Lift the Ice

I’m so excited that Lift the Ice is now released! Many of you may recall that I seemed to spend a lot of time in the Arctic last summer. I was fortunate enough to be able to go to the far north twice. One of those times was to film for this incredible new series out now: Lift the Ice.

This is a six-part documentary about six aspects of the Earth’s cryosphere.

You’ll find me in episode 4, “The Ice Is Alien,” for which I traveled to Axel Heiberg Island in the Canadian Arctic to better understand how icy, habitable environments on Earth can be analogs for planetary environments on Mars and beyond.

On Earth, life finds a way (🦖) to thrive in these seemingly inhospitable places with incredibly sparse resources—could similar environments on other planets also harbor life? What kind of signatures should we look for? Come with me as I explore these remarkable places with outstanding polar scientists as we lift the ice on Earth to catch a glimpse of what life might be like on Mars. Streaming on Curiosity Stream.

Dr. Tanya Harrison joins the Explorers Club 50

Dr. Tanya Harrison was selected as one of this year’s Explorers Club 50: she’s “one of 50 people changing the world.” I am thrilled to see my friend in this group of remarkable explorers! Congratulations on this very well-deserved honor!

The Club is truly a special organization, one of very few dedicated entirely to field science.  As a planetary scientist, I believe that exploration is one of the most important human endeavors, and it’s field research right here on our home planet Earth that prepares us for exploring other worlds. The Explorers Club is filled with like-minded explorers who cherish our beautiful planet and love learning more about it. I’m lucky enough to be a Club Fellow and also a recipient of the Explorers Club Discovery Expedition Grant Program. Through the Club, I’ve met so many fascinating people doing impactful work, and I love learning from all of them. I can’t wait to work more closely with Tanya on new exploration-related projects!

What Manganese on Mars Might Mean

Martian manganese continues to fascinate. Its mere existence on Mars brings up a host of questions about environmental conditions in the past and present, and also what it might signify in ancient rocks on Earth. It would be great to get this stuff into one of our Perseverance tubes!

So what’s so great about manganese? Manganese minerals have long been used as an indicator of redox conditions—that is, they tell us about a type of powerful chemical reaction that often involves oxygen. When we see manganese minerals on Earth, they tell us that not only was there liquid water, but also there must have been strong oxidants present—or microbes doing related chemistry. When we see manganese minerals on Mars, we may then ask whether they formed by some unusual oxidizing chemistry unique to the martian environment, or whether like on Earth, they may be pointing to the past presence of oxygen or life. 

Read more about manganese in Eos, AGU‘s science magazine: “Does This Mineral Indicate Oxygen on Mars?” by Elise Cutts

Interview in Santa Fe Institute’s ExtraTerritorial

I had a remarkable conversation with David Krakauer for the Santa Fe Institute‘s latest issue of ExtraTerritorial! Check it out, along with two other fascinating, thought-provoking interviews.

DAVID KRAKAUER: Your work focuses on the far reaches of space. What is your emotional response to the solar system?

NINA LANZA: Incredible awe and fascination. I was never afraid of space. A lot of people imagine their tininess in the universe and they feel horrible and they never want to feel that way again. But I love that feeling of smallness. I think it puts every problem that I have into a perspective that’s man- ageable. Here we are, these tiny creatures on this tiny rock in this tiny solar system. Whatever problem I have here on Earth is not as big as what’s out there. The universe is…

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Dr. Nina Lanza

Dr. Nina Lanza is the Team Lead for Space and Planetary Exploration in Space and Remote Sensing (ISR-2) at Los Alamos National Laboratory. She is the Principal Investigator for the ChemCam instrument onboard the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover and a science team member for the SuperCam instrument onboard the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover. Her current research focuses on understanding the origin and nature of manganese minerals on Mars and how they may serve as potential biosignatures. Dr. Lanza has authored or coauthored 50 peer-reviewed publications, including two first-author book chapters. Read full bio

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