Longtime LPL staff member Kathi Baker passed away on November 8, 2014, after a battle with cancer. Kathi was originally from Yuma, but made her home in Tucson with her husband, Tom, and their 3 children, Mackinzie, Kyle, and Zachary.
Kathi began her career at LPL in 1998 as a Senior Accounting Assistant in the LPL Business Office. After a promotion to Accounting Specialist, she moved to support the LPL West Business Office in Gould-Simpson as an Accountant, Associate, in 2000. She started work with PIRL and HiRISE in 2003, and moved into the position of Administrative Associate in 2007. In 2012, Kathi accepted the position of Executive Assistant in support of the Department Head and Director, Professor Timothy Swindle.
Kathi was an active member of her faith community. She enjoyed singing and gardening, often bringing her sweet peas and snapdragons into the office when they were in bloom each spring. Kathi was a much loved member of the LPL community and will be missed by all.
Nadine Gail Barlow passed away on August 17, 2020. Over 18 years at Northern Arizona University, Nadine ascended the academic ranks, becoming Department Chair of Astronomy and Planetary Science. She received numerous awards for teaching excellence. Doubling the size of the Department, she grew its curriculum into a Ph.D.-granting program. Nadine supervised many undergraduate and graduate students, and was a popular mentor and friend to those under her tutelage. A prize for Undergraduate Research Excellence is being established in her name. Academic outreach was a priority, bringing the Arizona Space Grant Program to NAU, and fostering cooperation between NAU, Lowell Observatory, and the USGS. Nadine specialized in impact cratering processes across the Solar System. Almost on a dare, she mapped, measured, and classified every crater on Mars larger than 8 km in diameter for her Ph.D. dissertation. These data were used to establish the detailed relative chronology of Martian geologic features. Throughout her career, she expanded this database, as later spacecraft missions returned increasingly detailed images of Mars. The IAU named asteroid 15466 Barlow in her honor.
A retired physicist, Dr. Broadfoot initially began his career as an engineer with the Defense Research Board in Ottawa, Canada, between 1956 and 1958. Upon earning advanced degrees, he was later hired to work at the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Tucson, Arizona, in 1963 as a junior physicist in the space division. Remaining with the organization for 15 years, he also served as an assistant physicist, associate physicist and physicist. In 1979, Dr. Broadfoot became a research scientist and associate physicist at the Space Engineering Research Center at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Then in 1982, Dr. Broadfoot was hired by the University of Arizona in Tucson as a senior research scientist in the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, where he remained for 21 years before retiring in 2003.
Senior Research Scientist
Michael J. Drake
Michael J. Drake (1946-2011) attended Victoria University (Manchester) where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology in 1967. He earned his Ph.D. in Geology at the University of Oregon in 1972. After a year as a postdoctoral research associate at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, he migrated to the University of Arizona.
Drake's breadth of research expertise led to his achieving the rank of Professor in the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL), the Arizona Research Laboratories, and the Department of Geosciences at the University of Arizona. He was appointed Head of the Department of Planetary Sciences and Director of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in 1994, a position he held until 2011. He was appointed as Regents’ Professor in 2005. Under his leadership, LPL successfully built and flew a variety of spacecraft instruments including the Imager for Mars Pathfinder, the Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer (DISR) on Cassini/Huygens, the IMAGE Extreme Ultraviolet Imager, and the Gamma-ray Spectrometer Suite on Mars Odyssey. In addition, LPL scientists were selected as Team Leaders on the Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer on the Cassini mission and the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. During his tenure, LPL built the Surface Stereo Imager and Robotic Arm cameras and the TEGA instrument on Phoenix, and successfully operated Phoenix on the Martian surface from the University of Arizona campus.
Professor Drake was named a fellow of the Meteoritical Society in 1980, the American Geophysical Union in 2002, and the Geochemical Society in 2002. He was a founding fellow of the Arizona Arts, Sciences and Technology Academy. He served as Vice President then President of the Meteoritical Society from 1997-1998 and the Geochemical Society from 1996-1999. He was awarded the Leonard Medal of the Meteoritical Society in 2004. Asteroid (9022) 1988 PC1 was named Drake in his honor by Carolyn Shoemaker. Professor Drake played a key role in defining the planetary science research priorities of the United States, serving on the NASA Space Science Advisory Committee, the Lunar Exploration Science Working Group and as Chair of the NASA Solar System Exploration Subcommittee, among many other service commitments.
