|The Department Graduate Students Ground-Based Research|
The Pioneers |
Pioneer Venus |
Voyagers 1 & 2 |
Mars Observer |
Lunar Prospector | IMAGE
We had a lot of data from the Viking mission. I was a guest investigator on the orbiter imaging team for the Viking mission, so I was studying this from the point of view of a geomorphologist and a geologist. This was leading to a lot of ideas about what it might be that had operated in the past on Mars to create the conditions that allowed flowing water, and particularly rather condensed flows of water in the form of these giant floods that made the Martian outflow channels.
As a geomorphologist I’m interested in the surface form and processes that operate on a planet. Images are absolutely essential to interpreting that. But of course the images that were initially just a visual range of perception have now been augmented by images that are showing us spectral properties. For example, with Venus we had images that were showing us radar reflectances. These are all images, but they may not be as easily interpreted by the general public as a regular picture-type image.
I find immense scientific value in them, and it’s quite a long story as to how that works. One would have to understand how it is that we do science with images. But a brief statement of that is that the images relate to a larger context, the features of interest. We see them in relationship to other features in a sort of spatial relationship that has to do with their causes and their overall pattern.
So as geomorphologists we use that understanding to get further understanding on how the planet works, and particularly the surface of the planet. We combine that with other information, of course, but images—that’s essential.
Science is not an individual activity where we do things that just inform ourselves. Science is a community activity, because that community is what validates or thinks about the relationships of what we have discovered to what other scientists have discovered. So I benefit from seeing what they do; they benefit from seeing what I do, and it’s all part of an endless quest for the truth of things.
No one is going to be critical of you even if you make a mistake. If you’re similarly dedicated to that process and you’re honestly engaged in doing it, you’re all part of the same spirit of investigation. Even though you might be using somewhat different tools and methods and even somewhat different ways of thinking about things, you all come together in a common spirit of searching for just how it is remarkable things like the surfaces of planets came to be the way they are.
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