My name is Nathalie A. Cabrol. I am a planetary geologist specialized in the study of Mars and its ancient lakes as possible habitats for life. I work at NASA Ames Research Center (NASA ARC) and SETI Institute Center for the Search for Life in the Universe (LITU) in the Bay area in California. I arrived here 10 years ago from France with my husband and we turned our dreams of exploration into reality, from terrestrial extreme environments to the planet Mars!
For my research I interpret remote sensing data from the Mars missions; develop science exploration strategies for rover field experiments in terrestrial analogs to Mars in preparation for future missions; explore some of the highest lakes in the world to understand the limits of life on Earth and the potential for life in ancient Mars. This allows me to use my other passions in life: mountaineering and free diving (which means diving underwater without oxygen tanks). At 6,014 m (nearly 20,000 ft) where the atmosphere is already 48% thinner than at sea level, this is an interesting challenge but in the process, we collect extremely valuable data that could one day be useful to improve people's health. Finally, one of favorite activities is to share the excitement of exploration and discovery. This takes me on the road often to speak about Mars and Earth to kids, students, and the general public.
I am honored to be a member of the science team of the NASA Mars Exploration Rovers mission, still exploring Gusev Crater and Meridiani Planum with Spirit and Opportunity. The mission started in January 2004 and has been a life changing event not only for me and all of those who directly participate in the mission but also for those who realized through the images and data posted on the web that ancient Mars was very similar to Earth. The MER mission is writing an exquisite page of exploration. Working on Licancabur is for me a way to bridge time between Gusev and Meridiani, now dry, and extreme terrestrial lakes which are so similar to what those two sites on Mars could have been 3.5 billion years ago.
As the expedition leader, the safety of my crew is what comes first. Everything comes after. We all know and respect the environment we will leave and work in for nearly one month. We are all well-prepared and ready for the exploration ahead, and we are all looking after each other. You can read each team member's bio by clicking on "Team Members" on the homepage. They are all extraordinary people and I find myself extremely fortunate to be with them.