Professor Drake developed the OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return mission concept. His leadership of the OSIRIS-REx team was instrumental in its success of moving into a selected flight mission project. The scientific goals of the mission are to investigate the possibility of asteroid delivery of prebiotic molecules to Earth and Mars, to connect the meteorite collection to the astronomical asteroid spectral database, to investigate near-Earth resources that may be used by humans going to the Moon and Mars, and to improve our ability to mitigate against devastating near-Earth object impacts. As the mission leader Drake established the OSIRIS-REx guiding philosophy of obtaining excellence at every level, allowing for clear and open communication across all levels of the team, and staying focused on the mission objectives.
Read more about Professor Drake: Regents' Professor Michael J. Drake, 1946-2011
Director, Department Head
We regretfully forward the sad news of the death of LPL staffer and Boynton team member Gerard Droege. Jerry's colleague and friend, Bill Boynton, remembers Jerry:
"Jerry was an amazing man. He came to LPL in 2006 after retiring from his medical practice and joined my group as a NASA Space Grant Intern. He worked on the Phoenix TEGA instrument and later worked on data analysis of the Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector, a Russian made high spatial resolution neutron detector on LRO.
"Jerry had nearly 20 years practicing as an OB/GYN before he decided to go back to school to learn a new field. He loved his job here even if he had to put with my regularly introducing him as my gynecologist.
"Jerry was an avid sailor (lived on a sailboat while practicing in San Diego), hiker (conquering Aconcagua), and juggler. He even has a certificate from Guinness Book of World Records for the `Most Prepositions at the End of a Sentence.' He will be missed greatly by all who knew him."
Tom Gehrels was a noted planetary scientist and astronomer. He spent nearly his entire academic career at the University of Arizona, from 1961 until his death on July 11, 2011. Although he could have retired 20 years ago, he remained a dedicated teacher and researcher until the end of his life. Just a few months before his passing, in April 2011, he was honored by the University for his 50 years of service as an academic.
During his academic career he discovered literally thousands of asteroids and comets, and the results of his research are widely published. In 2007, the American Astronomical Society’s Division of Planetary Sciences presented Gehrels with the Harold Masursky Award for scientific contributions during his career.
Gehrels was born in Haarlemmermeer, the Netherlands, on February 21, 1925, near the current location of Schiphol Airport. Following the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands in 1940, Gehrels joined the resistance movement and later was able to escape to England for further training. He was trained in Britain’s Special Operations Executive and was parachuted into the Netherlands to sabotage and spy on the German activities in his native land. He was fortunate to escape capture because the German anti-spy operations were quite effective at identifying subversives and spies among the population. If captured he would almost certainly have been executed.
Following the war, Gehrels was able to continue his studies. In 1948, he applied for admittance to the University of Leiden, was accepted and graduated in 1951 with a degree in physics and astronomy. He then continued his graduate studies at the University of Chicago where he was awarded his doctorate in astronomy and astrophysics in 1956.
While at Chicago, Gehrels was able to work with Nobel prize winner, astrophysicist Dr. Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar and with Dr. Gerald Kuiper. Dr. Gerald Kuiper, a fellow Dutchman was a noted and famous astronomer then [see his biographical profile in this collection]. However, Dr. Chandrasekhar was the one who had the most influence on Gehrels’ development as a scientist and astronomer.
Following graduation, Gehrels joined the University of Indiana in Bloomington, Indiana for a post-doctoral fellowship. While at Indiana, he focused on the study of asteroids. Asteroids are chunks of rock, some as large as miles in diameter, and some as small as the size of an automobile which travel through space, and occasionally crash into the Earth’s atmosphere.
In 1960 Dr. Kuiper joined the University of Arizona [UA] to establish the UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. A year later, Gehrels followed Kuiper to Tucson, and joined the faculty of planetary sciences and astronomy at the UA. He would remain there for the next 50 years.
In 1980, Gehrels started the Spacewatch Project which uses telescopes at Kitt Peak, near Tucson, to survey the sky for asteroids, especially the more dangerous ones. Gehrels is also the founder of the highly respected Space Science series, published by the University of Arizona Press. He served as the editor of the series for 30 volumes.
In recent years Dr. Gehrels has focused his research on cosmology and universal evolution. He published an original paper in the area entitled, “The Multiverse and the Origin of Our Universe”.
