Endeavour Strategic Planning Team. Lever usually works with ground software development and maintenance (command sequence simulation and flight rules) or with flight operations.
He attended the United States Naval Academy and California State University at Los Angeles and holds a master’s degree in computer science from Azusa Pacific University.
The MER mission is part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, a long-term effort of robotic exploration of the red planet. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is a federally funded research and development facility managed by the California Institute of Technology for NASA.