National Aeronautics and Space Administration

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

National Aeronautics and Space Administration Volume 15 Issue 1 January - February 2019

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

GoddardView Trending – 2 IV&V Renamed in Honor of ‘Hidden Figure’ Katherine Johnson – 3 From the Depths of the Ocean to the Far Reaches of the Universe – 4 Goddard’s 2018 Milestones at a Glance – 6 Employee Spotlight – 8 At Five Years, GPM Still ‘Right as Rain’ – 9 MLK Commemoration Features Terrence Roberts of Little Rock Nine – 10 Apollo 8 and Beyond: The Next Epoch – 11 Verity Flower Uses Satellite Data to Study Volcanoes – 12 On the cover: Twin Van Allen Probes orbiting Earth, flying repeatedly through the Van Allen radiation belts for more than six years.

Orbit changes in 2019 will ensure that the spacecraft eventually deorbit and disintegrate into Earth’s atmosphere.

Image credit: NASA/Goddard/Scientific Visualization Studio Info Goddard View is an official publication of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Goddard View showcases people and achievements in the Goddard community that support the center’s mission to explore, discover and understand our dynamic universe. Goddard View is published by the Goddard Office of Communications. You may submit story ideas to the editor at All contributions are subject to editing and will be published as space allows.

Citizen Scientist Finds Ancient White Dwarf Star A volunteer with the NASA-led Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 citizen science project has found the oldest and coldest known white dwarf – an Earth-sized remnant of a Sun-like star that has died – ringed by debris and dust.

MAVEN Shrinking Orbit for Mars 2020 Rover The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission is tightening its orbit around the Red Planet to prepare for the added responsibility of serving as a data-relay satellite for the Mars 2020 rover, which launches next year. NASA Day of Remembrance The annual NASA Day of Remembrance honors members of the NASA family who gave their lives in the name of exploration. On Feb. 7, Administrator Jim Bridenstine took part in a wreathlaying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

2018 Is Fourth Warmest Year Analyses by the Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration concluded that Earth’s average surface temperatures in 2018 were the fourth warmest since modern record-keeping began in 1880.

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N ASA has redesignated its Independent Verification & Validation Facility in Fairmont, West Virginia, as the Katherine Johnson Independent Verification & Validation Facility in honor of the West Virginia native and NASA “hidden figure.” “I am thrilled we are honoring Katherine Johnson in this way as she is a true American icon who overcame incredible obstacles and inspired so many,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

It’s a fitting tribute to name the facility that carries on her legacy of mission-critical computations in her honor.” President Donald Trump signed into law in December an act of Congress calling for the redesignation. The facility’s program contributes to the safety and success of NASA’s highestprofile missions by ensuring that mission software performs correctly. IV&V now is in the process of planning a rededication ceremony.

It’s an honor the NASA IV&V Program’s primary facility now carries Katherine Johnson’s name,” said IV&V Program Director Gregory Blaney. “It’s a way for us to recognize Katherine’s career and contributions not just during Black History Month, but every day, every year.” Born in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, in 1918, Johnson’s intense curiosity and brilliance with numbers led her to a distinguished career – spanning more than three decades – with NASA and its predecessor agency, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. Among her professional accomplishments, Johnson calculated the trajectory for Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7 mission in 1961.

The following year, Johnson performed the work for which she would become best known when she was asked to verify the results made by electronic computers to calculate the orbit for John Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission. She went on to provide calculations for NASA throughout her career, including for several Apollo missions. At a time when racial segregation was prevalent throughout the southern United States, Johnson and fellow AfricanAmerican mathematicians Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson – who was later promoted to engineer – broke through racial barriers to achieve success in their careers at NASA and helped pave the way for the diversity that extends across all levels of the agency’s workforce and leadership.

Their story became the basis of the 2017 film “Hidden Figures,” based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly.