Professor Gehrels was the father of Neil, George and Jo-Ann Gehrels, all graduates of the University of Arizona. Neil Gehrels is an astrophysicist and is currently the Chief of the Astroparticle Physics Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
Senior Staff Scienstist Floyd Herbert, a long-time member of the LPL family, passed away on May 12, 2010. He was born in Orange, California and lived throughout California as a child. He graduated from CalTech and then moved to Tucson where he received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Arizona. Floyd worked at Kitt Peak, briefly at the Planetary Science Institute, and then at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.
His research was focused on magnetic fields interacting with asteroids, Io, and in his last work, extra-solar planets. An example of his innovative work was his 1979 paper in "Icarus,'' with Charles Sonett, then director of LPL, on the heating of asteroids by strong magnetic fields and solar winds. The Herbert-Sonett model offered an explanation of why some moderate-sized bodies, like Vesta, have once-melted igneous surfaces, while larger bodies, like Ceres, appear to have unmelted primitive surfaces. This difference had not previously been explained. The subject of asteroid heating has been somewhat dormant in recent years, but tests of Floyd's ideas may come with the DAWN mission, now sailing toward Vesta and Ceres.
Senior Staff Scientist
On December 14, 2010, University of Arizona Professor Emeritus Don Hunten died after a long illness. During his last days, he was tended by his wife and UA Senior Research Associate Ann Sprague.
On February 25, 2011, LPL hosted a celebration of the life of Donald M. Hunten. Steven Bougher, Darrell Strobel, Mark Sykes, and many other colleagues, friends, and family members were in attendance.
Hunten's scientific career began with the study of physics at McGill University, where he obtained a doctorate in 1950. While a faculty member at the University of Saskatchewan, his research concentrated on the study of aurorae (natural light displays in the sky caused by the collision of charged particles directed by the Earth's magnetic field).
By 1963 however, the space age was starting in earnest. At the invitation of Joe Chamberlain, Hunten moved to Kitt Peak National Observatory in Tucson to join the newly-formed space research group and his main research interest switched to the study of planetary atmospheres. Thus, he joined the first group of pioneers in the scientific exploration of the solar system and he was to be a leading figure in this community for nearly half a century.
The accomplishments of these pioneers were remarkable, including the first characterizations of the atmospheres in our solar system along with development of the basic understanding of the structure and chemistry of these atmospheres and the experimental and theoretical tools used to study them. Many of the ideas developed during that time are still with us today and Hunten's contributions were central to their development.
A signature achievement during this phase of his career was an understanding of how odd hydrogen chemistry stabilized the atmosphere of Mars against destruction by photodissociation. Hunten moved to the UA's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in 1974, and his involvement in planetary research continued unabated. He also taught numerous students and post-doctoral associates.
Hunten retired in 2001 but remained active until recently. He received many honors during his career, including induction into the National Academy of Sciences, the Kuiper Prize of the Division of Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society and a Regents' Professorship at the UA.
One of Hunten's most far-reaching achievements concerned the role of diffusion in atmospheric escape processes. "Don's Principle," as this is sometimes known, described how the escape rate was limited by diffusion of the escaping species through the background atmosphere.
Typical for him, the theory was formulated in response to an observation, the detection of molecular hydrogen in Titan's atmosphere, when it was expected to have a very low abundance because of rapid escape. The theory was developed in a series of papers between 1972 and 1974, including an application to the escape of hydrogen from the terrestrial atmosphere — one of the best examples of how studying other planets leads to a better understanding of our own.
Hunten was a major influence on the unmanned space program with involvement in the planning and execution of numerous NASA planetary missions including Pioneer Venus, Voyager, Galileo and Cassini. In fact, he was the godfather of so many missions that he was dubbed by his colleagues "The Don."
In addition to his direct involvement on the experiment teams, Hunten helped conceive these missions, argued for their funding, sat on (and often chaired) their planning committees, helped to define the scientific goals, and provided wise guidance during their execution.
Hunten was a scientist of extraordinary breadth. His expertise ranged across the planetary sciences from chemistry to remote sensing to thermal processes to studies of atmospheric evolution and he used a variety of tools including telescopic observations, spacecraft observations, and theoretical investigations.
