Status Report

Planetary Exploration Newsletter Volume 2, Number 10 (February 10, 2008)

By SpaceRef Editor
February 11, 2008
Filed under ,

PEN Website:
Editor: Nic Richmond
Co-Editors: Mark V. Sykes, Matt Balme
Email: pen_editor at

1. Dr. Gordon McKay (1945-2008)

2. [EDITORIAL] The Future of our Mars Exploration Program – Robert D. Braun, Georgia Institute of Technology

3. [NASA] Program Scientist Change at HQ

4. Additional NASA Headquarters Events at LPSC

5. First Report from Polar Gateways Arctic Circle Sunrise 2008 Conference

6. Preparing for the International Year of Astronomy (2009)

7. PhD Opportunities Related to Glaciers on Earth and Mars

8. Planetary Meeting Calendar Additions

DR. GORDON MCKAY (1945-2008)

Dear Colleagues,

It is with deep sadness that we write on behalf of the Science Mission Directorate to mourn the untimely passing and celebrate the life and career of Dr. Gordon McKay. Beginning his career as a Ph.D. student on the first lunar samples returned to Earth by the Apollo astronauts and ending it in a role of exceptional leadership at a NASA review panel, Gordon devoted his life to public service and the advancement of scientific knowledge. Gordon was someone who epitomized being a civil servant.

Gordon’s decades of research yielded numerous major contributions and international recognition in Lunar and Martian petrology and geochemistry, most notably in the area of petrogenesis – how the lunar rocks were formed. He began his formal association with NASA in 1977 as a two-year post-doc. He spent a year at HQ as a management fellow before permanently joining the NASA family at the Johnson Space Center. Over his career, Gordon served on and led innumerable review panels, study teams, and working groups. In recent years, he also developed close working relationships with Japanese researchers, spending 7 months at the University of Tokyo working on Martian meteoritics, another area of his expertise. Most recently, Gordon was assisting NASA with its future lunar and Mars exploration plans.

In addition to his scientific contributions, Gordon was a respected and well-loved manager for nearly two decades in the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Division at JSC, fondly but firmly “herding cats” (as he often described it) to help NASA achieve its goals. Gordon also had a passionate commitment to educating and inspiring young scientists, mentoring dozens of interns and students over the years.

Gordon is survived by his wife and long-time JSC civil servant, Linda Uljon, and their two college-age daughters. His brother, David McKay, and his sister in law Mary Fae are also JSC colleagues. Gordon made immeasurable impacts on planetary science. We extend our warmest appreciation and deepest sympathies to Gordon’s family and friends for a life well led and a man we and the NASA family will miss.

Alan Stern and Jim Green


This week, in stark contrast to the successful performance of the Mars exploration program, NASA announced a significant reduction in its FY09 budget request for Mars exploration. By removing any semblance of a continuous exploration sequence, this week’s budget announcement may signal the beginning of the end of what has been a dramatic advancement in our understanding of the Mars system. Clearly, this topic requires your careful consideration and will be part of the discussion at the upcoming MEPAG meeting (February 20-21 in Monrovia, CA). Among the discussion at this meeting, will be a presentation on the future of the Mars program, given by SMD AA Dr. Alan Stern. Listen carefully to what he has to say. Think critically about the feasibility of this plan. Then, decide for yourself. We are at a critical juncture in planning this program. Now is the time for your voice to be heard.

[Editor Note: Dr. Braun’s letter to MEPAG is posted at:

Information about the MEPAG meeting may be found at MEPAG_Newsletter_02-04-0_DC_CJB-JG.html ]


Dr. Michael S. Kelley, formerly of the Department of Geology & Geography at Georgia Southern University, has joined the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters. In addition to more than twenty years of geological research, teaching, and field experience, Mike brings to the Division private sector corporate experience and many years of service to the planetary science community. He is a long-time Visiting Astronomer at the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility, and served as chair of the Planetary Geology Division of the Geological Society of America and its award committees. He participated in the Antarctic Search for Meteorites Program, and conducted postdoctoral research at NASA Johnson Space Center. Along with other assignments, Mike will be assuming duties as Program Scientist for the Planetary Geology and Geophysics Program and the Planetary Data System. He will also serve as Program Scientist for the EPOXI and Stardust-NExT Discovery Spacecraft Missions. Mike looks forward to serving the planetary science community in this new capacity.