  • Johnson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 and, in 2017, NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, dedicated the new Katherine Johnson Computational Research Facility in her honor. Johnson celebrated her 100th birthday on Aug. 26, 2018. Since its inception more than 25 years ago, NASA’s IV&V Program has performed work on approximately 100 missions and projects, including the Space Shuttle Program, Hubble Space Telescope, Cassini, Mars Science Laboratory, Magnetospheric Multiscale mission, Global Precipitation Measurement mission and, most recently, the InSight Mars Lander. The IV&V Program is currently providing services to 12 upcoming NASA missions, including the James Webb Space Telescope, Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Space Launch System. It also provides general software safety and mission assurance services, including support for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. n Above (left): The newly redesignated Katherine Johnson Independent Verification & Validation Facility in Fairmont, West Virginia. Photo credit: NASA Above (right): NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson. Photo credit: NASA IV&V RENAMED IN HONOR OF ‘HIDDEN FIGURE’ KATHERINE JOHNSON Volume 15 Issue 1
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W hen he was 13 years old, Mark Clampin learned to scuba dive, delving deep into the ocean to explore its many wonders – sea life and shipwrecks alike. Fast forward to his university years, and Clampin would find himself pursuing a different type of exploration. Instead of descending hundreds of feet under the sea, he was now peering billions of light-years to the edge of the universe as a doctoral student in physics at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. “Pushing the boundaries of exploration has always motivated me, whether it’s the depths of the ocean or the expanse of the universe,” said Clampin.

Today’s explorers – scientists and engineers – are breaking through barriers and making previously unimaginable discoveries.” Very much an aficionado of both types of exploration, astrophysics was where he would find his professional calling. Recently in August, he took on one of the most important roles at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center as the director of its Sciences and Exploration Directorate, overseeing the largest Earth and space science research organization in the world.

It’s an exciting time to be at Goddard and lead the directorate. Every day, science conducted at Goddard is shaping our understanding of the universe, solar system and Earth. We are privileged to draw skilled and talented scientists from all over the world,” said Clampin, who previously served as Goddard’s deputy director of sciences and exploration, director of astrophysics, and observatory project scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope. “My job is to empower our scientists to conduct groundbreaking science in our core areas of astrophysics, Earth sciences, heliophysics and planetary science.” He meets regularly with division directors to see how progress is taking shape on developing missions.

He also takes a particular interest in post-doc and earlyto midcareer scientists, noting the role they play in advancing the directorate’s goals.

I have been spending a lot of time meeting with scientists in every division to hear how they’re doing, what they think could be improved and how we can best support them,” Clampin said. “Mark has taken a strong interest in the experiences and research of early career scientists at Goddard,” said Lauren Andrews, Goddard Earth scientist and chair of the Science Director’s Committee, which serves as Clampin’s early career scientist advisory council. “This interest is evident in his frequent outreach, town halls, participation in the Early Career Scientist Forum, engagement with the Science Director’s Committee and efforts to ensure that the work of early career scientists is seen at the highest levels of NASA.” Clampin was once a post-doc himself, beginning his career at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore working on photon-counting detectors and coronagraphs.

He would later spend four years at nearby Johns Hopkins University before returning to the institute to work on several of the Hubble Space Telescope’s instruments and three of its five servicing missions, which extended and enhanced the observatory’s scientific capability years after it launched into orbit in 1990. Clampin recalls one of his career’s watershed moments in collaborating with Johns Hopkins astronomer Holland Ford on Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). Despite Hubble’s proficiency in observing in ultraviolet light, Ford suggested that the direction of the science was moving toward deep imaging in the near-infrared – on the opposite side of the electromagnetic spectrum.


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their team, they wrote a proposal for a camera with such capabilities, and ACS was installed aboard Hubble during its fourth servicing mission in 2002. “I think the principal investigator of every project needs a ‘brain trust,’ a small group of top people whom you trust and know will get the job done. When I formed the ACS team, I asked Mark to share oversight of the acquisition of charge coupled devices that met our specifications,” recalled Ford. “The success of ACS is a testament to the contributions made by Mark and others on the team” “Seeing how Holland had this laser focus on what was the most important thing was a key moment in my career,” said Clampin.