A talented tinkerer, Hunten could build a harpsichord in his garage, or repair a computer with the needle-nosed pliers and soldering iron that he kept in his office, all the while with gentle classical music playing in the background. He wrote nearly as many papers on electronics as he did on atmospheric evolution.
Throughout his career, Hunten went out his way to support and encourage younger scientists. As a result, he leaves behind legions of students and collaborators that he profoundly influenced. These intellectual disciples can be found in every planetary science research center on the globe.
Hunten's textbook, co-authored with Joe Chamberlain, "Theory of Planetary Atmospheres" was treasured by many of his colleagues. This pales though, in comparison to personal interactions, through which Hunten could more directly impart his common sense approach to planetary science.
Our colleague and friend Selina Johnson passed away in December. Selina was a member of LPL's administrative staff for many years. She started at LPL as an undergraduate student in 1981, and left as a Senior Program Coordinator in 2008. Selina was lively and vivacious and we remember her big smile and hearty laugh. There was never a dull moment when Selina was in the crowd. She'll be greatly missed by all. A memorial celebration took place on February 18, 2012, at Tohono Chul Park in Tucson.
Elizabeth "Selina" Johnson died peacefully in her sleep, unexpectedly on Thursday, December 15, 2011. Selina was a loving wife and mother, survived by her husband, Glenn Johnson; her two sons, Byron and Neil; her mother, Libbie Dearing; her siblings, Michael Dearing (Debi), Robert Dearing (Vanessa), James Dearing, Mark Dearing and Stephen Dearing (Colleen); her nieces and nephews, Laura, Autumn, Ashlyn and Joshua. Selina was born July 23, 1952 in Los Angeles, CA to Libbie and Paul Dearing. She was raised in Wisconsin and Illinois. She graduated from Larkin High School in Elgin, Illinois in 1970. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Speech and Hearing Sciences from University of Arizona and a Masters degree in Elementary Education from Northern Arizona University. She moved to Tucson in 1972, where she met her husband of 34 years. She worked at The University of Arizona for 27 years, specializing in K-12 educational outreach. Selina was a pillar of strength in her family. We are broken hearted and will miss her smile, playful laugh and love.
Senior Program Coordinator
Gerard P. Kuiper
Gerard P. Kuiper (1905-1973) is considered by many as the father of modern planetary science. Kuiper was born in The Netherlands. He entered Leiden University in 1924 and received his Bachelor of Science in 1927 and a Ph.D. in Astronomy in 1933. While completing his advanced studies, he worked as an assistant observer at the Leiden Observatory (1928-1933). From 1933-1935, he was a Kellogg Fellow under American astronomer Robert Grant Aiken at Lick Observatory. In 1935, Kuiper visited Harvard College Observatory as lecturer in Astronomy. He accepted a job at Yerkes Observatory (University of Chicago) in 1936 and was named Director of the Yerkes and McDonald Observatories in 1947. He studied the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan in 1944, the carbon dioxide atmosphere of Mars in 1948, Uranus’s satellite Miranda in 1948, and Neptune’s satellite Nereid in 1949.
In 1955, Gerard P. Kuiper posted a notice on the message board at the International Astronomical Union conference in Dublin; he was looking for assistance in creating a lunar atlas. The only person to reply to his inquiry was Ewen Whitaker. This was the beginning of a long, successful collaboration that ultimately produced four lunar atlases (see details below) and led the duo to work on NASA’s Ranger and Apollo missions. The work on the atlases was begun at Yerkes Observatory in the 1950s. In 1960, Kuiper resigned from Yerkes Observatory and moved to Tucson and founded the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL), where he and Whitaker continued their work.
In the 1960s, Kuiper served as Principal Investigator for the NASA Ranger program and as an experimenter on the NASA Surveyor program. He helped identify landing sites on the Moon for the Apollo program. Kuiper established a group of telescopes in the Santa Catalina Mountains above Tucson; made balloon spectroscopic observations of the Earth’s atmosphere; and conducted observatory site surveys in Hawaii, Mexico, and California. Kuiper served on numerous NASA committees and panels and briefed high government officials on features of the space program. Kuiper discovered several binary stars which received "Kuiper numbers" to identify them, such as KUI 79. Besides the minor planet 1776 Kuiper, three craters (Mercurian, lunar and Martian), Kuiper Scarp in Antarctica, and the now-decommissioned Kuiper Airborne Observatory was also named after him. Astronomers refer to a region of minor planets beyond Neptune as the "Kuiper belt" because Kuiper had suggested that such small planets or comets may have formed there. The Kuiper Prize, named in his honor, is the most distinguished award given by the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences, an international society of professional planetary scientists. The prize recognizes outstanding contributors to planetary science, and is awarded annually to scientists whose lifetime achievements have most advanced our understanding of planetary systems. Winners of this award include Carl Sagan, James Van Allen, and Eugene Shoemaker.
