The role exploring Mars plays in unraveling Earth's origin story: a physics perspective

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Science Complex Atrium, University of Guelph



Dr. Scott VanBommel

The application of physics fundamentals to planetary science problems has taken this Guelph physics graduate off the southern edge of Google maps in search of space rocks, to Mars as part of multiple rover missions, and nearly above the Karman line as a shortlisted astronaut with the Canadian Space Agency.

It was only a mere 50-60 years ago that extensive canal networks on Mars were thought to provide clear evidence for advanced intelligent life right at Earth's doorstep. We now know this is not true, thanks in large part to the science-driven exploration by robotic probes sent to Mars in the decades since. From the first grainy black-and-white photos acquired by Mariner 4, to the complex scientific suite of instruments on today's spacecraft, our understanding of Mars continues to evolve. As we explore our iconic red neighbour, we learn Earth and Mars were likely very similar in the early solar system, diverging around the time life took hold on Earth. In this talk we will discuss the implications of this and the various ways physics furthers our understanding of Mars' evolution, both from the direct study of martian meteorites and through the active exploration of the surface of Mars.

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