He believed in what would be coming for Hubble in 10 years’ time, which of course turned out to be true.” For Clampin, his own focus is on navigating the future landscape of Goddard’s science. He is cultivating an environment in which scientists can continue to collaborate and build partnerships, particularly with Goddard’s engineers who build the spacecraft and instruments that enable the science. His team is also expanding opportunities for interdisciplinary science – such as exoplanet exploration with the Sellers Exoplanet Environments Collaboration (SEEC). On the technology front, the directorate is working on expanding its supercomputing and cloud computing capabilities through the Computational and Information Sciences and Technology Office.

Goddard is the only center that has research divisions in Earth sciences and the space sciences: astrophysics, heliophysics and solar system exploration. We have very unique interdisciplinary scientific expertise under one roof. By capitalizing on this advantage, we will continue to be pioneers in space science exploration,” Clampin said. “Mark has always shown a keen appreciation for new approaches to answering tough questions,” said Aki Roberge, Goddard astrophysicist and SEEC member. “That appreciation can be seen in his support for SEEC, bringing together Goddard’s existing scientific expertise to nurture the new field of exoplanet research and create an endeavor that’s greater than the sum of its parts.” Another big role for the new director is to seek new business, giving scientists opportunities to propose and pursue ideas for new missions.

He is working to enhance communications across the center, ensuring that mission proposals provide the best possible science within the designated cost caps.

Goddard scientists support the broader scientific community, from federal agencies and academic institutions to new commercial space partners,” said Clampin. “We use the findings from our Goddard missions to develop innovative solutions for some of today’s greatest science and technology challenges.” As the officer of diving clubs, he captained many expeditions off the coasts of England and Scotland and was responsible for the safety and welfare of his fellow divers. Clampin approaches his leadership of the directorate much in the same way he continues to approach scuba diving – with tenacity and loyalty to his colleagues and the mission.

  • “Scuba diving is exploration at its finest,” said Clampin. “And it’s about the closest you can get to being an astronaut without actually being one.” Leading a team of NASA scientists is pretty close as well. n Opposite: Mark Clampin, who became Goddard director of sciences and exploration in August. Photo credit: NASA/ Goddard/Bill Hrybyk Center: Clampin scuba diving in “Wreck Alley,” off the coast of Cooper Island in the British Virgin Islands. Photo courtesy: Mark Clampin Volume 15 Issue 1
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GODDARD’S 2018 January NASA Study: First Direct Proof of Ozone Hole Recovery Thanks to Chemicals Ban: Scientists show through direct satellite observations of the ozone hole that levels of ozone-destroying chlorine are declining, resulting in less ozone depletion.

Measurements show that the decline in chlorine, resulting from an international ban on chlorine-containing man-made chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons, has resulted in about 20 percent less ozone depletion during the Antarctic winter compared to 2005 – the first year that measurements of chlorine and ozone during the Antarctic winter were made by NASA’s Aura satellite.

February Last NASA Communications Satellite of Its Kind Joins Fleet: NASA begins operating the last satellite of its kind in the network that provides communications and tracking services to more than 40 NASA missions. Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-13 (TDRS-13), known as TDRS-M prior to its launch in August 2017, becomes the 10th operational satellite in the geosynchronous, space-based fleet. March Mystery of Purple Lights in Sky Solved With Help From Citizen Scientists: STEVE is not a normal aurora. Auroras occur globally in an oval shape, last hours, and appear primarily in green, blue and red.

Citizen science reports from the Aurorasaurus project, though, show STEVE is purple with a green picket fence structure that waves. It is a line with a beginning and an end.

