Astrobiologist and Explorer Robert Wharton Has Died

By Keith Cowing
September 19, 2012
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Astrobiologist and Explorer Robert Wharton Has Died

I am profoundly saddened to hear of Bob’s passing. I got to know Bob very well when he and I worked at the old Life Sciences Division at NASA Headquarters in the 1980s. Bob was an astrobiologist before the word was coined. He was an adventurer and a jack of all trades. Among other things, he spent a lot of time in polar regions diving under the ice with Chris McKay and Dale Andersen or walking the dry valleys. Bob and I went rock climbing several times. One trip in particular, to Seneca Rocks, West Virginia on a day not unlike today, is etched into my mind. I can clearly recall asking him on that trip if he thought there was life on Mars. He paused for a moment and said “I … think so”. I can only hope that somewhere on Curiosity’s travels across Gale crater on Mars, that something of prominence is named after Bob Wharton.

Robert Wharton, 1951-2012, my605

“Details haven’t been disclosed yet about the death today of Robert Wharton, the late president for the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. He spent the past year fighting against cancer and for a while seemed to be past it. He was named president for the School of Mines in 2008, succeeding Charles Ruch. By training President Wharton was a biologist.”

SDSM&T president Robert Wharton has died, acting president named, Rapid City Journal

Photo by Dale Andersen

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.