LPL in 2008 |
The Moon & the Solar System |
Extra-Solar Planets |
Finding Life Outside |
The Earth’s Climate
The Future of Space Exploration
This Department needs to very carefully look at how it’s going to structure itself for the future, in the same sense that Kuiper structured the initial laboratory—by looking around at people and bringing people in, hiring people that each filled a niche, but they contributed to a coherent whole. I think the Department and Lab is going to have an opportunity to hire a number of people beginning next year . Each of these people represents an opportunity.
I think that’s the next pivotal moment. It’s in the near-term: How to replace the existing senior faculty with new faculty who will in time—ten, twenty years—carry on these traditions. Kuiper had a knack for it. I think the Department has in general done a very good job of adding to the faculty, as the faculty spots have become available. But what’s happening now is going to be a lot of people leaving. Again, it’s one of these opportunities that comes along, and you can either use it effectively or squander it.
There’s more to it than just placing bets. It’s having a vision: Where do we want to go? More importantly, what’s going to be the next opportunities in terms of science and technology? How can you possible look ten, twenty years in the future to begin planning for it, and committing yourself to setting up resources, none of which will be cheap, that will help prepare for it? Kuiper did it. He was good at it. The question is can we do it?
I think LPL continues to have a very, very bright future. I have to say I feel a great sense of satisfaction in watching the launch of the Phoenix mission, because when we started doing major initiatives in experimental space work, it wasn’t obvious that we were going to have anything approaching the level of success that LPL ultimately did have. It’s really a thrill to see that trajectory continue and go deeper.
So, indeed, I think LPL has a really bright future, which is of course tied in some respects to the NASA program. That last part leads to a certain amount of uncertainty. That being said, I think that LPL has been facile and flexible and adaptable, and there is every reason to believe that LPL, however the NASA program develops, is going to continue to occupy a successful position in space science.
LPL has set the standard for all the other intuitions of planetary sciences. Maintaining that position is not trivial. I know it sounds less glamorous than going somewhere else—just staying where they are—but if LPL can just maintain their leadership position, that in itself would be a great achievement.
Where LPL goes from here would be up to LPL. For example, as the Head of the Planetary Group here at the University of Central Florida, I would like to emulate LPL. If I were at LPL, my attitude would be different. It would be: How can we continue to be cutting-edge and not slip, or increase and go to the next level? What are the opportunities for LPL?
In many ways LPL continues to make my life easy, because I have a great role model to emulate. As a member of a planetary group that is very young and is growing, LPL is a great model. In that sense, I continue to be grateful to LPL—in many ways, but this is another way. If I was the leader of LPL, I would probably be looking for: What is the next step? How can they go up one more level? But just staying as the leader in the U.S. and the world in planetary science would be a great achievement.
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Department of Planetary Sciences
Lunar and Planetary Laboratory
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