Nina Lanza

Team lead, Space and Planetary Exploration, Los Alamos National Laboratory

Nina Lanza is on the science teams for the ChemCam instrument onboard the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover and the SuperCam instrument onboard the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover. Her current research focuses on understanding the origin and nature of manganese minerals on Mars and how they may serve as potential biosignatures. She has done geologic fieldwork in numerous locations across the world including the Miller Range, Antarctica; Rio Tinto, Spain; Death Valley, CA; Black Point Lava Flow, AZ; Green River, UT; as well as many sites across New Mexico and Connecticut. Notably, she was a field team member for the Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) project during the 2015 – 2016 season, for which she recovered meteorites from remote field locations in Antarctica. She has authored or coauthored 50 peer-reviewed publications, including two first-author book chapters and is a regular contributor on the television series How the Universe Works (The Science Channel). Lanza was educated at Smith College (AB), Wesleyan University (MA), and the University of New Mexico (PhD). She currently lives in northern New Mexico with her husband, son, and very high maintenance cat. She is thrilled to be living her childhood dream of working on a spaceship.

Nina is speaking at

Platform: Zoom webinar CASW New Horizons in Science
October 19, 2020
4:00 pm - 4:30 pm


  • Nina Lanza (Speaker) Team lead, Space and Planetary Exploration, Los Alamos National Laboratory
  • Katie Morgan (Speaker) Research scientist and Mars 2020 deputy project scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • Andrew Jones (Speaker) Freelance space journalist, SpaceNews and the Planetary Society
  • W. Wayt Gibbs (Moderator) New Horizons in Science program director, CASW


Watch the prerecorded talks for this session beginning on Oct. 12. (Video embargoed until 4:00 p.m. ET 10/19/20.) Then tune in here on Oct. 19 for live Q&A with the speakers. (Whova mobile app users, look for the YouTube link in the session description.)
Three new spacecraft blasted off for Mars this summer. Their arrival in February 2021 will open a new chapter of exploration of the Red Planet and the investigations into its ability to support life past and future, via human missions.

In this session, we'll hear first-hand from scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab and Los Alamos National Lab who worked on the new Mars Perseverance rover mission about how it will gather soil and rock samples for eventual return to Earth, transform carbon dioxide it finds on the surface into breathable oxygen, attempt the first controlled aircraft flights on another planet, and rove around a dry lake bed zapping rocks with lasers to search for biosignatures of ancient Martian microbes.

We'll also get details on Tianwen-1 ("Questions to Heaven"), which is on course to be China's first successful mission to Mars. The spacecraft will deploy an orbiter, lander, and rover to scan the planet for buried deposits of frozen water while also mapping the structure of its interior and ionosphere.

Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates' Hope mission will track winds, weather, and giant duststorms over a full cycle of Martian seasons. This session will prepare us to cover the many Mars stories to come in 2021.

Presented by:
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