Columbus State University Alumni Explore Mars


On Thursday, July 30, 2020, NASA and the United Launch Alliance launched the historic Mars 2020 Rover, Perseverance, to the Red Planet. Perseverance is carrying many exciting first-time experiments, including the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter that will make history’s first attempt at powered flight on another planet. The mission is scheduled to arrive at Mars on February 18, 2021. As part of the Coca-Cola Space Science Center’s launch webcast of NASA’s Perseverance rover, Dr. Shawn Cruzen talked with three Columbus State University alumni and former Space Science Center interns who went on to become Mars researchers.

The first was Cameron McCarty. While in graduate school, Cameron was a member of the Mars Opportunity rover imaging team and performed research on the properties Martian soils. Cameron now works as an Operations Controller at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. Cameron talked about his experience with Opportunity, his excitement about exploring Mars, and his advice for future explorers.

Next Dr. Cruzen spoke with Cheryl Wilkes. Cheryl is a geologist, and while in graduate school at Auburn University, performed research on a Martian Supervolcano. Cheryl now works as an Operations Controller at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. Cheryl talks about her work on Mars volcanos, her job at NASA, and her path to success in the space industry.

Finally, Dr. Cruzen spoke with Matthew Perry. Matt is a researcher at the Planetary Science Institute and works with the SHARAD instrument aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to try to find water resources on the Red Planet. Matt discusses his path to becoming a planetary scientist, his research work with Mars water and lava tubes, and his insights on the future of Mars exploration.