April NASA’s Newest Exoplanet Hunter: The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite launches, beginning its two-year survey of nearby stars in search of planets outside our solar system, known as exoplanets. Some of these planets could even support life. The spacecraft’s four cameras allow it to scan 85 percent of the sky. May NASA Satellites Reveal Major Shifts in Global Freshwater: In a first-of-its-kind study, scientists combine an array of NASA satellite observations of Earth with data on human activities to map locations where freshwater is changing around the globe and determine why. Data from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) show big changes of mass in specific spots on Earth, primarily the result of the movement of water and ice.

The GRACE team works to connect these observed changes to the loss of ice sheets and climate change. June NASA Finds Ancient Organic Material, Mysterious Methane on Mars: NASA’s Curiosity rover, with the Goddarddeveloped Sample Analysis at Mars instrument suite aboard, finds new evidence preserved in rocks on Mars that suggests the planet could have supported ancient life, as well as new evidence in the Martian atmosphere that relates to the search for current life on the Red Planet.

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MILESTONES AT A GLANCE Photo and image credits: Massachusetts Institute of Technology; NASA; NASA/ Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Steve Gribben; NASA/ Goddard/Genna Duberstein; NASA/JPL-Caltech; NASA/ICESat-2/SCAD Collaborative Student Project August Parker Solar Probe Begins Historic Journey to ‘Touch’ the Sun: NASA’s Parker Solar Probe sets out to be the first mission to “touch” the Sun. The spacecraft is designed to travel directly into the Sun’s atmosphere, about 4 million miles from the surface. It made its first closest approach on Nov.

September ICESat-2 Launches to Investigate Icy Mysteries: The Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 measures the elevation of Earth’s surface, calculating the height of glaciers, sea ice, forests, lakes and more – including the changing ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica. Its sole instrument, the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System, was designed and built at Goddard. October Dellingr: The Little CubeSat That Could: Since launching in August 2017, the Dellingr CubeSat has experienced its share of challenges. With a large software upload, the Dellingr team restored full control of the reaction wheels, allowing Dellingr to maintain its orientation with respect to the Sun and continue gathering data about the Sun’s influence on Earth’s upper atmosphere.

  • NASA Turns 60: For six decades, NASA has led the peaceful exploration of space, making discoveries about our planet, solar system and universe. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, which opened in 1959, has been there nearly every step of the journey. December Hubble Celebrates 25 Years Since First Repair Mission: Engineers, scientists and other key players from Hubble’s first servicing mission gather at Goddard to celebrate the observatory and its countless accomplishments. In 1993, the first servicing mission repaired an optical flaw, which threatened to derail Hubble a little more than three years after its launch. Four more servicing missions would follow, the last taking place in May 2009. OSIRIS-REx Arrives at Bennu: The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft completes its 1.2 billion-mile journey to the asteroid Bennu on Dec. 3. OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to return a Bennu sample to Earth in September 2023, providing scientists additional insight into the formation and evolution of the solar system. n Volume 15 Issue 1
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Kyle Vann Code 210, Contract Specialist (Student Trainee) Why Goddard?: Space exploration and astrophysics have always been fascinations of mine. Hobbies/interests: outdoors, beach, new places T.J. Crooks Code 566, Electronics Engineer Why Goddard?: It has challenging and rewarding projects alongside brilliant people. Hobbies/interests: rocketry Joe Foster Code 730, Cloud Computing Program Manager Why Goddard?: I hope to accelerate technology adoption and improve mission outcomes here at Goddard. Hobbies/interests: brunch, biking, jogging, softball Rosalba N. Giarratano Code 160, GISS Student Trainee Why Goddard?: NASA offers an incredible platform to empower students from all backgrounds.

Hobbies/interests: American Sign Language, accessibility workshops, empowering students Gabe Richardson Code 551, Pathways Intern Why Goddard?: I have always wanted to work at NASA.

