Press Release

SwRI’s Dr. Robin Canup named co-chair of Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey

By SpaceRef Editor
May 18, 2020
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 Dr. Robin Canup, assistant vice president of the Space Science and Engineering Division at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and head of SwRI’s Boulder, Colorado, office, has been named one of two co-chairs for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s (NASEM) newly launched Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey. Canup will lead the survey together with Professor Philip Christensen of Arizona State University.

“Robin has made considerable contributions to our understanding of the formation of the solar system,” said Dr. Jim Burch, vice president of SwRI’s Space Science and Engineering Division. “She’s an excellent choice for this role and I’m sure that through her leadership the National Academy will obtain an outstanding decadal survey.”

The Decadal Survey is an independent activity undertaken by NASEM and sponsored by NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Through a rigorous review process, the Survey will assess the state of the field of planetary science, identify the most important scientific questions, rank the importance of future NASA missions, and present a comprehensive research strategy for the timeframe of 2023 to 2032. Solar system exploration, astrobiology and aspects of planetary defense against asteroid impacts are major focuses of the survey.

“The Decadal Survey is the mechanism by which our community identifies the most important scientific questions and the optimal strategy for addressing them over the next 10 years,” said Canup. “It is a great honor to co-lead this crucial activity.” 

Canup, who joined SwRI in 1998, is well known for her significant contributions to planetary sciences, most notably her studies concerning the formation of planets and their satellites, including her research that demonstrated a single impact from a Mars-sized object could have produced the Earth-Moon system.

She has received several honors during her career including the American Astronomical Society Division for Planetary Sciences’ Harold Urey Prize (2003) and the American Geophysical Union’s Macelwane Medal (2004). In 2012, she was elected a member of NAS and in 2017 she was named a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Canup holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from Duke University, and a master’s degree and doctorate in astrophysical, planetary and atmospheric sciences from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine. They operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln.

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About SwRI:
SwRI is an independent, nonprofit, applied research and development organization based in San Antonio, Texas, with approximately 3,000 employees and an annual research volume of nearly $674 million. Southwest Research Institute and SwRI are registered marks in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. For more information, please visit or

SpaceRef staff editor.