PHOTOGRAPHIC LUNAR ATLAS / D. W. G. Arthur, E. Moore, J. W. Tapscott, and E. A. Whitaker ; Edited by G. P. Kuiper. – Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1960. This atlas was the first of four atlases produced by Kuiper. The Photographic Lunar Atlas was compiled from the best existing telescopic images taken by five observatories: Mount Wilson (California), Yerkes (Wisconsin), Lick (California), McDonald (Texas), and Pic du Midi (France). The images show the same area in different illuminations to highlight various details. The Photographic Lunar Atlas was arranged so it could easily be used at the telescope. The images are oriented so that the Moon’s south pole is at the top, which is how observer’s see it while looking through a telescope. The atlas was printed on paper that allowed observers to write notes directly on the image while they were at the telescope.
ORTHOGRAPHIC ATLAS OF THE MOON : SUPPLEMENT NO. 1 TO THE PHOTOGRAPHIC LUNAR ATLAS / D. W. G. Arthur and E. A. Whitaker ; Edited by G. P. Kuiper. – Tucson : University of Arizona Press, 1960. This atlas was based on the images contained in the Photographic Lunar Atlas with the addition of a coordinate system defined by ~5,000 position points.
RECTIFIED LUNAR ATLAS : SUPPLEMENT NO. 2 TO THE PHOTOGRAPHIC LUNAR ATLAS / E. A Whitaker, G. P. Kuiper, W. K. Hartmann, and L. H. Spradley. – Tucson : University of Arizona Press, 1963. The Rectified Lunar Atlas was created from the negatives that were used to make the Photographic Lunar Atlas, with additional images from the Yerkes and McDonald observatories. Positive transparencies were made from the negatives and then projected onto a three-foot diameter white globe. The projected image was photographed to make the images for the RLA. This technique was employed in order remove the effects of foreshortening (distortion) on the lunar limb. The images are oriented so that north is at the top.
CONSOLIDATED LUNAR ATLAS : SUPPLEMENT NO. 3 and 4 to the PHOTOGRAPHIC LUNAR ATLAS / G. P. Kuiper, E. A. Whitaker, R. G. Strom, J. W. Fountain, and S. M. Larson. – Tucson : University of Arizona Press, 1967. The Consolidated Lunar Atlas is divided into two sections. Part one includes images taken under low-oblique lighting, which brings out features such as low domes, lava beds, and other objects of low vertical relief. Part two includes full-moon photography, which presents photometric information unavailable from even higher resolution images. The CLA images were taken at two facilities: the 61-inch NASA Telescope at Catalina Observatory on Mt. Bigelow, and the 61-inch U.S. Naval Observatory telescope in Flagstaff. Kuiper personally chose Mt. Bigelow as the site for construction of the 61-inch NASA Telescope, preferring Mt. Bigelow rather than Kitt Peak because it was higher in elevation and more easily accessible from the UA campus via the Catalina Highway. The 61-inch NASA Telescope, now named the Kuiper Telescope, was completed in 1965.
Director, Department Head
H. Jay Melosh was a trusted scientist known around the world as well as a kind and caring colleague, friend, and family man. He had a phenomenal number of publications that have changed the field for the better. He has had an asteroid named after him (8216 Melosh). He was a University Distinguished Professor of Purdue University and a Regents Professor at the University of Arizona. He was awarded the American Geophysical Union 2008 Harry H. Hess Medal - for “outstanding achievements in research in the constitution and evolution of Earth and sister planets.”
In addition to his scientific life, Jay was an avid woodworker. Over the years he made furniture, a wonderful clock and was a consignment artist at Artist’s Own, and Art Co-op in Lafayette, IN. He often commented that his most popular item he sold at Artist’s Own was seam rippers, a tool used by sewing enthusiasts. Jay and his wife Ellen built a cabin in New Mexico together. She says, "I mean literally we pounded every nail and designed it ourselves. Jay used a text from high school on building as our guide. Jay loved our little lake here on Cape Cod and spent lots of time in his small boat out on the lake." Jay also enjoyed travel, which he did extensively. He had visited every continent except Antarctica and had wonderful stories about every visit.
