With an academic background in hydrogeology, it’s hardly surprising that for three dozen years Edmond Grin worked on dam and hydropower projects. His familiarity with the characteristics of lakes and rivers on Earth makes him especially valuable when it comes to looking for similar features on Mars, where NASA’s exploration strategy has been to “follow the water.”
Grin, together with his wife, Nathalie Cabrol, championed Gusev crater – an apparent lake basin – as the landing site for the Spirit rover. He’s now busy pursuing how rovers in the future can go Spirit one better: not just look for signs of water, but signs of life. A new three-year project in which Grin is involved, called “Life in the Atacama”, will demonstrate that autonomous robot rovers can reliably detect primitive microorganisms. The rovers will be field tested in Chile’s Atacama desert, an earthly analog for the landscapes of Mars. While it may be many decades before human biologists plant their boots on the Red Planet, Grin’s wheeled proxies might get there much sooner. Major discovery could be theirs.