Mars Rover! Geology on Mars

Ryan Jackson
University of New Mexico
Cafe Scientifique New Mexico-Rio Rancho


Teens in Rio Rancho’s Café Scientifique recently welcomed speaker, Ryan Jackson. Ryan is a geologist who worked on sensors for the Mars Rover, Curiosity. He talked about his fascination with the geology of Mars, especially as it pertains to the existence of water.

To begin his talk, Ryan started off discussing the geology of rivers here on Earth. He taught us about how sediment is deposited along riverbeds using real-life examples found here in New Mexico. Throughout his talk, he passed around rocks he had collected that illustrated the geologic principle he was talking about. Once we had a good understanding of the geology of rivers on Earth, Ryan talked about the discoveries that were made by the Mars Rover Missions.

In his talk about the Mars Rover Missions he talked about some of the interesting formations that tell us more about where water had once flowed on Mars. Ryan also provided some great information on the path he took to his career and and also talked about the opportunities in the field of geology.

During this particular cafe, we had some middle school students and a few younger siblings.

Hands on Activity

Ryan’s hands-on activity was really fun! To illustrate sediment deposit in rivers, he took everyone outside and chose three volunteers. Each volunteer had to pull one of three different objects (a bucket of sand, a punching bag, or a large tire) as far as they could in 10 seconds. Everyone laughed and had a good time as they learned that lighter sediment travels further down a river than heavier sediments that get deposited further upstream.