I am Olivier Gasnault. I live in Toulouse, France, Planet Earth. I am a science co-investigator on ChemCam and the French Science Manager for ChemCam Operations. When I am not working on ChemCam I first take care of my family, but soon find myself at work once again for ChemCam. And sometimes on the Moon. My main activity with the instrument team is to prepare ChemCam operators to use ChemCam when it is on Mars. I assist the ChemCam Principal Investigators in making sure we use the right software, the right equipment, and ask the right scientific questions. I work closely with colleagues at both Los Alamos and CNES to teach the team how to use ChemCam, and what to do with the data!
I knew when I was young that I wanted to be an astronomer, but my interest in Mars came much later. While studying at the university, I realized I was mostly interested in planetary exploration. It was reinforced by direct observations from the Observatoire du Pic du Midi, where I gave tours as a summer job. I felt much closer to the planets there, it was magic! At the same time, interest in Mars was revived in the community with the preparation of the Mars Pathfinder mission, which launched as I began my thesis. Luckily, I was given the opportunity to include Mars in part of my thesis! I did most of my past work on Mars with data from the Gamma-Ray Spectrometer aboard the Mars Odyssey orbiter.
Studying Mars helps us to step back and consider the Earth as a planet among others. Studying Mars also helps us step forward by asking new questions about life. I think the most exciting time during the MSL mission will be just after the landing, when we discover a new martian landscape and when we zap a rock for the first time with ChemCam. Then, we will really know what we can expect from Curiosity as a whole, and start to enjoy roving on a new martian landscape!