Tobias (Toby) C. Owen died on March 4, 2017, in Sacramento, California, where he had been living since his retirement from the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy in 2012. Owen’s career as a planetary scientist started at the beginning of the exploration of the solar system with spacecraft, and he was actively involved in the Juno mission at the end.
Owen grew up in Denver, Colorado, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. He developed an interest in astronomy at an early age and went on to the University of Chicago to earn his B.S. and M.S. degrees in physics. He then enrolled in the newly formed Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL) at the University of Arizona, becoming one of the first students of Gerard Kuiper, and obtaining his Ph.D. in 1965 on spectroscopic studies of Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Owen joined the faculty at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook, where he was a professor for many years, and then joined the faculty at the University of Hawaii, where he was affiliated until his passing.
Owen’s earliest work was in spectroscopy of the giant planets, and this interest quickly broadened to encompass all aspects of the origin and evolution of planetary atmospheres. With a special interest in isotopic abundances, he pursued and promoted a wide range of observational and theoretical investigations toward understanding the origins of all the planets and small bodies of the solar system. As one of the world’s leading planetary scientists, he was an active participant in a great number of missions, including Apollo 15 and 16, Viking, Voyager, Galileo, Rosetta, Juno, and Cassini-Huygens. He played a leading role in the development of the Cassini-Huygens mission as a joint project of NASA and ESA, and was called upon frequently to promote this and other missions to funding agencies in Europe as well as to NASA. Owen had close ties with European colleagues, notably in France, where he inspired a vigorous planetary group at the Paris Observatory.
Along with his scientific endeavors, Owen collaborated with with Frank Drake and Carl Sagan to initiate an effort in 1968 to form a specialized society in planetary studies. Acting on a suggestion from Juan Oro, and with the support of several planetary specialists at Kitt Peak National Observatory, their efforts ultimately led to the formation of the AAS Division of Planetary Sciences (DPS).
With the passing of Owen, science has lost a great talent, a valued colleague, and to many in the U.S. and abroad, a close friend. He will be remembered as a man of the world, unfailingly generous and modest, and a great scientist. He inspired all of his many colleagues with his enthusiasm for all aspects of planetary science, including the big questions of the origin of the solar system and of life in the universe. Among the many honors and accolades he received, Owen was awarded the Gerard P. Kuiper Prize of the DPS in 2009.
— Portions of text courtesy of the Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii, and the Division of Planetary Sciences
Elisabetta Pierazzo, Senior Scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, was part of the science staff at Planetary Science Institute for nine years until her untimely death from cancer in 2011.
Betty was an expert in the area of impact modeling throughout the solar system as well as an expert on the astrobiological and environmental effects of impacts on Earth and Mars. Her work ranged from providing detailed insights into the Chicxulub impact that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs to putting constraints on the thickness of the ice shell of Jupiter's moon Europa. She was interested in the rise of life and explored the delivery of organics by comets. She also studied the creation of subsurface hydrothermal systems by impacts that may have been favorable sites for life on Mars.
She made several appearances on national and international media (including National Geographic specials) to speak about the Meteor Crater in Arizona and explain its formation. Betty was innovative, rigorous, and systematic in her approach to science. She recognized the need for benchmarking and validating the different complex numerical codes to model impact and explosion cratering. She organized and led a science community effort to accomplish this major task.
In addition to her science research, Betty passionately promoted science education and public outreach. She taught undergraduates at the University of Arizona, she developed interactive websites and impact rock and meteorite kits for classroom use, as well as created professional development workshops for elementary and middle school science teachers.
Betty was an active member of the planetary science community. She served on numerous NASA review panels, was an associate editor of Meteoritics and Planetary Sciences, reviewed papers for several scientific journals, organized international workshops and meetings on impact cratering, and was an organizer of the 2007 Meteoritical Society Meeting held in Tucson, Arizona.
Betty was noted for the intensity with which she approached both life and work. Whether it was in the office, the classroom, on the volleyball court, the soccer field, or dance floor, her enthusiasm and joy were irresistible. She handled the challenges of living in a foreign country by opening her house and her kitchen to others. She was cherished by many people for her staunch friendship and support and she inspired countless people as a colleague, teacher, mentor, and friend. Her life was even more brightened with her marriage to Keith Powell in 2007.
