“On Earth, carbon storage in soils and sediment is facilitated by iron minerals. This is important because this carbon does not end up in our atmosphere as CO2 adding to global warming. On Mars, the same process can preserve organic carbon molecules over long timescales, and the iron minerals may therefore help us to find signatures of potential past life.”
Operating the rover
Once the Rosalind Franklin has landed, Dr Schröder will be based at the Rover Operation Control Centre in Turin, Italy, where the team will guide the rover over the surface of Mars.
The rover carries nine scientific instruments to locate the best sites for drilling and analyse the retrieved samples. Dr Schröder will be part of the team operating the eyes of the rover – the Panoramic Camera, or PanCam, developed by University College London - and the Raman Laser Spectrometer, built by the Spanish Astrobiology Centre and the University of Leicester, which identifies minerals and carbon in the drill cores.
He said: “This mission has been in the making for a long time and it will be great to see it finally take off, and significant to be in a leading role when that happens.”
Whilst at the University of Mainz in the early 2000s, Dr Schröder helped to develop the miniaturised Mössbauer spectrometer, MIMOS II, for the NASA missions. He joined the University of Stirling in 2013.