Inge Loes ten Kate
Measuring on Mars
On 6 August 2012, the Mars Rover 'Curiosity' landed on Mars. Th purpose of this Rover is to explore whether Mars was ever capable of sustaining life and whether any organic material is present on Mars. Geoscientist Prof Inge Loes ten Kate is closely involved with this mission.
Organic material on Mars
Together with an international team, Inge Loes will assist in the analysis and interpretation of the data sent back by the Rover. She will perform studies to see how organic material reacts with minerals under Martian conditions. This will allow us to better understand if there was ever life on Mars and will, in turn, help us understand how life arose on Earth.
Measuring instrument 'SAM'
Inge Loes ten Kate was also intensely involved in the preparations for the Curiosity flight. She worked at NASA for five years and during that time she assisted in the development of the measuring instrument SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars), which is installed on board the Mars Rover. Rover can take bites out of the ground or extract drill cores from the material. The measuring instruments on board further analyse the samples. For example, the soil samples are heated and the released gases are examined. Carbon measurements can provide indications of biological processes, which would imply the possibility that there could have been life on Mars. In addition, there are cups containing a chemical liquid. This liquid reacts with soil samples and can help detect organic matter even more effectively.
Life on Mars
What is it that makes the planet Mars so fascinating? Inge Loes: "The question I would like to answer is: how did life arise? I cannot imagine that we are the only living beings. Moreover, Mars resembles the Earth and the solar system at an earlier stage. We can see how materials have been preserved on Mars. It is also relatively close to Earth, compared to the other planets."
Inge Loes ten Kate is a Researcher in Petrology at the Faculty of Geosciences.