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.
I need to brag on my awesome dad, who just became a IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Fellow “for developing novel imagers and radiation detectors applied to medicine and security problems.” Congrats, Dad, on this very well deserved honor! What an inspirational career. You will always be my first and best science advisor.
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!
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.
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…
With this first sample tube deposited on the martian surface, we are one step closer to doing the very first sample return mission from Mars. These samples will be returned to Earth in 2033 for analysis (and reanalysis) in our terrestrial laboratories, which will answer many fundamental questions…and likely bring up a host of new questions as well!
Dust devils form on Mars for much the same reasons that they form on Earth: Turbulence in the atmosphere. Today, the surface of Mars is dominated by these wind-related processes. We can see in real time how wind moves materials across the planet and how these materials can gently scour rocks and accumulate, thereby changing the landscape.
In his own words, James Harper, a health physics field coordinator at Los Alamos National Laboratory, gives a fascinating account of why he accompanied a team of the Laboratory’s Mars scientists this summer to a 31-million-year-old crater, 600 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Around the Lab, Harper provides radiation protection field support to workers carrying out national security missions. This unexpected assignment definitely broadened his horizons.
James Harper: “Wow! The day I never expected has finally arrived. As I cross the threshold of the Boeing 737, I reflect. Several months have slowly passed until this point and now in a few short days I’ll be exploring the secluded Arctic, in total isolation, thousands of miles from civilization — in the name of…”
Check the the Roving With Perseverance website for tour dates. Upcoming and current locations include (in addition to NMMNHS) the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, the Edelman Planetarium in Glassboro, N.J., the Museum of Science in Boston.
My colleague Justin and I discuss some of the recent sounds recorded on Mars by the EDL and SuperCam microphones. Sounds are a bit different on Mars than they are on Earth, so try some headphones if you want the full Mars experience.