Past Missions


Cassini Dr. Jeffrey Cuzzi is the Rings and Dust Interdisciplinary Scientist for the Cassini mission to Saturn, using Cassini observations to study the chemical composition, structure, particle sizes, origins, and evolution, of rings and dust in the Saturn system.

Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope

Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope Dr. Jeffrey Scargle is an Affiliated Scientist for Fermi. He is working with the various science data analysis teams, and providing novel algorithms for special purpose analysis tasks. These algorithms help detect, locate, and characterize gamma ray bursts and their energy spectrum and time variability.

Mars Exploration Rovers (MER)

Mars Exploration Rovers (MER)David Des Marais has been involved with the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) since their early development in the 1990s. Since the rovers landed in 2004 January, he has served on the Science Operations Working Group as a Long-Term Planning (LTP) lead, mostly on behalf of the Spirit rover. The LTP team coordinates the development of exploration and science strategies and schedules and has contributed substantially to the science rationale for MER extended missions. Des Marais' particular contributions include coordinating the science observation strategy during Spirit's drive to the Columbia Hills, planning an exit route from Husband Hill, and contributing to the science rationale for exploring the top of Home Plate and over-wintering on its northern slope. The exploration of Home Plate has led to the discovery of near-pure deposits of silica, indicating that hydrothermal activity had accompanied volcanic activity in the valley south of Husband Hill. Des Marais has also supported education and public outreach efforts on behalf of MER.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO)

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO)Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO)
Dr. David Des Marais is a member of the MRO Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) science team. He assists in the interpretation of the significance of CRISM data for astrobiology. CRISM has confirmed and greatly extended earlier observations of phyllosilicates and sulfates. CRISM has also discovered deposits of silica and other aqueously formed mineral deposits that are significant for astrobiology. Dr. Ted Roush is also a CRISM co-investigator and has contributed to the CRISM spectral library that is used for compositional interpretation of observational data. His efforts during the mission focus on regions of Mars that have been altered by water, and the Martian moons, Phobos and Deimos. Dr. Robert Haberle is a co-investigator on the Mars Color Imager (MARCI) camera science team. His principle role is to interpret MARCI data using the Mars General Circulation Model, based at Ames. He studies the temporal and spatial variability of clouds, dust storms, and ozone in the Martian atmosphere.


spacerAmes scientist Dr. Aaron Zent is a member of the science team on NASA's Phoenix mission, which successfully landed on the surface of Mars on 2008 May 25. Phoenix studied the history of water and habitability of soils in the north polar region. Dr. Zent was responsible for the design of the Thermal Electrical Conductivity Probe (TECP), a key instrument on the Microscopy Electrochemistry, and Conductivity Analyzer (MECA) payload. TECP measured the thermal and electrical conductive of the Martian soil which provides information on its nature and composition. The instrument also measured the thermal properties of the soil, which govern the heat flow into and out of the ground, water mobility, which determines habitability, and relative humidity, which governs the exchange of water between the surface and atmosphere. Dr. Carol Stoker is also a member Phoenix science team and led the Biological Potential Science Working Group in evaluating the habitability of the environment for present or past life. Dr. Stoker helped Ames computer scientists develop and implement a computer program that facilitated daily operations by visualizing the Lander environment. It allowed interactive viewing of the Lander and the planetary surface via three-dimensional rendering models. Dr. Christopher McKay is also a member of the Phoenix science team. He is responsible for assessing the biological potential of the landing site.

Spitzer Space Telescope

spacerThe Spitzer space telescope, the fourth and final element in NASA's Great Observatories program, is a 0.85 meter diameter cryogenically cooled infrared telescope that was launched in 2003 August. The observatory is the manifestation of a concept originated at Ames Research Center in the 1980s. Thomas Roellig of the Astrophysics Branch, is a member of the Spitzer Science Working Group (SWG), serving as Facility Scientist and as the deputy Principal Investigator of the Infrared Spectrometer instrument. Dale Cruikshank, also in the Astrophysics Branch, provided his expertise on solar system objects as an inter-disciplinary science member of the SWG. Other NASA Ames scientists have been using the telescope for research, studying failed stars known as brown dwarfs, star formation in elliptical galaxies, supernovae remnants, and molecules in the interstellar medium.


spacerStardust was the first mission to capture dust particles from the coma of a comet and return the samples to the earth for analysis. Launched in 1999 February, the spacecraft rendezvoused with Comet Wild 2 in 2004 January. After flying through the coma, the dust and gas shed from the nucleus of the comet, and capturing dust particles in its aerogel collector plate, the spacecraft returned to earth in 2006 January and a capsule containing the collector plate successfully landed in the Utah desert. Scott Sandford, a member of the Astrophysics Branch at NASA Ames Research Center, was on the team that designed the collector, picked up the capsule, and then he led a team to analyze the organic material present in comet dust.


LCROSSThe Lunar and Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer will launch in the summer of 2013 and fly at low altitudes to study the thin lunar exosphere before it is perturbed by future humans, and to characterize the lunar dust environment to assess its possible impact on future engineering on the lunar surface.


Cassini is a co-manifested spacecraft with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and will intentionally impact a lunar polar crater. The resulting plume will be observed by orbiting and ground-based telescopes to ascertain whether water exists in a permanently shadowed region of the Moon.