Dr. Virginia Gulick

December 21, 2006

SETI Institute Principal Investigator

“Water is crucial to life,” says geologist Virginia Gulick, “and by understanding where and when water was available on Mars, we can better understand what opportunities there may have been for life on the planet.” To study how water has influenced the geological history of Mars, she needs a view from above. “Rovers do a great job of providing detailed information from a few isolated spots, but to understand the global relationships of water-carved features, orbital images are essential,” Gulick explains. By examining images of the planet taken from space by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and comparing them with similar features on Earth, Gulick may revolutionize the study of water-carved features and other geological processes on Mars. “For example,” she says, “we may be able to determine if the very young-appearing gullies discovered a few years ago are still, in fact, actively forming and possibly flowing today.” Insights into the role of water on Mars could have far-reaching implications. “By understanding where, when, and how water flowed over the surface of the planet in the past, we may be better able to understand how the climate has changed over time,” she suggests. “Understanding what happened to the water and where it is now may help to guide and support future human exploration of the planet.”


- SETI Institute Explorer, Special Edition 2005