Hobbies/interests: cycling, swimming, everything related to space exploration Katherine Fowee Code 596, Pathways Intern Why Goddard?: I want to feel like I’m part of a greater mission. Hobbies/interests: soccer, reading, hiking, flying EMPLOYEE SPOTLIGHT Goddard is pleased to welcome these new employees to the NASA community. Chace Cho Code 552, Pathways Intern Why Goddard?: I think NASA is the only place where you can explore and work on Game Changer technology. Hobbies/interests: basketball, soccer, composing songs 8

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AT FIVE YEARS, GPM STILL ‘RIGHT AS RAIN’ F ive years ago, on Feb.

27, 2014, the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory, a joint satellite project by NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), lifted off aboard a Japanese H-IIA rocket. Since then, the cutting-edge instruments on GPM have provided advanced measurements about the rain and snow particles within clouds, Earth’s precipitation patterns, extreme weather and myriad ways precipitation around the world affects society. Among the uses of GPM data are helping to forecast disease outbreaks in developing countries, producing global crop reports and identifying endangered Amazon River basins.

Unlike many NASA missions, which are research satellites with delayed data delivery, GPM was engineered to get data to scientists – as well as operational and application users – as soon as possible. It would help answer questions such as: Where is that hurricane? Will there be a flood? Should I water my crops? GPM obtains data quickly using the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite 12-spacecraft constellation, which serves as an information pipeline between Earth-orbiting satellites and NASA ground stations. On average, GPM can take 1 to 3 hours to get data into users’ hands, but in emergencies, the average time can be pushed to between 15 and 90 minutes.

The mission’s main satellite, the Core Observatory, has two instruments: the Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar (DPR) and the GPM Microwave Imager (GMI).

JAXA manages the DPR, which uses two radar frequencies to measure precipitation in clouds, recording data about snow and rain particle sizes, shapes and rates. Using two radar bands, the DPR detects precipitation ranging from light to heavy, and yields a three-dimensional picture of where and how many raindrops, snowflakes or ice pellets of different sizes are distributed throughout a storm cloud. The NASA-managed GMI uses 13 channels to measure microwave energy emitted within its field of view, including precipitation in the atmosphere. Like the DPR, the GMI can measure a range of precipitation types and severity.

Lowfrequency channels measure moderate-to-heavy precipitation. Higher frequencies measure moderate-to-light precipitation. The combination of the DPR and GMI gives scientists and meteorologists new insights into precipitation processes at both micro and macro levels, making precipitation estimates and forecasts more accurate.

  • GPM’s main data source is the Core Observatory, but the mission receives data from the GPM Constellation, which consist of satellites with microwave sensors from the United States, Japan, India and Europe. Most of the satellites have unique objectives and oversight agencies, but sharing their data with GPM expands the mission’s global coverage and consistency. The satellites’ data are combined with ground data to create the final product, the Integrated Multi-satellite Retrievals for GPM (IMERG), which is used for predicting weather, building climate models, managing water resources and forecasting extreme weather. While the full IMERG data product takes time to prepare, a near-real-time visualization of global precipitation is available every 30 minutes at regional scales. GPM’s ground validation system provides a yardstick against which to measure the quality of its satellite-based data. Rather than relying on satellite data alone to measure precipitation and develop forecasts, the GPM team compares spacebased data with information collected by ground-based radar from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, traditional rain gauges and disdrometers – or drop-size measuring tools. When ground and space data disagree, the team investigates the differences and makes algorithm updates to make future data collection more accurate. With accurate estimates of where, when and how precipitation falls worldwide, scientists gain knowledge of the inner workings of rain clouds to improve weather and climate forecasts. In 2017, data visualizers and scientists worked together to create one of the first 3D models of a hurricane that mapped not only precipitation amounts, but also particle sizes and types. GPM data also play a key role in building disaster prediction models, like the Landslide Hazard Assessment model for Situational Awareness, which warns about imminent landslides. GPM has advanced scientists’ understanding of Earth’s water and energy cycles in its first five years. The mission is expected to last into the mid-2030s. If this forecast is correct, GPM will continue raining down valuable data for years to come. n Center: Global Precipitation Measurement mission Image credit: NASA By Jessica Merzdorf Volume 15 Issue 1
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MLK COMMEMORATION FEATURES TERRENCE ROBERTS OF LITTLE ROCK NINE H osted by the Goddard Equal Opportunity Programs Office, Goddard African American Advisory Committee and Goddard Flight Projects Directorate, this year’s annual commemoration of the life and legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at Goddard featured Terrence Roberts. A member of the Little Rock Nine – the first-ever African-American students to attend Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas in 1957 – Roberts discussed the lessons he has learned throughout his life under the theme “All Life Is Inter-related.” The DuVal High School Jazz Band from Lanham, Maryland, performed a selection of compositions.

