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At May’s Deep Talks, learn about the ups (and downs) of trying to find life in the Universe through robotic exploration.


LEAD, SD— Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) invites the public to attend the final Deep Talks of the season, “Deep Talks: Looking for life on Mars with SHERLOC,” with Luther Beegle, principal investigator of SHERLOC with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This will be an online event, streamed on Thursday, May 13, from 6 to 7 p.m. MT.

At this virtual event, Beegle will discuss how to look for life on other planets and the ups (and downs) of trying to find life in the universe through robotic exploration and how early R&D work at SURF contributed to the making of SHERLOC technology.

Although there is no evidence of extant life on the surface of Mars, researchers believe the planet—made of the same primordial substances as Earth—once boasted all the conditions necessary for living organisms to form.

“Three and a half billion years ago, Mars seems to have had everything the Earth did when life started on Earth,” Beegle said. “So, the question is: Did life start there? And if not, why not?”

To answer this question, researchers look to the timeline encrypted in Mars’ rocks. In February, the Perseverance Rover landed in a massive depression called Jezero Crater. Mounted on Perseverance’s robotic arm, the SHERLOC tool is using spectrometers, a laser and a camera to search for organics and minerals that may be signs of past microbial life.

Attendees can join this free event via Zoom webinar to answer polls and submit questions for speakers or watch live on SURF’s Facebook page. Webinar space is limited; early registration is encouraged.

View full event information and register for the Zoom webinar on SURF’s website.

This event is part of SURF’s Deep Talks lecture series, a monthly series ushering scientific discussions into the public sphere. In the 2020-2021 season, Deep Talks will bring voices from the international scientific community to your home through our virtual format. The Deep Talks lecture series is sponsored by Chuck and Jolene Lichtenwalner, Crow Peak Brewing Company, RCS Construction and Northern Hills Federal Credit Union. 

Sanford Lab is operated by the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority (SDSTA) with funding from the Department of Energy Office of Science. Our mission is to advance world class science and inspire learning across generations. Visit Sanford Lab at

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Final Deep Talks of the season features NASA’s search for life on Mars
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