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Sylvestre Maurice - Deputy Principal Investigator of the ChemCam instrument

Hello! My name is Sylvestre Maurice. I live in Toulouse, France and I am the Deputy Principal Investigator for ChemCam. Along with Principal Investigator Roger Wiens, I am responsible for the design, construction, testing, and delivery of the LIBS instrument. This is a very versatile job; one day an engineer, the next a manager to hire people or to solve budget issues, the following day a scientist interested in the origin and evolution of the Mars crust. Add on top of that, teaching, conferences on the project, relations with the media, etc., it is a very full-time job! When not working on ChemCam, it’s family time for me. Family, family, family. Four girls and a wonderful wife, that's a lot for a man!

Just like every boy, I wanted to be an astronaut! (I still want too, but I guess, it's too late.) At that time, the Moon was THE target and when I started my career as a planetary scientist, I studied the Moon. My interest for Mars came later and was driven by the resemblance of Mars with the Earth of the past. Everywhere in the solar system you can find a bit of Earth’s history. Planetology is the search for our common history in the solar system. Mars is important, because it once had a (thicker) atmosphere and liquid water at the same time Earth was developing life. I have been lucky to work previously on several projects including Cassini at Saturn, Lunar Prospector orbiting the Moon, and Mars Odyssey that have prepared me for the challenge of building an instrument for Mars exploration.

ChemCam is the greatest of all instruments, the Jedi light-saber of the MSL mission! This is an instrument that will allow us to select the most interesting targets, to blow off the dust and study the fine layers of rocks that have been in contact for so many years with the atmosphere, and to decipher the origin of rocks and soils. It’s hard for me to say what MSL’s most exciting discovery might be. If it works as well as expected, I'll be thrilled by any result. Of course, any discovery of materials associated with organic chemistry (based on carbon) will be the most exciting.

Photos: © CNES/E.Grimault

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