In her last six months, Betty battled a rare form of cancer. She dealt with it aggressively and never let it overwhelm her. She was always looking towards the future. In the last week of her life, in the midst of chemotherapy, she was grading class papers, working on research papers, writing reviews and preparing education proposals with her colleagues, all the while finding time to spend precious moments with her family and friends. She was ultimately and suddenly struck down by a pulmonary embolism. Her loss is great to all those who knew her. The Planetary Science Institute and her science colleagues deeply felt the loss of this accomplished scientist. We are grateful to her husband, Keith, and to her family for the time she did have with us.
Professor Emerita Elizabeth (Pat) Roemer, passed away on April 8, 2016. Pat joined LPL in 1966, and retired in 1997. In 1972, Dr. Roemer chaired the committee tasked with organizing a department of planetary sciences for the University of Arizona. She specialized in comets and asteroids, starting at a time long before those were popular topics, and was a female professor in a male-dominated community long before that was commonplace. She was also a staunch friend and supporter of the LPL library for many years.
Charles "Chuck" See, a long-time member of the LPL family, passed away on January 8. Chuck was a native Tucsonan who earned a B.S. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering as well as an M.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Arizona. He spent ten years working as an aerospace engineer at firms like Sperry Space Systems (Phoenix), Allied Signal (Tucson), Westinghouse (Pittsburgh), Honeywell (Phoenix) & Westinghouse (Baltimore). In 1995, Chuck returned to the UA as a staff engineer working with Professor Martin Tomasko on the Cassini Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer (DISR) and the Huygens probe.
Chuck was a consummate aerospace engineer, possessing multiple skills that covered a variety of sub-disciplines: mechanical, thermal, electronic, systems, testing and flight operations. Never one to sit back and relax, he also developed his considerable analytical skills and became a talented scientific data analyst. Chuck was famously extroverted and a natural leader, usually tasked with being the U.S.-based DISR team’s instrument engineer during the Huygens probe’s Europe-based testing. Very popular with the other (largely European) instrument team members, he gracefully acted as the public face of an American DISR camera suite. He retired in 2006 but was retained part-time in order to curate and analyze the rich DISR data set.
Staff Engineer, Senior
Adam P. Showman passed away unexpectedly on March 16, 2020, at his home in Tucson, AZ. His untimely passing has been felt widely in the international planetary science community which has lost an outstanding theorist, dedicated teacher of many graduate students, and a sought-after collaborator to a world-wide network of exoplanet astronomers.
Adam Showman was born on October 9, 1968 in Palo Alto, CA. He studied physics at Stanford University, where he earned a B.S. in 1991. He earned a Ph.D. at Caltech in 1999, with a dissertation on the atmosphere of Jupiter as well as the geophysics of its largest moon Ganymede. After two short postdoc stints at the University of Louisville and NASA Ames, Dr. Showman joined the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona as an Assistant Professor in 2001; he was named full Professor in 2012. He was recently named a Galileo Circle Fellow of the University of Arizona (2018) and a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (2019).
During his career, Dr. Showman directly advised eleven graduate students and mentored many more across the disciplines of planetary science, atmospheric sciences and geosciences. He was a renowned teacher who enjoyed explaining to his students the complicated details of planetary physics and hammering out ideas to solve research problems. He developed eight different courses in the planetary sciences, including two completely new graduate courses, with course notes that are treasured by his students. His early pioneering research on the atmospheric dynamics of exoplanets (Showman & Guillot, 2002, Astron. & Astrophys. 385:166-180) has been the paradigm of hot gas giant atmospheric circulation models ever since. This work showed that the difference between the day and night side on hot Jupiters would drive strong eastward equatorial winds, comparable to or greater than the speed of sound in the medium. Showman and his collaborators worked out in detail the theoretical predictions that were spectacularly verified in subsequent observations, profoundly shaping the field. Showman extended his innovative theoretical models beyond hot gas giant planets, to tidally-locked and fast-rotating planets of smaller sizes and cooler temperatures as well as to the larger and warmer brown dwarfs. He was deeply involved in the exoplanet science community, collaborating with many observers to interpret their observations of exoplanet atmospheres and working with theorists to advance modeling techniques. He served the planetary science community in many professional roles, including as Editor of the international planetary science journal, Icarus.
