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EVENT: Mars Rover Missions discussion at Bellingham City Hall

Melissa Rice, assistant professor of geology at Western Washington University, will discuss “Roving the Red Planet: New Discoveries from NASA’s Mars Rover Missions” as part of the annual “Science and the UniverCity” community science lecture series, at 7 p.m. Friday, April 17, at Bellingham City Hall, 210 Lottie St., sponsored by Western’s College of Science and Engineering and the City of Bellingham.

NASA’s Mars rover missions have reshaped our vision of the Red Planet with their stunning images and fascinating discoveries. Amazingly, the Mars Exploration Rover “Opportunity,” which was designed to operate for three months when it landed in 2004, is still exploring Mars’ surface after nearly 11 years.

The Mars Science Laboratory rover “Curiosity” landed on the planet two years ago and has traveled more than 5 miles to get to its current destination, a 3.5-mile-high pile of rock named Mount Sharp that may hold clues to the volatile history of Mars’ climate and help answer the underlying question: Has life ever existed there?

Rice is a member of both the Curiosity and Opportunity science teams, and will provide a behind-the-scenes look at the images, science, and human creativity that continue to make these missions such a success. She will also discuss plans for NASA’s next Mars rover mission, which will launch in 2020.

Rice earned her bachelor’s degree in Astrophysics from Wellesley College and her doctorate in Astrophysics from Cornell University, after which she completed postdoctoral work on the rovers at CalTech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. This is her first year teaching at Western.

Details on the free event: Western Washington University’s College of Science and Engineering at 360-650-6400.

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