My name is Chris McKay. I live in Mountain View, CA, USA and I am a member of the ChemCam science team. My focus will be on the astrobiology related aspects of the MSL mission and how ChemCam can contribute to these. My field work in Mars-like places on Earth and my participation in the Phoenix mission have prepared me for my work with ChemCam.
I wasn’t particularly interested in Mars when I was young but that changed with the Viking missions to Mars. That mission sent twin landers to the surface of Mars in 1976. The Viking mission, and those that have followed it, have helped answer the main scientific question about Mars: did life exist on Mars in the past? Life exists on Earth, but we are searching for a second example of life to determine if life is common in the Universe. The ChemCam/MSL discovery that would excite me the most would be the detection of organic material in the soil and rocks on Mars. ChemCam will be key in selecting samples for this analysis.