Melvin J. Simmons passed away on January 16, 2010. He was 87. Mr. Simmons was the Assistant Director at LPL for 20+ years; he retired in 1987. He was primarily responsible for the fiscal management of all departmental resources, including state and federal monies. After his retirement, he continued to prepare income taxes for many past and present LPL employees. He was married to Emily (Tompkinson) for 65 years. His children include Kent, Gary, Todd, and Carl Simmons, Rena Hoefferle, Julie Givens, and Jackie June Graber. He had 27 grandchildren and 31 great-grandchildren.
Bradford A. Smith, planetary astronomer best known as the lead imaging scientist on the Voyager mission who guided the world during the 1980s on a visual odyssey across the outer solar system, passed away peacefully at his home in Santa Fe, NM on July 3, 2018 from complications from myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune disorder. He was 86.
Brad was born in 1931 in Cambridge, Massachusetts and grew up in nearby Winchester, MA. He graduated in 1954 from Northeastern University with a BSc degree in Chemical Engineering and received a PhD in Astronomy from New Mexico State University in 1973. During the course of his career, he held the academic appointments of Associate Professor of Astronomy at New Mexico State University, Professor in both the Department of Planetary Sciences and the Department of Astronomy at the University of Arizona, and finally Research Astronomer at the Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Despite his early training as a chemical engineer, Brad's first love was astronomy. After college, he spent two years as a private in the army, working as an astronomer in the US Army Map Service at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, where he began a long and productive association with Clyde Tombaugh, the discoverer of Pluto. His first astronomical project was a search (with negative results) for possible natural satellites of the Moon at Lowell Observatory, with Tombaugh, during the lunar eclipse of November 17-18, 1956.
Soon thereafter, he followed Tombaugh to New Mexico State University and in 1958 established there a program of systematic, ground-based telescopic imaging of the planets in support of the robotic planetary missions on which the newly formed NASA would soon be embarking. This was the dawn of the space age, a time when planetary science as a disciplined study of the planets was only just taking shape. Brad’s cutting-edge knowledge and experience in imaging the planets earned him membership in that first generation of explorers chosen to execute humankind’s initial reconnaissance of the solar system.
Throughout the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, he was involved in many US and international space missions: the Mariner 6, Mariner 7, Viking, and Soviet Phobos missions to Mars; the Soviet Vega mission to Halley’s Comet; and the Wide Field/Planetary Camera team for the Hubble Space Telescope. He rose to deputy team leader for the imaging investigation on Mariner 9, the first spacecraft to orbit another planet in 1971, and from 1972 through 1989, served as the imaging lead on the Voyager mission to Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. For his contributions to space science, he was four times awarded the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement. Asteroid 8553 (bradsmith) is named for him.
While still deeply involved in spaceflight, Brad continued to push the limits in Earth-based astronomical imaging. In early 1976 Brad and his colleagues were the first to use a CCD detector on an astronomical telescope, yielding the first high-resolution infrared images of Uranus and Neptune. Later, in 1984, he would be the first to use a coronagraph on the star β Pictoris, an observational breakthrough that led to his discovery of the star's circumstellar debris disk. This was the first direct evidence of a planetary system beyond our own and a finding that initiated the observational study of extrasolar planetary systems, today the most productive field in astronomy.
Charles P. Sonett
In 1973, Gerard P. Kuiper (1903-1973), widely considered to be the father of modern planetary astronomy, invited Charles P. Sonett to be his successor as director of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and to head the new interdisciplinary Department of Planetary Sciences, chartered that year by the Arizona Board of Regents. As a space exploration pioneer, Sonett was involved in numerous spacecraft programs, including the Pioneer Program, the Explorer Program and the Apollo Program–missions that dramatically advanced our understanding of the solar system, its planets and moons and beyond.
During his term as the second LPL director and first planetary sciences department head (1973-77), Sonett presided over a dramatic expansion. He built research and education programs in solar system science that became internationally recognized. In 1992, Sonett was named a Regents' Professor, the highest academic rank at the UA. Sonett retired in 2003 as a Regents' Professor Emeritus.
Read more about Professor Sonett: Charles P. Sonett: the Legacy of a Pioneering Space Scientist
Director, Department Head
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