Mars Lab Fund

$6,261 raised so far to support the WWU Mars Lab

Exciting Webinar from the Mars Lab On October 19th!

October 13, 2021

 In this webinar, Dr. Melissa Rice, head of Western's Mars rover team, will summarize the major successes of the mission so far, including three major milestones: collecting the first rock core samples, flying the Ingenuity helicopter, and publishing the first science results about the Jezero Crater delta. She'll also describe what's coming next for Perseverance, and how Western students are contributing to NASA's exploration of Mars. 

To register for this free webinar please visit: 

Western Mars Lab Gets Greater Recognition As Mission Continues

September 29, 2021

Some very exciting images and samples have already been taken by the Perseverance rover, in part thanks to our very own students and professor Rice. It is currently the annual period of solar conjunction where the sun is between us and Mars and we aren't able to communicate with Perseverance. This gives Dr. Rice a break from working long Mars nights communicating with the rover but her work is never done and a piece she has written on the mission and conjunction was just published by NASA today! Check it out here: Dr. Rice's Mission Status on Mars 

The solar conjunction has also given us time to plan another very exciting webinar on the progress of the mission and WWU's involvement so stay tuned for registration coming soon!

Our own students at the Western Window have also written a nice piece on the lab recently following Congressmen Rick Larsen's visit, which you can read here!   

Thanks again for your support and interest in the amazing research going on at Western and we can't wait to bring you more!


The Western Mars Lab Team 

Mars Lab Update!

July 19, 2021

Perseverances selfie with Ingenuity on Mars

Mars Lab Update

Perseverance is alive and well on the surface of Mars! It has been 123 Martian days since the rover landed in Jezero Crater back in February. During this time, the rover has tested almost all of its capabilities, and the Ingenuity helicopter has completed eight successful flights!


Perseverance has now begun the journey towards its first big destination: the location of the oldest rocks at the bottom of the crater. We have driven 0.5 miles to date, but will be picking up the pace to cover a lot more ground in the coming months.


The Mastcam-Z cameras have been the stars of the mission thus far, capturing movies of Ingenuity in flight and sweeping panoramic views of the other-worldly landscapes. Zooming into the features in the distance, we're using Mastcam-Z every day to scout the traverse path that Perseverance will take over the next year to reach the main destination of the mission: the Jezero Delta.


The success of the mission has not gone unnoticed. In the weeks after the landing, Governor Inslee invited me and recent WWU alumna Tina Seeger to join a call in which he congratulated people from the state who contributed to the mission. Last month, Congressman Larsen dropped by our Mars Lab on campus to chat with me and my students about Mastcam-Z. We were excited to show him a new instrument we just installed called a "goniometer," which allows us to collect spectra of rocks in the lab under some of the same conditions that Mastcam-Z uses to look at rocks on Mars.


Congressman Larsen visiting the Mars Lab on campus


Current WWU master's student Jess Mollerup, Tina Seeger, and I have been working from our homes in Bellingham at all hours of the day and night over the past few months, assessing the new images taken by Mastcam-Z and making plans for what the rover will do next. We've been working on "Mars Time" so that our schedules coincide with nighttime in Jezero Crater when Perseverance is sleeping. Because Mars' days are 40 minutes longer than Earth days, our schedules have been constantly shifting forward.


Tina, Jess, and Melissa meeting up at 7 am for after-work dinner and drinks


It's been an exhausting schedule to maintain — it feels like constant jetlag — but we've been able to have some fun with it. Back in April, when our work shifts were ending in the early morning hours, Tina, Jess, and I met up at 7 am for after-work dinner and drinks (it was early breakfast for everyone else at the restaurant!). We have recently started transitioning back to a more Earth-like work schedule, but we will continue operating the rover seven days a week through the summer, so the hard work and excitement continue!


Thank you for your continued support and interest in this project. I look forward to updating you in the future!



Melissa Rice

Associate Professor of Planetary Science at Western Washington University


February 18, 2021

The Mars Rover Perseverance with components worked on directly by our own Dr. Melissa Rice and her students at WWU landed on the red planet this afternoon!!

It is a historic moment in space exploration and Western is very proud to be involved! 

Check out the news story here: 

Thank you so much to those who have already supported the Mars Lab Fund!

We are hoping to raise $100,000 over the coming years while Dr. Rice will be nightly - uploading new instructions to the mars rover while it sleeps and in that time we want to expand her lab and access for students in this amazing field. Gifts can also be made to specifically support student research.  

Thank you for your continued support and spreading the word about the work being done at WWU, every gift counts so let's keep going! 

If you have any questions about the campaign or the Mars lab please contact Amber Asbjornsen at 

New video!

July 28, 2020

In a conversation with NASA Astrobiology team about the Mars Perseverance Rover Launch on July 30, Dr. Melissa Rice discusses the ins and outs of MASTCAM-Z, Perseverance's vision system and her excitement of the unexpected. Rice is a co-investigator on the NASA mission and her team of students and alums from Western Washington University are manning the MASTCAM-Z Camera. Support their work and research as Western goes to Mars!

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