Roger Wiens

Principal Investigator

My name is Roger Wiens and I live in Los Alamos, NM, USA. I am the Principal Investigator for ChemCam which means I direct all activities associated with the instrument. I started the project about ten years ago when another co-worker and I told NASA that we could develop the laser concept for use on another planet. They liked the idea. So we recruited a team of scientists and engineers to come up with the ChemCam instrument. Coordinating the work of the various team members is a large part of my job, but of course I also like to work with the data myself. I like to hang out with my family; my wife and two teen-age boys. I also love music, so I play keyboard in a band at my church, which is a good diversion from the instrument work.

When I was young, I was interested in either being a musician, an inventor and engineer, or join the Peace Corps. I was very interested in science, but I grew up in a small town in the Midwest and I never thought I could end up being a space scientist. My interest in Mars was sparked by the Mariner 9 mission to Mars, the first spacecraft to orbit Mars. That same year Mars came closer to Earth than it had in many years. My brother and I saved up our paper route money to buy parts to build a telescope. We mounted it on a fence post and sketched the features of Mars. It was an amazing sight! I wrote about this experience in my book Getting to Mars. In graduate school, I was able to study bits of the martian atmosphere trapped in meteorites for my PhD thesis. After graduating, I led many of the activities on another unmanned NASA mission called GENESIS.