n Photo credits: NASA/Goddard/Bill Hrybyk 10

APOLLO 8 AND BEYOND: THE NEXT EPOCH H alf a century ago in December 1968, Apollo 8 ushered in a new era of space exploration. The missions that followed in close succession would herald these breakthroughs in science and engineering with drama and color. They would bring a cornucopia of knowledge about the Moon, the origins of our solar system, the nature of our universe, the history of Earth and even the history of life. Fast forward 50 years, and humanity is still learning from these landmark missions, using the data gathered from the Moon and the instruments deployed there to plan our next grand endeavor: Orion, which will travel to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

For years, we have mapped the Moon for future landing sites using missions like Lunar Prospector and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), the latter of which has also performed dozens of other experiments over its lifetime that will help NASA put humans back on Earth’s large, gray-speckled satellite.

The crew aboard Apollo 8 got the first close-up view in history – 67.4 nautical miles – on nearest approach of the lunar surface and took the highest quality photos available at the time. We have come a long way since then, building on our database of knowledge through new missions and revisiting old data from these original pioneers. David Williams, a lunar scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, works on a project aiming to restore and investigate data from the Apollo program. “The only long-term data we have from the Moon are these data from Apollo,” said Williams. “Now, we can put them into a digital format and use modern computers to analyze them.” Though the Moon may be a beautiful object, it also holds secrets of Earth’s development, as well as that of our solar system.

Earth’s atmosphere protects us from all kinds of dangerous radiation, meteorites and debris from space. The Moon does not have this buffer, and is instead directly affected by objects in deep space acting on its bare surface. “All of the geological history of Earth that has been erased by weather or people is still present on the Moon,” said Ernie Wright, a media specialist in the Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio. “The Moon can tell us about the evolution of Earth, what Earth was originally made of and how the chemistry of life has changed our planet’s surface.” As NASA turns its attention to putting human explorers on the Moon once again, both new and old data will be used to choose landing sites and decide what new instruments the next generation of astronauts should carry with them.

Apollo 8 and later missions could not make observations about the Moon’s space environment or complex geology, a gap that LRO and missions like Clementine, LADEE, GRAIL, ARTEMIS and M3 have been able to fill. The Moon is our nearest neighbor and is the first stepping stone to deep space exploration. “We can use the Moon as a practice ground before going farther,” said Wright. None of the Apollo missions observed the Moon’s poles, areas that have prompted a growing curiosity among lunar scientists. “We think that the poles might have water, so those could be possible future landing sites for the Orion missions.” Comparing data from these satellites to photos from Apollo 8 and later missions, we can see where new craters have formed as a result of meteorite collisions.

We can also see areas that are permanently illuminated by the Sun’s light and those in permanent shadow. “If we needed solar power during our next Moon landing, we would know where to put the arrays,” said Wright.

Scientists are studying our Earth-Moon system to better understand our home, but they also want to know how unique our situation is. Are there other systems like ours out there somewhere? Is a moon somehow essential to the successful development of life on its parent planet? How could we learn to survive without a protective atmosphere like Earth’s? Missions like LRO and its predecessors have done much of the preliminary work to begin finding answers to these questions, but the next phase is people going out there with human eyes and brains to explore our local neighborhood. Apollo 8 advanced this harrowing journey to the beyond.

