Local scientist Chris Herd is part of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, the first attempt to collect samples from the red planet for a possible return to Earth.
He will be lending his expertise in the analysis of rocks and meteorites and select samples that may provide information about the geological history of Mars.
“Mars 2020 will let us choose where to collect samples and will allow us to get context for the rocks that are collected — their location, surrounding features, and more,” said Herd in a news release Thursday.
His role in the mission is making operational and scientific decisions for the mission’s rover to collect and store samples from the surface of Mars.
“Returning samples with that context is the holy grail of Mars exploration. That’s the reason why it’s so important to collect these with an eye to bringing them back,” said Herd.
The objective of the mission is learning about the climate, geology and signs of past microbial life. He was chosen by NASA as one of 10 experts to help to ensure the samples collected will be as useful as possible. He’s also the only Canadian on the team.
“This is a dream come true for me. I will be helping select which rocks might someday be analyzed in labs on Earth,” said Herd.
The launch window for the mission is July 17-Aug. 5, 2020, landing on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021, a mission that will take 687 Earth days.