Red Rover, Red Rover
Physicist Thomas Wdowiak operated the crucial Mössbauer spectrometers onboard NASA's Spirit and Opportunity rovers. The instruments helped uncover firm evidence that water once existed on Mars.
In the summer of 2003, NASA launched two robot explorers to Mars to seek out signs of water—and life. UAB astrophysicist Thomas Wdowiak, Ph.D., was in charge of one of the most crucial elements of the mission: operating the Mössbauer spectrometers located on the twin rovers. These instruments use gamma radiation to identify minerals containing iron, which is an important clue to the presence of water. Since their successful landing in 2004, the rovers have found small mineral spheres rich in hematite, an iron-containing mineral that only forms in the presence of water. They have also discovered evidence of salts in the soil, a remnant of Martian seas.
Read more breakthrough stories in UAB Magazine's new fall issue.