ASU's Planetary Rock Stars
Meet some of the planetary rock stars that have helped ASU achieve its history of excellence in the field of planetary exploration.
Philip R. Christensen
Philip Christensen is the director of the Mars Space flight Facility in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University where he also is a Regents' Professor of Geological Sciences. His research focuses on the composition, physical properties and processes, and morphology of planetary surfaces, with an emphasis on Mars and Earth.
A major element of his research has been the design and development of spacecraft infrared remote-sensing instruments. His research uses infrared spectroscopy, radiometry, laboratory spectroscopic measurements, field observations, and numerical modeling, in a wide range of field sites and these tools are used to study environmental and urban development problems on Earth.
Christensen was the principal investigator for the Thermal Emission Spectrometer (TES) on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor orbiter (1996-2006). NASA used this instrument's results to target one of its twin Mars Exploration Rovers (Opportunity). Christensen's Miniature Thermal Emission Spectrometers (Mini-TES) are onboard each rover as a mineral scounting instrument. Currently, he is principal investigator for the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS), a multi-band visual and infrared camera on the Mars Odyssey orbiter.
Christensen is involved in a new NASA mission, OSIRIS-REx, to return samples of rocks and dust from asteroid 1999 RQ36. His instrument, the OSIRIS-REx Thermal Emission Spectrometer (OTES), will survey the asteroid and help identify the best place to take the sample.
Jim Bell is a professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. An astronomer and planetary scientist, he uses remote sensing, field studies, and laboratory studies to explore the geology, mineralogy, origin, and evolution of planetary surfaces. His current research focuses mostly on the geology and mineralogy of Mars, but his interests also include studying the surfaces of the Moon, planetary satellites like Jupiter's Europa, outer solar system asteroids, and comets.
As a member of the Mars Exploration Rover science team, Jim has served as the lead scientist in charge of the Panoramic camera (Pancam) on the Spirit and Opportunity rovers.
Jim is also president of The Planetary Society and writes photography-oriented books on astronomy and space sciences. These include "Postcards from Mars" (2006), "Mars 3-D" (2008), "Moon 3-D" (2009), and "The Space Book: 250 Milestones in the History of Astronomy and Space Exploration" (due out in 2012). He is the recipient of the 2011 Carl Sagan Medal from the American Astronomical Society, for excellence in public communication in planetary sciences.
Jack Farmer is a professor of geological science in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. He conducts research in astrobiology with emphases on the evolution of the early biosphere, the biosedimentology of hydrothermal, evaporitic and other extreme environments. He also develops strategies for exploring Mars and other bodies in the solar system in the search for a past or present biosphere. He is involved in helping to develop methods of planetary protection for returning Mars samples to Earth, and in developing instrumentss for future astrobiology missions.
He is a participating scientist on the Mars Exploration Rover mission, serving as a long-term planning lead and member of the geology theme group, representing astrobiology. He is also a member of the CheMin instrument team on the Mars Science Laboratory mission, planned for launch in 2011.
Ronald Greeley is a Regents’ Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. He is director of the NASA-ASU Regional Planetary Image Facility and principal investigator of the Planetary Aeolian Laboratory at NASA-Ames Research Center.
Since 1967 Greeley has been involved in lunar and planetary studies and has contributed significantly to our understanding of planetary bodies within our solar system. Mission projects included the Galileo mission to Jupiter, the Magellan mission to Venus, and the Shuttle Imaging Radar orbiter around Earth. He was also part of the data analysis program for the Voyager 2 mission to Uranus and Neptune. His projects focused on the moons of these distant bodies. Passionate about Mars exploration, he has been involved with several missions to the Red Planet, including Mariner (6, 7, 9), Viking, Mars Pathfinder, Mars Global Surveyor, the Mars Exploration Rovers, and he is a co-investigator for the camera system onboard the European Mars Express mission.
Greeley’s current research is focused on understanding planetary surface processes and geological histories. The approach involves a combination of spacecraft data analysis, laboratory experiments, and geological field studies on Earth of features analogous to those observed on the planets.
Currently, Greeley chairs the NASA Advisory Council’s subcommittee for Planetary Sciences.
Since his arrival in 2006 at ASU, Kip Hodges, Founding Director of the School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE), has become increasingly involved in research on astromaterials and planetary field science. His research group is pioneering new methods for determining the ages of meteorite impact events on Earth by applying noble gas isotope geochemistry techniques. They have recently embarked on related studies of Apollo 17 samples to explore the impact history of the Taurus-Littrow region of the Moon.
Having spent much of his career practicing and teaching field geology all over our planet, Hodges is now working on the development of advanced protocols for future field geology research on the Moon, asteroids, and other planets. These efforts have included collaborations with former astronauts (including Apollo 17 Lunar Module Pilot Harrison Schmitt), industrial partners (e.g., Boeing), and several NASA robotics groups with an eye toward human-robotic collaborations during the scientific exploration of other worlds. In collaboration with the NASA Astronaut Office, Hodges plays a continuing role in development and delivery of the geology training curriculum for American, Canadian, and Japanese astronauts.
Mark Robinson is a professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. His research interests currently focus on the origin and evolution of planetary crusts, including volcanism, tectonism and regolith development.
Robinson is the principal investigator of one of the instruments on board NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, the imaging system known as LROC, short for Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera. These cameras have captured the Moon in unprecedented detail and produced the sharpest images ever taken from space. Robinson also oversees the Apollo Digital Archive project, putting online highly detailed scans of original Apollo film images taken during the manned lunar flights in the 1960s and 70s.
In addition to exploring the Moon, Robinson has been extensively involved in the exploration of Mercury, serving as a science team member on NASA’s MESSENGER mission. In one project, he calibrated and digitally mosaicked archival lunar and mercurian image data acquired by NASA's Mariner 10 mission in the mid-1970s. From decades-old data, this work extracted new mineralogical information about Mercury's surface.
Meenakshi “Mini” Wadhwa is the director of the Center for Meteorite Studies in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. She is a cosmochemist interested in deciphering the origin and evolution of the Solar System and planetary bodies through studies of their geochemical and isotopic makeup.
Wadhwa uses high-precision mass spectrometric techniques to investigate a wide range of Solar System materials. These include meteorites that come from asteroids and the planet Mars, as well as Moon rocks (from the Apollo missions and lunar meteorites) and other samples returned by spacecraft such as NASA's Genesis and Stardust missions.
As director of the Center for Meteorite Studies, she oversees the curation of one of the largest university-based meteorite collections, as well as a variety of research and educational activities conducted in the center. She has also participated in the ANSMET (Antarctic Search for Meteorites) program for collecting meteorites in Antarctica.
In 2000, she was the recipient of the Meteoritical Society's Nier Prize, awarded for outstanding research in meteoritics or planetary science by a scientist under the age of 35. Wadhwa received a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship in 2005 in support of her work on the solar wind samples returned by NASA's Genesis spacecraft. The International Astronomical Union has recognized her contributions to planetary science with the naming of asteroid 8356 Wadhwa.