MAS January Monthly Meeting

Curiosity Paving the Way for Perseverance

Dr. Rebecca Williams

Understanding the past habitable conditions on Mars is a primary scientific driver for NASA’s Curiosity rover. During the last eight years, Curiosity has traversed across diverse terrain within Gale crater and drilled the martian surface over two dozen times. Dr. Williams will provide an update on the latest scientific findings and share spectacular snapshots from along the rover’s journey. In addition, she will present an overview of NASA’s next robotic mission to Mars, Perseverance, which will land at Jezero crater in February 2021. 

Rebecca M. E. Williams is a planetary geologist who studies the history of water on Mars through orbiter and rover observations in conjunction with field-based analog studies on Earth. The overarching objective in her research is to understand the role of water in shaping the surface of Mars through comparison with similar landforms on Earth. She has led fieldwork at sites in Utah, California, Australia, Patagonia, and the Atacama Desert in northern Chile to investigate river, lake and alluvial fan deposits. She was selected as a Participating Scientist on the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover in 2011. She has served in the role of principal investigator in eleven NASA-funded projects and as a team member with the MOC, CTX and THEMIS VIS cameras on spacecraft orbiting Mars.

Dr. Williams received her BA in physics and geology in 1995 from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. In 2000, she earned her Ph.D. in planetary science from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. She was awarded the NASA Carl Sagan Fellowship for Early Career Researchers in 2006, and a 2017 Friend of Education by the Waunakee Teachers Association for her multi-year education and public outreach activities with students at all levels in the school district. Dr. Williams conducts research and rover operations from her home office in Waunakee, WI, where she lives with her husband and two daughters (8th & 12th grade).

The January meeting will be a virtual event, hosted with Zoom. Members will receive an email with a link and instructions to join a day or two before the event. Again this month we are opening the virtual meeting up to nonmembers who may want to join in. If you would like to attend the MAS virtual meeting, send an email to by noon Friday, Jan 8 to let us know of your interest. We will email you the Zoom link at 3pm that day which will get you into the meeting by 7:30 on Friday evening.