It has been a tumultuous few months since our last newsletter, filled with both success and sadness.
The most spectacular success, by far, was the launch of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx, with LPL’s Dante Lauretta as PI, was NASA’s first interplanetary launch in nearly three years, and the launch itself went flawlessly, departing Cape Canaveral for asteroid Bennu at the very start of the launch window on the first day it was attempted. The event generated worldwide press coverage (we’ve got links to lots of articles) and there were lots of celebrations in Tucson and in Florida.
At the other end of the scale, LPL lost two beloved figures. Pam Streett, the graduate coordinator for a generation of students, passed away suddenly, and then Ewen Whitaker, the last (not counting students) of the original group that moved from the University of Chicago to the University of Arizona in 1960 to found LPL, passed away at age 94.
Meanwhile, life around the lab has been changing as well. For the folks working on OSIRIS-REx, the transition has been from proposing, planning and building a spacecraft to working on operations. For the folks in the Kuiper Building, there have been transitions to the physical plant, with the outside stairway (the “gantry”) finally getting a much-needed coat of paint, and the basement getting a long-overdue facelift in preparation for the installation of more nanocharacterization instruments. We’ve got two new faculty who have come on board and look forward to Dr. Jeffrey Andrews-Hanna joining the LPL faculty in January 2017. Since the last newsletter, seven graduate students were admitted and three students finished their PhDs.
But some things don’t change. Mostly, we’ve got lots of people doing lots of exciting planetary science, which is, after all, why this place exists.
Read on to find out what’s been going on within LPL and the LPL family. And as always, if you’ve been up to something interesting, please let us know.
Timothy D. Swindle, Ph.D.
Department Head and Laboratory Director