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Prebiotic chemistry


The success of the Mars exploration rovers
Baruch Blumberg Physician
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I formed these focus groups and we had a Mars focus group and… and that contributed greatly to the science team for the Mars exploration rovers. You know they were landed just getting on four years ago, the Mars exploration rovers; we, as I said, much of the science was done by NAI scientists, some of them was…  people we funded and so they… they landed those… perfect mission. They landed just within — they even landed right side up, they didn't have to turn them over, and they were designed for a 90-day mission, so the engineer sort of said, okay, you design this to work for 90 days. And part of the limitation was they… they, you know, they were dependent on solar power and a lot of dust on Mars so the concern was that the solar collectors would be covered with dust. Well, it turns out that there's a lot of wind down there on Mars and it kept it clean.

[Q] And they're still going today?

Nearly four years.

[Q] Both rovers?

Both operating. One of them has got a bad bogie wheel, you know, they… but they learned how to operate it backwards so they could, and, you know, for example, once they got stuck in a sort of sand trap and it took them months to get it out but it was because they were learning how to get it out of sand traps so it was a kind of instructional period, shows the adaptability. Well, what's happened, I had the principal investigator of the Mars exploration rovers, I invited him to speak at the American Philosophical Society and, that was a few months ago, and one of the rovers was on the edge of the Victoria Crater which is a big impact crater and it's about... I've probably got this wrong, I'd say about ten kilometers across, you know, pretty good size crater and pretty deep but you can see stratigraphy there, you know if you go into a crater and you can examine the layers and… and, if you're ever going to find something like fossils or evidence of prior… prior water, or evidences of… of shallow water, going down into a crater is the way to do it. Okay, you know, there’s this big hole, right? And they did a kind of circumnavigation of the hole looking for a way to go down, looking for a kind of ramp. So he told us that, yep, they’ve decided they’re going to go down and just last week they tentatively went down, they went ‘brrmm’ , you know, back up, they wanted to see what kind of a grip they could get on the… and now they're planning for descent, with measurements along the way and it should reveal extremely important stuff.

American research physician Baruch Blumberg (1925-2011) was co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1976 along with D Carleton Gajdusek for their work on the origins and spread of infectious viral diseases that led to the discovery of the hepatitis B virus. Blumberg’s work covered many areas including clinical research, epidemiology, virology, genetics and anthropology.

Listeners: Rebecca Blanchard

Dr Rebecca Blanchard is Director of Clinical Pharmacology at Merck & Co., Inc. in Upper Gwynedd, Pennsylvania. Her education includes a BSc in Pharmacy from Albany College of Pharmacy and a PhD in Pharmaceutical Chemistry from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. While at Utah, she studied in the laboratories of Dr Raymond Galinsky and Dr Michael Franklin with an emphasis on drug metabolism pathways. After receiving her PhD, Dr Blanchard completed postdoctoral studies with Dr Richard Weinshilboum at the Mayo Clinic with a focus on human pharmacogenetics. While at Mayo, she cloned the human sulfotransferase gene SULT1A1 and identified and functionally characterized common genetic polymorphisms in the SULT1A1 gene. From 1998 to 2004 Dr Blanchard was an Assistant Professor at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. In 2005 she joined the Clinical Pharmacology Department at Merck & Co., Inc. where her work today continues in the early and late development of several novel drugs. At Merck, she has contributed as Clinical Pharmacology Representative on CGRP, Renin, Losartan, Lurasidone and TRPV1 programs and serves as chair of the TRPV1 development team. Dr Blanchard is also Co-chair of the Neurology Pharmacogenomics Working Group at Merck. Nationally, she has served the American Society of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics on the Strategic Task Force and the Board of Directors. Dr Blanchard has also served on NIH study sections, and several Foundation Scientific Advisory Boards.

Tags: Mars, Victoria Crater

Duration: 3 minutes, 6 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2007

Date story went live: 28 September 2009