Monday 22 October, Frédérique Vidal, the Minister for Higher Education, Research and Innovation, awarded the National Order of Merit to Eric Lorigny, in charge of operating the French instruments on the Mars Curiosity rover. Eric Lorigny graduated with an engineering degree from Compiègne Technology University before starting his career at the aeronomy research laboratory (SA) of the national scientific research centre CNRS, where he worked on the Cassini-Huygens mission. He joined CNES in 1994, developing robotic mechanisms for space. In 2002, he assisted astronauts and scientists working on microgravity experiments, and was appointed to head the French Instruments Mars Operations Centre (FIMOC) at CNES in 2009.
FIMOC enables the French engineers, technicians and scientists at CNES and national research laboratories working on the Mars Science Laboratory mission to operate the ChemCam and SAM-GC instruments on the Curiosity rover currently exploring Gale Crater. The FIMOC team monitors and tasks these instruments, as well as retrieving and processing the science data they acquire. ChemCam analyses rocks and soils using laser induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS). Its high-power laser fires at a target and vaporizes material into a plasma detectable remotely by UV-visible spectroscopy. SAM-GC is a set of instruments designed for in-situ analysis of Mars’ surface and subsurface.
At the award ceremony, CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall said: “This award of the National Order of Merit to Eric Lorigny recognizes the unstinting efforts deployed to make the Curiosity rover’s mission a success. Thanks to the determination of Eric and his team at FIMOC, the ChemCam instrument has completed more than 600,000 laser firings that have enabled scientists to discover that Mars was once a habitable planet. More broadly, this distinction reflects the expertise in space exploration that is making France more than ever an international partner of choice in this domain. Once again, congratulations to Eric Lorigny and the FIMOC team, who are flying the flag high for CNES and the French space research community on the surface of Mars.”
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