Welcome to the LPL newsletter for Fall of 2014!
When Gerard Kuiper moved his small operation to the University of Arizona in 1960, and renamed it the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, he planned on establishing the pre-eminent research program in planetary sciences. I’m not sure that he realized how large the field would become, or how large LPL would become in the process of remaining at or near the top of that field. We were reminded of LPL’s fascinating beginnings by a series of events this past summer, including the release of a documentary about LPL’s early years (“Desert Moon”), the 50th anniversary of the Ranger 7 mission (on which Kuiper was PI) that took the first close-up images of the moon, and the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
But while a little nostalgia is nice once in a while, plenty of people are still breaking ground in a variety of ways. Within the last month, HiRISE (led by LPL’s Alfred McEwen) has taken the highest-resolution images of an Oort Cloud comet as Comet Siding Spring whizzed past Mars; nearly 1000 people came to the Kuiper Building to view The Art of Planetary Science (a show organized by LPL graduate students); and two proposals with LPL researchers as PI, plus at least one more with an LPL Co-I, have been submitted for science instruments aboard a proposed NASA mission to Europa (you’ll hear details of the winners). In addition, I suspect that some high-quality research papers, which serve as backbone of our endeavors although they come with less fanfare, have been submitted as well.
Besides the multi-million dollar missions and the high-profile public programs, there are the individual honors and transitions that occupy our everyday lives. You can read about a lot of those here, too. We don’t have any new faculty to report, but the Theoretical Astrophysics Program (TAP), of which LPL is one of the three sponsoring departments, completed a successful faculty search. Dr. Sam Gralla, an astrophysicist who specializes in general relativity, was hired by TAP; his home department will be in Physics.
I hope you enjoy reading about what’s going on in the LPL family, and please send us any news you have, so that we can include it in the next newsletter.