The new project scientist for Mars Rover Curiosity is Ashwin Vasavada of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. Vasavada had been deputy project scientist for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Project since 2004.
The project scientist's role is to coordinate efforts of an
international team of nearly 500 scientists operating the rover's 10
science instruments, planning rover investigations and assessing data
from the Curiosity rover.
Vasavada succeeds John Grotzinger of the California Institute of
Technology, Pasadena, who recently became chair of Caltech's Division
of Geological and Planetary Sciences and remains a member of
Curiosity's science team.
"John Grotzinger put his heart and soul into Curiosity for
seven years," Vasavada said.
Vasavada has helped shepherd the project through development of
the spacecraft, selection and integration of the science instruments,
selection of the landing site in Mars' Gale Crater, activities of
Curiosity since its August 2012 landing, and publication of many
Researchers are currently using Curiosity to investigate the
geological layers 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 its
two-year prime mission, Curiosity found evidence that Mars offered
favorable conditions for microbial life about three billion years
Vasavada has also worked on the science teams for NASA's Lunar
Reconnaissance Orbiter and for the Cassini mission to Saturn. He
holds a 1998 doctorate in planetary science from Caltech and a 1992
bachelor of science degree in geophysics and space physics from the
University of California, Los Angeles.