The mission splashed down after a six-day odyssey, but the broader campaign for exploration is just beginning.

  • “There is a human spirit. There is a human need to get out there and explore,” said Williams. “And I just don’t think we can deny that.” n Center: Apollo 8 crew members (from left to right) Jim Lovell, Frank Borman and Bill Anders Photo credit: NASA By Stephanie Zeller Volume 15 Issue 1
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VERITY FLOWER USES SATELLITE DATA TO STUDY VOLCANOES By Elizabeth M. Jarrell What do you do and what is most interesting about your role here at Goddard? How do you help support Goddard’s mission? I’m the resident volcanologist in our lab.

I use satellite data to study volcanic eruptions. Specifically, I use data from the Multi-angle Imaging Spectroradiometer satellite to analyze volcanic eruption plume height and particle properties within the plumes. When volcanoes erupt, the processes underground that caused the eruption can produce different particles, including ash and gas. We track these different particles to understand what caused the eruption. We are trying to assess how they change over time to help us understand how the system works.

How did someone who grew up in the English Midlands, where there are no volcanoes, become a volcanologist? I was born and raised in the English countryside somewhere between Oxford and Cambridge. This area of the country has lovely, rolling hills, which I still miss. No volcanoes in sight. When I was 5, our family went on holiday to Tenerife in the Canary Islands. My older brother had just learned about volcanoes in school, including the difference between dormant and extinct, which is very important. He proceeded to tell me that Teide, the volcano on Tenerife, was dormant and could erupt at any moment.

I could not sleep for most of the holiday. My mum said that ever since then, I’ve been obsessed with understanding volcanoes. I remember being fascinated by volcanoes from that point forward, so I became a volcanologist.

Where did you study to become a volcanologist? Growing up, everyone, besides my mum, discouraged me from studying volcanology because there were so few jobs in the field. My undergraduate degree from Portsmouth University in the United Kingdom is in environmental science specializing in natural hazards, which covered volcanology, earthquakes, flooding and defenses against all of these hazards. My master’s degree from Birmingham University in the United Kingdom is in atmospheric sciences focusing on volcanic plumes. With my unique combination of volcanics and atmospheric science, I was accepted into a doctoral program at Michigan Technological University in Houghton to study volcanic remote sensing.

What is most dangerous about working near an active volcano? While lava looks spectacular and can do a lot of damage, it is generally slow enough that it is usually possible to evacuate an area before the lava takes over. With lava, the area to avoid is near the actual vent due to possible projectile pieces of molten rock. Another area to avoid with lava is where the lava enters the ocean because the temperature difference can cause rapid cooling, and the resultant pressure changes can create hot explosions and toxic fumes.

Plumes are actually the most dangerous product of volcanic eruptions.

Plumes are made out of gas, rock fragments and super-heated water vapor. Plumes can be emitted high into the air and then drop all these components down onto the ground, which can kill people, livestock and crops. Plumes can also be emitted close to the ground, possibly with catastrophic consequences. Pompeii’s people were instantly wiped out from ground plumes’ particles and gases, not lava. By way of a very loose analogy, it is like being dropped into boiling water. Is there something surprising about your hobbies that people do not generally know?

In the future, I would like to have a small cottage near rolling hills with a small, wildflower garden. I would also like to have Labrador retrievers. For now, I make patchwork quilts. I have been making patchwork quilts since I was 4. I spent most holidays with my grandparents and my grandmother, a seamstress, taught me. She had no daughters, and I was one of only two granddaughters, so she passed on her knowledge to me. I started quilting using sewing machines. Recently, I began doing everything by hand. I made a quilt showing my love of nature, and it has a map of the world with panels of volcanic eruptions, a lightning storm, glaciers and other phenomena.

n Center: Verity Flower Photo credit: NASA/Goddard/Bill Hrybyk