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Expert: Mars Rover Will Help Prepare for Human Exploration of the Red Planet

Physicist involved with NASA mission available for interviews

Hubble Space Telescope photo of Mars
Research conducted by UMass Lowell’s Noureddine Melikechi, an authority on optics and laser spectroscopy, is contributing to NASA's latest mission to Mars.

02/18/2021

Contacts for media: Nancy Cicco, 978-934-4944, Nancy_Cicco@uml.edu and Christine Gillette, 978-758-4664, Christine_Gillette@uml.edu

The NASA rover “Perseverance,” expected to land on Mars today, represents an extraordinary step forward in the search for life on the red planet but also for the well-being of life on Earth, according to a UMass Lowell physicist available for interviews whose research is part of the mission. 

Launched last July, Perseverance includes what the space agency calls “SuperCam,” an instrument that will zap the surface of Mars with powerful laser beams in experiments that seek to analyze the chemical composition of the planet’s environment. Research conducted by UMass Lowell’s Noureddine Melikechi, an authority on optics and laser spectroscopy, is contributing to that effort, and was also a part of the technology behind Perseverance’s predecessor “Curiosity,” a NASA rover that determined water existed on Mars billions of years ago. 

“Perseverance’s overall aim is to search for microbial life and to gather information that will be used to prepare subsequent Mars missions, including future human missions to the red planet,” Melikechi said. 

The mission will also likely yield new discoveries that can be applied to the betterment of life on Earth.

“I can imagine the mission will contribute to the development of, for example, new navigation or medical diagnosis technologies,” Melikechi said. “This is a historic scientific and technologic event; it is extraordinary and exciting at the same time.” 

He is available to discuss:
  • How research conducted by Perseverance is helping to prepare for human exploration of Mars; 
  • How his research is being applied in other areas, notably to the detection of cancer and other diseases, including COVID-19.
Melikechi is an atomic, molecular and optical physicist. He serves as the dean of UMass Lowell’s Kennedy College of Sciences, where he is a professor of physics and applied physics. To arrange an interview with him via phone, email, Zoom or other teleconferencing platform, contact Nancy Cicco at Nancy_Cicco@uml.edu or 978-934-4944 or Christine Gillette at Christine_Gillette@uml.edu or 978-758-4664.