NASA Headquarters will host four events at the 39th LPSC that may be of interest to planetary science researchers.

Proposal Writing Workshop, Sunday, March 9, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Oasis Room.

Informal Planetary Research and Analysis (R&A) Reception with NASA Program Officers, Tuesday, March 11, Noon to 1:30 p.m., Harbour Club. Planetary R&A program officers, the Director of the Planetary Science Division, and the Senior Advisor for R&A will be available for informal interaction with researchers to discuss research funding efforts.

Town Hall with NASA Senior Advisor for Research and Analysis (R&A), Wednesday, March 12, Noon to 1:30 p.m., Marina Plaza Ballroom.

Improving NASAs Announcements of Opportunity: Community Input, Thursday, March 13, Noon to 1:30 p.m., Marina Plaza Ballroom.

[Editor Note: For the complete announcement and information about registration and contacts, go to]


Jan. 23-29, 2008, Barrow, Alaska >From John Cooper, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

About thirty hardy polar explorers and fifty remote participants contributed science presentations and educational activities during this circumpolar conference hosted at the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium in celebration of polar and icy world science of the solar system for the International Polar and Heliophysical Years 2007-2009. Remote contributions came via video conference or teleconference from Sweden, Norway, Russia, Canada, Antarctica, and the United States, spanning up to thirteen time zones (Alaska to Russia) at various times during the conference. U.S. remote contributions came from the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, University of California at Berkeley, University of Arizona, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

[Editor note: The complete announcement with links to photos, conference materials, and podcasts can be seen at ]


The 2008 Meeting of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific St. Louis, MO: May 31 – June 4, 2008

Held in conjunction with the summer meeting of the American Astronomical Society, this meeting will consist of hands-on workshops (over the weekend) and then a three-day symposium to help educators, scientists, public information professionals, and everyone working in astronomy and space-science outreach to prepare for the year-long celebration of 400 years of the telescope (since Galileo first turned his instrument to the skies).

Endorsed by the United Nations, UNESCO and the International Astronomical Union, the 2009 International Year of Astronomy (IYA) aims to stimulate worldwide interest in science through engagement in astronomy activities — with the central theme of “The Universe: Yours to Discover.” The U.S. effort has the aim to provide “an engaging astronomy experience to every person in the country, to nurture existing partnerships, and to build new connections to sustain public interest in astronomy.”

To learn more about the meeting program, and how to submit proposals for presentations, papers, and posters, please visit:

(you can also sign up for e-updates there).


Dear PEN Newsletter recipients:

UA will hire two PhDs for work related to glaciers on Earth and Mars. One position is dedicated to multispectral image analysis for GLIMS (Global Land Ice Measurements from Space, The other involves numerical modeling of glaciers on Mars and Alaska. Interested people should go to:

Go to “Search Postings,” then search for Job Numbers 40208 and 40209.

Applicants are requested NOT to communicate directly with me, but just fill out an application. These positions are oriented toward recent PhDs; otherwise exceptionally well qualified candidates who may lack the explicit credentials for either job (or may be overqualified) may wish to make your interests known in an email to me. If your qualifications meet the minimum requirements, please just do the formal application and do not contact me directly. Faculty from Hydrology & Water Resources, Geosciences, and Aerospace & Mechanical Engineering will review applications and make selections.

In addition to these postings, GLIMS is looking for grad students and also will hire students and others for short-term projects, e.g., summer; candidates should contact me directly by email.

Please distribute to those who may be interested.


Jeff Kargel
Hydrology & Water Resources
University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ


Posted at

July 27 – August 2, 2008
Dynamics of Solar System Bodies Tomsk, Russia

July 28 – August 1, 2008
Symposium on Saturn after Cassini-Huygens London, United Kingdom

[Editor Note: If there is a planetary-related meeting, conference or workshop that you think your colleagues should be aware of, please send the date, title, URL and location to pen_editor at]

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