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Dr Ken Edgett: Curiosity Rover in Gale — All Uphill From Here

In June, Curiosity completed its first Mars year of fieldwork in Gale, a 96-mile-wide impact crater near the Martian equator.

The rover team's main objective is to read the story of successive changes in past Martian environments recorded in the lower part of a 3-mile-high mountain of layered rock in central Gale known informally as Mt. Sharp.

But the terrain on this mountain is too rugged for Curiosity's famous "7 Minutes of Terror" landing system, so the rover touched down, in August 2012, in the deep valley between the north wall of Gale and Mt. Sharp.

The valley floor displays abundant outcroppings of rock formed from pebbles and sand that were transported by streams; it also found rock formed from mud. Mud that was at the bottom of a lake or pond. After drilling this mudstone, the team concluded that it was a record of a habitable environment — life as we know it might have been able to live in that water.

Curiosity will arrive at the base of Mt. Sharp sometime soon. From there, it will drive up hill and through time, each layer of rock younger than the one just below it; each layer telling us about a different Mars of long ago.

Ken Edgett is the Principal Investigator for Curiosity's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) mounted on the turret at the end of the rover's robotic arm. MAHLI has acquired some of the most iconic images of the mission, including  "selfies" of Curiosity at its sample extraction sites and close-ups of dust clinging to a 1909 Lincoln penny on the camera's calibration target.

Ken is a Senior Research Scientist with Malin Space Science Systems of San Diego, California. The company built and operates Curiosity's four color cameras as well as cameras currently operating in orbit about the Moon and Mars and cruising toward Jupiter.

Ken targeted and examined tens of thousands of images acquired by Mars-orbiting cameras and was the first to document that new impact craters are forming on the planet today. 

In the 1990s Ken founded and directed Arizona State University's Mars K-12 Education Program and did he field work on the volcaniclastic sand dunes of Christmas Lake Valley, Oregon.

With co-author Peggy Wethered and artist Michael Chesworth, he published an illustrated children's book, /Touchdown Mars!/ in 2000. Edgett published short stories in /Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic Science Fiction/, edited by Jetse de Vries, Solaris Books (2010), and /Return to Luna/, edited by Eric T. Reynolds, Hadley Rille Books (2008).

His name appears in the opening paragraph of, "A Mars Never Dreamed Of" by Kathy Sawyer, published in the February 2001 issue of /National Geographic/, and he appeared in 2-5 minute segments for 10 episodes of /Brainstorm/ (KTVK-TV, Phoenix, Arizona), a 30-minute science television program for children that aired on Saturday mornings in 1998-2000.